Tuesday, February 13, 2018

First Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf


The Nissan Leaf was never a looker. Going back to the first-generation model, it looked dorky. With a shape likely dictated more by aerodynamic efficiency than head-turning good looks, it looked like a fish; a fish out of water in fact next to sophisticated looking family hatchbacks and cute-utes. Nonetheless, Nissan managed to move some 300,000 examples, cementing it as the world’s best-selling EV (take that, Tesla).

En route to 2018 and its first ground-up redesign, Nissan decided it’s about time to push the Leaf from the fringes of geekdom to mainstream car-dom. It’s about time someone other than Sheldon Cooper could learn to appreciate what the Leaf can do. This time, Nissan is touting the Leaf as the EV for everyone—it’s the car you, your wife, your brother, your sister, your kids, and probably even your dog would like to take for a spin, without having to put a paper bag over their heads. Yes, innovative and pioneering is good, but making it drive like an ordinary vehicle is the Leaf’s main mission here.



A couple of laps around Singapore Nanyang University’s CETRAN test course reveals the unmistakable truth: mission accomplished. Granted the two-hectare test course isn’t really set-up to be the Nürburgring, but at least it’s enough to show off how extraordinarily ordinary the Leaf drives and operates.

Before getting to the drive itself, it’s worth noting that the Leaf looks remarkably like a regular family hatchback. Gone is the parrot fish look and in comes something akin to a family hatchback. It’s got that Anne Hathaway-getting-a-Princess-Diaries-makeover type of vibe. It still isn’t as sexy as Adriana Lima sashaying with her wings, but at least it looks the part. The angular lines, sharper lights, generous wheels—blink fast enough and you can mistake it for a warm hatch.



The same goes when you step inside. As you try to get all familiar with the Leaf’s cabin, it strikes you as ordinary. No fancy shiz here—no giant tablet-like touchscreen, no falcon doors—it’s typical Nissan fare. Because of that, getting used to the Leaf’s operation is quick and easy. With a course navigator that’s more concerned about processing the test drive group, getting comfy and heading out to the test track had to be done ASAP. And that’s doable. Granted the seats feel awkward (they’re perched higher because of the floor-mounted battery back), the rest of the package gets two thumbs up. The best parts have to be the instrument cluster with its giant LCD screen and the toggle-type gear selector which is so easy to use.

Going to the drive itself, the CETRAN test course simulates city streets and as such, the drive is limited to “pedestrian-friendly” speeds. In these circumstances, the Leaf is a blast to drive. It continues to ride on the first-generation’s platform, but stiffened and fitted with a quicker steering rack. While it’s hard to comment whether this version has had noticeable improvement over the Leaf of old, one thing is for certain: it feels hefty. Sure, the steering is responsive and all, but there’s also an undeniable feeling of mass; like a boxer sporting a beer gut. Still, for the great masses out there, peak torque of 350 Nm available from 0 rpm and a serenely quiet ride are more than enough reasons to love the Leaf.



The most sci-fi element of the Leaf is its ability to do one-pedal driving. Nissan calls it e-pedal and it’s an ingenious combination of the engine’s regenerative braking and conventional friction brakes to slow the car appreciably without having to apply the brake pedal at all. It can even hold the car on steep grades without having to expend any electrical energy. It takes a few corners to get used to, but after this, most will undoubtedly appreciate this unique feature.

With a name that actually stands for “Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family vehicle”, the Leaf’s main mission is to cater to families. And for that, it’s has succeeded here. It’s a car that manages to do everything to a consistent eight-out-of-ten standard, rather than any one thing brilliantly. Some will continue to raise an eyebrow or two at the prospect of giving up their internal combustion habit; some may still opt to ogle a Tesla, but for the vast majority of would-be EV buyers, there’s no better choice than the Leaf. It performs and drives quite like an ordinary family hatchback and for that, it’s done what it’s designed to do.



Find out how much it costs to drive a Nissan Leaf by reading our story here.

22 comments:

  1. Still no ballpark figure on the cost?

    Banking on 'A' for "affordable".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. None yet. Won’t be surprised if it’s 2 something million.

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    2. At that price, continuing to screw mother nature seems to be a more viable option.

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    3. We'd have to increase the renewable energy in our grid for us to stop screwing nature. Last I checked the 60%+ of the grid was powered by fossil fuels.

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    4. True. That’s what car companies like Mazda is countering. An EV is only as clean as it’s energy source. Mazda reckons that an EV’s overall thermal efficiency is no more than 50 percent due to the use of non-renewable energy sources.

      Delete
  2. In the US this is at least $30,000 and I expect it to be around 1.6 to 1.8M here in thw PH. A good alternative would be the Note ePower which retails around $20,000 to $25,000 in Japan. The Note ePower has a gasoline engine that charges the battery so basically walang range anxiety. The only sole purpose of the gas engine is to charge the battery like a generator. The drive is completely EV.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately e-Power is purely right hand drive for now. It’ll be easier if there’s a left hand drive model.

      Delete
  3. I read somewhere that EV’s are too quiet and barely heard when it passes by. Isn’t it too dangerous on our roads?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It comes with an eject button

      Delete
    2. We already have these crazy e-bikes on the streets, so quietness shouldn't be too hard.

      Delete
  4. Its probably going to be uneconomical here since we have one of the highest electric rates

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check this out:

      https://www.carguide.ph/2018/02/how-much-money-do-you-save-driving.html

      I already put in our electricity rates (January 2018) into consideration.

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    2. That's good to hear its still economical even with our sky high electricity rates. But another factor to consider is battery replacement cost. It would amount to about 300-400k after eight years.

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    3. True.

      But we asked Nissan and they countered that. They said that the battery alone would be work USD 2,000 which can be repurposed. That’s higher than the value of any second hand car of the same age. Of course they’re assuming a planned 10 year obsolescence. It works for some people...might not work for others.

      Delete
    4. What does that mean? they will trade in the old battery for around 100k?

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    5. I'll be paraphrasing Nissan on this one...

      As the Leaf enters the "end of life", Nissan has plans to properly reuse or recycle the Leaf battery. Based on the first-generation Leaf, a 10-year old battery would still have a good 60-80 percent life left in it.

      When the owner does decide to dispose of his/her Leaf, he can either: re-purpose the battery to be used as a home battery unit (think of it as a battery pack for your home--perfect if you're part of a smart charging grid) or it can be sold to an establishment/company that does it for you.

      Either way, they say the battery itself will have a higher value compared to a typical car of the same age.

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    6. That's really good, after a decade it still has maybe around 80km range. But that may be overly optimistic. In our hot climate, the battery's life will probably be much shorter.

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  5. I still prefer to hear the sound of a internal combustion engine. They should at least make it optional to equip speakers that emit a roar of a v6, lol. Imagine driving this thing up to baguio where you'll fall asleep due to it's boringness whereas you'll still enjoy somewhat if this thing is equipped with speakers that will make it sound like a lamborghini.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In Japan some carmakers have put in a pleasant chiming sound whenever an EV takes off. Looks like the Leaf doesn’t have it though or maybe it’s an option.

      Delete
    2. What a pretentious moron...

      Delete

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