White Lightning
Torque Singapore|July - August 2019
White Lightning

The second-generation Nissan Leaf is out to electrify EV buyers with its sportier looks, improved interior and longer range.

When the first-generation Nissan Leaf first broke cover, its otherworldly looks immediately polarised opinions.

Its bulbous shape ensured that it looked like no other car on the road. Some found it cute. But many did not find it appealing.

The previous Leaf arrived in Singapore in 2012 as part of a test bedding programme. Torque drove it and found it to be a pleasant, albeit quirky car.

Although zippy, the older Leaf has a very limited range. It was rated for 150km, but under local driving conditions, we could only safely eke out 100-110km.

The latest Leaf, however, is claimed to have more than twice the range (311km). Its more conventional design is also more attractive than before.

We subject this electric hatchback to a comprehensive review by three Torque regulars: writer Wong Kai Yi, along with core contributors Tony Tan and Shreejit Changaroth. Keen driver Kai Yi will put the Leaf’s performance and handling to the test, while Tony analyses the car’s practical attributes.

Shreejit, on the other hand, will put on his engineer’s hard hat before checking out the Leaf’s technical specifics.

The Performance Factor

Every time I drive the Nissan Leaf, I kid you not, I run straight into a massive traffic jam.

It’s not your gardenvariety jam but a bumperto-bumper tailback.

That’s probably because Nissan’s Ubi showroom is in the middle of a busy industrial estate, not to mention sandwiched between entrances to the KPE and PIE.

It was a sign, then, for me to try out the e-Pedal that Nissan advertises as a standout feature on the Leaf.

The e-Pedal’s premise is simple but highly effective: you can start, accelerate, decelerate and brake simply by depressing or lifting offthe accelerator.

It’s very intuitive once you get the hang of it. With e-Pedal mode engaged, depress the accelerator pedal to move offand when you want to stop, gently ease off.

The motor, through regenerative braking, slows you to a halt.

A good many electric cars also use strong regenerative braking to slow you down, but Nissan is the only automaker which has refined it into something that you can use daily.

The system even automatically applies the brakes for you (and illuminates the stop lamp) when you’re stationary, so you can rest your hard-working right leg.

During my time with the car, I challenged myself to only drive with the e-Pedal - and I succeeded. It was definitely easier to drive with it and soon, I got quite used to modulating it without much difficulty.

With some practice, it’s entirely possible to drive solely with the e-Pedal and help save some battery power in the process.

Ironically, my foot began aching after a while as I was constantly easing on and offin peak hour traffic. But it sure beats having to do the throttle-brake-throttle dance that I smugly knew other drivers must be doing.

Also, unless you have plenty of practice driving backwards, parking manoeuvres are best done with e-Pedal off, because the strong regen can cause the car to jerk while you try to finesse it into a parking lot.

Which brings us onto the topic of the Leaf’s brakes. When you depress the brake, the pedal feel could do with more bite.

There’s linearity to the braking feel, but no “hard stop” after some travel. The feel is in no way terrible, but it just doesn’t have as meaty a bite as I would like.

Aside from that, the Leaf is smooth on the road and like every other electric car, dead easy to drive.

It knows how to party. With e-Pedal off, the Leaf leaps snappily away from the lights, putting some two-doors to shame with its 147hp and 320Nm of instant torque.

Round a corner with a touch of speed and the Leaf keeps body roll impressively in check, cornering with no histrionics and minimal fuss despite being shod with skinny ecooriented Dunlop Enasaves.

But its steering, though largely accurate, is too light and doesn’t transmit much textural feel of the road surface.

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July - August 2019