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Driven: Nissan surprises with new Leaf

Rural interest catches Nissan by surprise as local Leaf pre-orders hit triple digits

12 Jul 2019

NISSAN Australia is off to a hot start with its second-generation Leaf full-electric vehicle, with private buyers – surprisingly including those from rural areas – either putting down their hard-earned for the small hatch or requesting that their local dealer stock it.


Speaking to journalists this week at the Leaf national media launch in Melbourne, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said “hundreds” of pre-orders have been placed ahead of Leaf’s on-sale date next month.


“We’re very confident that we’ll be in a sold-out position very, very quickly, based on our initial demands,” he said.


“So whether it be the 12,500 customers who have already raised their hands for interest in EVs, the 500 customers who’ve already approached our stores, or the hundreds who have already put down deposits – be it private customers, fleets or otherwise – we’re very confident that we’ll achieve all our objectives this year.


“The only thing we’ll be doing is calling our friend Nic (Thomas, Nissan Motor Corporation global director of electric vehicles, and asking him) to give us more production as we go forward.”


Mr Lester added that “less than 10 per cent” of the pre-orders placed have come from non-private buyers, adding that “we’ll do our upmost to service the retail channel as quickly as possible”.


He would not be drawn on the exact allocation Nissan Australia has received for 2019, although he did tell GoAuto that the initial shipment will be about 150 units, most of which will go to Leaf’s 89-strong dealer network as demonstrators.


Asked if Leaf’s buyer type has evolved since the 2012 launch of the original model, Mr Lester explained “we’re seeing an extremely dynamic group that are expressing interest in the vehicle”.


“First, of course, is early adopters and EV enthusiasts in general … that’s preaching to the converted,” he said. “We’re already seeing businesses, government, other fleet buyers as a group really interested.


“Then we’re also seeing from your private consumers, not only your traditional metro, city-centre urbanites, but we’re also seeing suburban and what’s really interesting: rural.


“What was interesting was how quickly we announced Leaf and talked about the network; how many dealers started raising their hands from rural markets that we weren’t anticipating.


“What we’re seeing in our dialogue with those dealers is their understanding of the predictable patterns in which their customers drive, the reality is some of those people can live ‘off the grid’.”


As reported, Leaf is priced from $49,990 plus on-road costs, with Mr Lester stressing that “we fought hard to get the positioning we were able to get”.


“Demand around the world is very, very strong and we need to make sure that we’re competitive in this market,” he said.


“I am confident that we deliver a lot more with this vehicle this time around.”


Comparatively, the first-generation Leaf launched in June 2012 with a $51,500 starting price, before falling to $46,990 six months later and $39,990 in May 2013, both of which were driveaway prices for private buyers.


The new Leaf features a 110kW/320Nm electric motor up front and a 40kWh lithium-ion battery that provides 270km of driving range on the WLTP combined cycle test.


It can shift its 1594kg frame from standstill to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds while on the way to its top speed of 144km/h.


Charging-wise, Nissan Australia has partnered with EV infrastructure specialist Jet Charge to offer Leaf buyers a 7kW AC wallbox that can fully charge the battery in about 7.5 hours. It costs less than $2000 to install.


Alternatively, a domestic three-pin AC wall socket can charge the battery from flat to full within 24 hours, while a 50kW DC fast-charger can reach 80 per cent within an hour.


A MODE-3 EVSE cable (Type-2) that enables the former is included as standard with Leaf, while a CHAdeMO cable (found at public charging stations) is required for the latter.


Regenerative braking also tops the battery up while on the move, and its impact can be further enhanced by engaging Leaf’s e-Pedal functionality, which allows it to be driven with just the accelerator pedal.


While pricing has risen by more than $10,000, Leaf is offered in a single highly specified grade, with standard equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 215/50 tyres (with a space-saver spare), LED headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights; automatic lights and wipers, power-folding side mirrors with heating, and rear privacy glass.


Inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support (a first for a Nissan model sold Down Under), DAB+ digital radio, a seven-speaker Bose sound system, a 7.0-inch multi-function display, heated front and outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, climate control, keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and black leather-accented upholstery with Ultrasuede inserts feature.


Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, and high-beam assist.


Six paintwork options are available, including no-cost Arctic White, while Magnetic Red, Pearl Black, Platinum and Gun Metallic all cost $595 extra. Alternatively, buyers can opt for Ivory Pearl with a contrasting black roof for $990.


Leaf measures 4490mm long, 1788mm wide and 1540mm tall with a 2700mm wheelbase. It offers 405L of cargo capacity with its 60/40 split-fold rear bench upright, or 1176L with it stowed.


Leaf currently only has one direct rival, the $48,990 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium small hatch, although Kia’s Soul EV will enter the fray early next year.


While the Ioniq Electric has an 88kW/295Nm electric motor, a 28kWh battery and a 280km driving range on the defunct NEDC standard, the Soul EV trumps it and Leaf with its 150kW/395Nm electric motor, 64kWh battery and 452km driving range under the new WLTP regulation.

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