Friday, July 5, 2013

The most stealthy fun car out there

THE British-built Nissan LEAF electric car has been updated based on the feedback of existing owners. Nissan has clearly listened and addressed any minor issues with this second generation LEAF.
So what's changed about the way the LEAF drives? Next to nothing because that never generated any complaints. In fact, the LEAF might just be the most stealthy fun car out there.
The LEAF has a very crisp way of stepping off the line and with all of the weight – the batteries – mounted so low in the car, it has a centre of gravity that amidengined supercar can only dream of.
Nissan's engineers have finessed the damper settings to reduce float and deliver a more agile and dynamic drive without adversely affecting ride comfort.
The steering system has been given a touch more weight to provide steering feel more in tune with European tastes, while the performance of the brakes has been improved to make them more progressive in use, while also increasing the amount of energy recovered.
Changes have also been made to the Eco driving mode. A 'B' setting on the transmission increases regenerative braking during deceleration, while a separate 'Eco' button on the steering wheel extends driving range by altering the throttle mapping to discourage rapid acceleration.
The two systems can be operated independently of one another, unlike in the original LEAF.
Although the Nissan LEAF doesn't look too different from the outside, with a revised front grille being the main external differentiator, under the skin there have been some fundamental improvements.
The biggest technical change is a fully integrated powertrain that brings the charger assembly, inverter and the motor together for the first time.
Now assembled together as a single stack, the powertrain is again based around a high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor powered by Nissan- designed 48-module compact lithium- ion batteries, mounted underneath the cabin area to lower the centre of gravity for optimum handling.
By moving the charger from the rear of the LEAF to under the bonnet, it has been possible to increase the luggage area by as much as 40-litres, or to put that another way about the size of a typical aircraft "carry-on" suitcase. Boot capacity has increased to 370-litres. More significantly, the removal of the charger from behind the rear seats turns the LEAF into a far more practical proposition.
There is now no obstacle in the middle of the boot floor when the seats are folded, while rear legroom has been increased thanks to reshaped seat cushions, which allow passengers in the rear to put their feet under the seat in front.
The LEAF is offered in three familiar trim grades – Visia, Acenta and Tekna and Nissan has worked to broaden appeal – quite literally – by making the Visia cheaper, while the range-topping Tekna gets more standard equipment than before.
Visia models have 16-inch steel wheels with full covers, black door mirror caps and halogen headlights, for example. Acenta versions have 16-inch alloy wheels, suede fabric seat trim, body coloured mirror caps and rear privacy glass.
Top-grade Tekna models feature LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a Bose stereo, and Nissan's rather wonderful Around View Monitor, a system which takes feeds from external video cameras to create a bird's eye view of exactly what's around you.
Safety provision is as good as ever, with front, side and curtain airbags, ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution with brake assistance as standard along with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP).
The LEAF's real-world driving range has been improved by a number of means. Aerodynamics are better than before and the NEDC's range assessment has gone up from 175km to 199km.
Charging is easier than before too, with an LED inspection light now fitted so that drivers no longer have to rely on street lighting to connect their cars to an electric source at night. Other key improvements to the LEAF's e-Powertrain include reduced internal friction and a more efficient battery and energy management system.
True comparable cost of ownership figures over the life of the car aren't always easy to achieve.
Consumer Reports in the US did back to back tests with a Toyota Prius hybrid, a Chevrolet Volt with petrol "range extender", a petrol Toyota Corolla and a Nissan LEAF. The Nissan was the least expensive on journeys as far as its battery would take it, costing less than half what a Prius would in energy costs.
Nissan has worked hard to improve the LEAF and has clearly listened to customer feedback. Range has been improved, equipment levels bumped up, driving manners have been sharpened still further and practicality is transformed.
The Nissan LEAF is a lovely thing. It's good to drive, would save you a fortune in petrol station pasties and there's the fact that Nissan put its money where its mouth was in developing the car. See it at Wessex Garages Nissan.