I’ve always loved the 5-door hatch-back. Back in my youth, the Honda Civic was a favourite. My own car today is a Volkswagen Golf. A great combination of useable space, thrifty economics in terms of running costs, and occasionally a great drive when the moment and environment is right.

As a result I was very much looking forward to my first proper experience in an all-electric car that was also a 5-door hatch. And so my week with the Nissan Leaf began.

Highlights

PriceFuel EfficiencyLooksComfort
$55,127
Drive-away
19.4kWh/100km
(Combined)
9/107.5/10
Life StyleLife StageSafetyOn The Road
Urban. Environmental.Family or Empty Nesters⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ANCAP
8/10

Interior

As is typical of non-European hatchs today and of yesteryear, they are pretty barren when it comes to interior finish. They are also more often than not adorned with creative and often very clever uses of limited space. Storage bins under the seats and little cubby-holes between the front seats are not uncommon.

The Leaf very much plays to type with the interior, although it is anything but sparse and uncomfortable. Quite the opposite.

From the surprisingly supportive driver’s seat, all the key controls such as the funky gear selector joystick and the drive mode buttons sit up nice and high. Too many smaller cars today put these down low as there is no transmission tunnel to sit them on.

All 5 seats in the Leaf are heated – as is the steering wheel – and are quite comfortable. The base of the front seats are a little short however, they make up for that in support around your lower back and hips. The seats themselves are a hybrid of leather and suede. Quite comfortable on a hot day – although seat ventilation is a feature I would have added to the Leaf.

A – smaller than most of the competition – 8 inch touch screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto is the centre-piece of the interior. Feeds from the numerous exterior cameras feed into the screen when parking with those very handy sensors front and rear. Packed with loads of features, these displays really are the interface to cars today.

The Leaf has an almost perfectly shaped nook for your phone that could so easily have been a wireless charging dock. I’m amazed that the interior designers don’t think these things through or get that feedback from potential customers and focus groups.

Steering wheels speak volumes for any car today, and the Nissan Leaf has been armed with a perfectly sized wheel with a nice flat edge at the bottom and a great size in your hand.

The dash is an interesting blend of old and new. On the right there’s an old-school speedo which very optimistically goes up to 180km/h. To the left of the speedo, there’s a digital screen that can show a number of stats and information about the car. Interestingly I have noticed Tyre Pressure Sensors on a number of cars recently. The technology has clearly become more cost effective and reliable.

The overall fit and finish of the Leaf is excellent. Nissan has used the same spongy material on the dash as I found in the Kia Sorento last week. There’s also really nice blue stitching throughout which sets off and otherwise fairly monochrome interior.

The boot size is quite good apart from the BOSE Premium sound-system sub-woofer sitting up from the floor begging to be damaged by a teenager’s schoolbag. I was however, very surprised on the same journey that I was easily able to get two rather tall teenage boys in the back of the Leaf with ease.

Exterior

The Leaf that we drove this week was finished in a colour that Nissan calls Magnetic Red. Red is not a colour that I’m a fan of, but this time around it looked rather good.

In terms of proportions I think the Leaf is a good looking car. It’s got a few sharp angles and styling cues that are akin to the Honda Civic, but in my opinion are far more aesthetically pleasing than on the Civic.

At the front the auto-levelling and dusk sensing LED headlights provide more than ample light of an evening. The connection for the charging cable is cleverly stored behind the front of the Leaf allowing for the use of non-flat surfaces elsewhere.

Chunky chrome door handles ensure a good grip can be made when opening the solidly built doors. As small rear-spoiler sets off the rear of the Leaf where the overhang at the rear is very modest keeping the majority of the weight (1,594kg) between the front and rear wheels where the chunk of batteries are stored.

Skinny 17 inch wheels and tyres complete the exterior of the Leaf and I think puts it in a class of its own when it comes to looks. I got quite a few stares and questions from people whilst driving the Nissan Leaf. Far more than I have had with any of the cars that have come through the SonnyDickson garage recently.

On The Road

All EVs are inherently heavy. The mass of batteries that are required to make these cars move are also their greatest hindrance. The 270km range is adequate however, you are going to be recharging most evenings to keep the range up to a workable level.

On the road, the Leaf feels very capable and despite its mass, is a really fun car to drive. It’s certainly the most eco-friendly 5 door hatch that I’ve driven and it does go about its business effortlessly.

The e-Pedal is a unique feature where you can drive the Leaf much like you might a Scalextric car on a track. No brake as such. Just reduce the amount of acceleration that you want or need, and the car will use the energy recovery system to apply braking force and harvest the unused energy to top-up the batteries.

The e-Pedal takes quite a bit of getting used to and does not make for a smooth driving experience. I took a few days to get the feel for it, but 30 years of driving means I’m used to a brake pedal.

The steering is very direct and responsive. As are the brakes which are discs all around with ABS and with a number of cameras and sensors mounted high in the windscreen other safety features such as Intelligent Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warnings are very useful and work very well.

With all the cameras and sensors located behind the interior rear-view mirror, I did find on occasion that the driver’s view to the front left corner of the Leaf can be blocked if you’re a tall and sitting high in the seat.

Whilst I’m on the subject of having your view blocked, the Leaf also did not have my favourite and most useful of features on a car today – the kerb-side auto-dipping mirror when the driver selects reverse gear.

For the week behind the wheel of the Leaf, I was easily able to achieve an energy consumption figure of around 19kWh. It’s very interesting to see how much effect running climate control and even driving on a relatively flat surface can make to the economy numbers that you are able to achieve.

All in all, I really enjoyed the Nissan Leaf – especially the way it feels on the road, whether that’s on a freeway or hacking around the suburban streets.

Who Will Love This Car?

I think this is a very good car for a couple of audiences.

Firstly I think it’s a great second car for the city for most families. Yes, it’s a bit on the pricy side, but with the cost of a litre of Unleaded unlikely to move closer to $1.00, this has to be a good option over the long-term. Other benefits from government also make the Leaf quite attractive. There’s plenty of space. The trim levels are excellent, and this car will not date.

The second audience for the Leaf are the empty nesters who are jettisoning the large family car and are often looking for a city car that can accommodate the occasional passenger in the back – that is also looking for cost effective and comfortable urban motoring. A win/win.

Pricing

As tested in Magnetic Red, the Nissan Leaf will cost you just over $55,000 drive-away.