Test Drives

Nissan Leaf 2019 Review: Turning Point



What’s it like driving Nissan’s best-seller around a major financial centre of Asia where cars are costly? It’ll cost S$140k with COE when it comes to Singapore soon, but here we test the Nissan Leaf in Hong Kong

UPDATE: We’ve tested the Leaf in Singapore. Click here to see how far we got on one full charge!

Hong Kong –

The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric vehicle (EV) in the world with over 400,000 units sold since it was first available in 2010, and the new second-generation model will be coming to Singapore in Q2 2019, Nissan Singapore reveals.

Interestingly, the first-gen Leaf was one of the first EVs available in Singapore under the now-ended Transport Technology Innovation Development Scheme (TIDES). And before I went on this trip, there were horror stories from editor Derryn, who drove both the Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and still claims to wake up in the middle of the night with PTSD from the intense range anxiety he suffered nine years ago.

Back then of course, battery technology was far less developed than it is now. But with 100,000 units sold in the past year alone, as well as being 2018’s top selling car of any category in EV-mad Norway, the Nissan Leaf certainly seems a viable ownership proposition in other countries – but what about Singapore?

To that end, we got our hands on the newest iteration of the Leaf for a city test-drive around Hong Kong. As a right-hand drive international model Leaf, our particular test car is built for United Kingdom spec, but Nissan says the final Singapore spec shouldn’t differ too much from this one.

As a city EV, this front-wheel-drive hatch has a electric motor with a maximum output of 150 hp that can produce up to 320 Nm of torque. The 40 kWh battery has a claimed range of more than 300 km and with an hour of DC fast charging (based on 50kW charging speed, which is what SP Group’s DC fast chargers can deliver currently), the vehicle can reportedly recover more than 90 percent of its full capacity.

One caveat is that DC fast-charging on the Leaf is done by the Chademo standard. SP Group’s DC chargers, and most of the EVs here, use the Combined Charging System (CCS) Type 2 plug, so for now it’s unclear how the Leaf will manage public fast-charging.

The Nissan Leaf will come to Singapore buyers accompanied with a wall box (maximum 6.6kW charge rate via Type 2 cable) that can refill the Leaf in five-seven hours, and an universal charging cable (plugs into any wall socket) that can complete one full charge in 12-15 hours.

With “Zero Emissions” plastered on at least three places around the car, there’s no mistaking what you won’t get with the Leaf: The whiff of burnt hydrocarbons.

Now I’m a big fan of EVs – the instant torque is fun, the car starts up in total silence and cruising in quiet comfort has become a default expectation at this point.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t mind getting off to a rocky start almost immediately, making a wrong turn just five minutes into the drive. The extra distance was not a chore since I spent it happily coasting around in this hatch that seems totally at home in busy Hong Kong traffic, which is just as bad as Singapore’s.

A big part of that is Nissan’s e-Pedal. By using only the accelerator pedal, Nissan says drivers can start, accelerate, decelerate and even come to a complete stop.

This is not new technology, nor is it industry-changing. Many EVs also boast single-pedal driving, the BMW i3 was the first EV CarBuyer tested to ever have it, but on the Leaf you can even choose between levels of braking intensity when the acceleration pedal is released.

Again, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Kona Electric can both also do that, but Nissan’s experience with EVs shines through here. The Leaf’s smooth transition from motion to complete stop feels purposeful and nuanced, it’s not jerky and hard to manage at all.

With the frequent starts and stops in city driving, single-pedal automotion is a welcome feature for a jaded city driver. The e-Pedal made for easy driving  even in difficult, slow conditions, and with B-mode (amplified braking) on, the car battery would be charged in spurts because of the increased power generated from the drivetrain’s motor. What was impressive was how fast I took to the e-Pedal, using the brake pedal only once when a yellow bus mistook the streets for a race track.

The route ended with our battery level at 80 percent, down from 99 percent at the beginning. With 41 km travelled, that converted only to 215 km of range. While that’s obviously not quite the quoted 300km, my driving wasn’t exactly exemplary in a foreign environment and I seldom got to cruise at an efficient speed because of the bad traffic.

In that respect, it’s decent real-life performance for an EV, especially considering the crappy traffic. That’s where another plus point of the Leaf comes in, its generous load of safety equipment.

The in-car around-view monitor can detect moving objects around the car and come to an stop automatically, and there’s also the anti-fender bender system Intelligent Emergency Braking. The advanced safety system, like the ones being rolled out on more Honda and Toyota cars, are bolstered by six airbags, and will all be standard on Singapore’s Leafs (Leaves?).

Open up the boot and there’s 435-litres worth of room, a number five litres more than what the Nissan Qashqai can give, and as a small hatchback there’s also better than average room on inside – no fuel tank and all that means more space for people.

At an indicative price of S$140,000 with COE, it’s certainly not the budget option, but then again neither is anything else that’s battery powered right now. But if you’re keen to do your part in the drive towards automotive-electrification (and your wallet is willing), the Nissan Leaf will not leaf you hanging (last line, but i just couldn’t help myself) and looks to be a solid offering that also happens to be the first Japanese EV in Singapore.

Nissan Leaf (subject to changes)

Electric Motor 150hp, 320Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 40kWh
Charge Time / Type 5-7 hours / Wallbox
Electric Range More than 300km
0-100km/h 144km/h
Top Speed 7.9 seconds
Efficiency 17.1 kWh/100km
VES Band / CO2 TBC
Agent Tan Chong Motors
Price S$140,000+ with COE (estimated) 
Availability Now and Forever

 

 

about the author

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Loo Hanwei
Hanwei is the newest member of the CarBuyer Singapore team, and the only member to admit to actually watching football for personal enjoyment. He has never been mistaken for a Korean rapper, but the day is surely approaching fast.