Of the three trim levels available, mid-range N-Connecta gives you as much kit as you’re likely to need, but we’ve gone for range-topping Tekna, mainly because it opens the door to the full gamut of Nissan’s latest safety technology and driver aids. Standard equipment includes ProPilot (which combines active cruise control with lane-keeping assistance and blindspot monitors), as well as heated front and rear seats with leather and ‘ultrasuede’ upholstery, a surround-view monitor, a Bose premium audio system and full LED adaptive headlights.
On top of that, we’ve added ProPilot Park (£1090 with Tekna trim only), which is an almost fully automatic parking aid, and Spring Cloud Green metallic paint (£575).
I was never a fan of the previous Leaf’s interior or driving position, but the new one is a definite improvement, with a much more contemporary design and higher-quality materials. On first acquaintance, I still have some reservations about the driving position, mainly because the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach and I feel as though I’m perched on top of rather unsupportive seats. However, I’m not expecting this to be too much of an issue once I’ve settled in properly.
Practicality is a strong point for the Leaf, with plenty of space front and rear and a good-sized boot that’s hindered only slightly by the presence of a subwoofer on the floor. There’s a cargo net on either side of the boot for retaining the two charging cables – not as good as a separate compartment but hopefully convenient enough to prevent the boot from getting cluttered up with tangled cables.
Another piece of new technology for the Leaf is e-Pedal – a strong regenerative braking function that allows you to drive fairly easily most of the time without touching the brake pedal. I know from previous experience with the i3 that this ability to drive using just one pedal makes for exceptionally smooth progress, especially around town. There’s no creep in this mode, though, so it isn’t ideal for parking. In which case, you can switch it off, giving the same level of creep as you’d get in a normal automatic.
As you’d expect, the Leaf is wonderfully smooth and quiet when it’s rolling along, and its ride is remarkably comfortable, while the 148bhp electric motor provides lively, linear performance. The new car also feels more stable than its predecessor did, so I’m hopeful that it’ll be more assured on the motorway.
The big questions for me are ‘Has Nissan made a big enough step forward compared with the original Leaf and its contemporaries?’ and ‘Is the Leaf now usable enough to give it widespread appeal?’. No matter what the answers turn out to be, there are two things I can count on. One: my running costs are about to drop dramatically. And two: my doctor will be happy, as I’ll be in rude health.