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A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to test drive the 2013 Leaf at JFE Nissan Exeter.

We have owned our 2011 Leaf now for over 2 years and done 18K miles and on the whole we have been very happy. It serves our everyday needs very well and we have had only a couple of minor issues. We generally don't use it for trips where we have to charge away from home. I know that some people use their Leaf as their main or only car and so travel all over the country but we find that the public charging infrastructure is not yet adequate for casual long distance driving and so we have a Vauxhall Ampera for those longer trips.

However, the uprating of the on-board charger from 3.3KW to 6.6KW, and the slight increase in range, made us reassess the Leaf and so we took a look at the 2013 Leaf as a possible replacement for the 2011 Leaf in the hope that it would potentially mean that we could use it as our only car.

The test consisted of a good walk around and about 20 mins in the car driving on the motorway and around town.

These were our thoughts...

Outside the car is very much the same. There is minor changes to the styling but on the whole nothing significant although the charging port hatch now has a remote release meaning that you can open it without having to open the car and it has a courtesy light to help when it is dark. I think it also has an interlock so that the J1772 cable cannot be removed by unauthorised people.

Inside we felt was a general improvement. The black leather seats of the our demonstrator (Tekna version) was a definite improvement and they were firmer. The boot no longer has the bulge across the back and so I could see the boot being more usable especially with the seats down. The instrumentation is much the same but there are small changes to the air con so it is now zoned. The all-round camera system was a nice addition but personally I would prefer to have had sensors which I find much more usable when parking. Finally the state of charge has a percentage option... hurrah! This shows that Nissan are listening.

The suspension was noticeably firmer and was a big improvement.

The biggest noticeable difference is that there are now two levels of re-gen braking. There are still the Eco and Normal modes as before but there is the option to increase the degree of re-gen braking and in this mode lifting your foot off the gas seems to give you max re-gen braking. I love this mode and I could see it being a big hit.

Internally there are many changes. The AC charger has been moved from that bulge in the boot to under the bonnet and in fact, the whole of the power train has been redesigned. There is a new motor and the air con has a heat pump reducing the power load and so reducing the range loss when in use. These are all steps in the right direction but I can't help wondering if Nissan would have been better to have introduced these into the mk1 version.

In summary then... we enjoyed our test. There were very few things about the 2013 car that we didn't feel were improvements and it is clear that the 2013 car is a significant improvement over the 2011. But here comes the crunch... we paid £24K for our 2011 model. We were offered £12,500 for our 2011 Leaf in part-ex plus a further £1,500 incentive from Nissan as a Leaf pioneer... so £14,000. The new Leaf would be about £24,000 so it would cost us £10,000 to upgrade. Clearly it is a better car overall but there is no significant increase in range, the 6.6KW charging would not add much as we charge overnight when the 3.3KW charging is perfectly adequate and there is nothing so major that it would be worth £10,000 to us to have. So the answer is a clear no to the upgrade and the bottom line is that until the public charging network improves to the point where charging is available to the same extent and with the same ease as petrol is now I do not consider the Leaf a sensible option for long trips. However, used for local trips, within the range of an overnight charge, it is perfect and the 2011 version does that just as effectively as the 2013.

I think I am disappointed that there has been no significant range increase in the 2013 Leaf. I am also sad that Nissan seems to be losing some of the initiative with EVs and ground-breaking as the original Leaf was it needs a sea-change in the technology and price before EVs can be taken seriously as a potential fossil fuel replacement for the average family. The pioneers, of which I am one, will push on but we need greater range, faster charging and a fully developed, 24/7, sensibly priced, public charging network before the average family will consider an EV as their family car replacement.

So no major breakthrough but it is clear that EVs are coming along albeit slowly.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Something I forgot to mention is that the electronic park brake has gone. Instead, there is a pedal on the floor which you press down to apply the park brake and press and release to release it. It is mechanical and is identical to the way park brakes work on many cars in the USA.

For me this is a huge step backward and I cannot imagine why they needed to change this. If anyone knows the details of why please post... I'd love to know :)
 
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