Nissan has revealed its all-new electric Leaf hatchback – officially the most successful ever electric vehicle in the history of the entire universe. Impressive stuff, and that's only with one generation of the nippy little car.
Now comes the moment for the difficult second go – and the Japanese manufacturer has decided to try a bold new look to entice petrol-loving consumers into its whisper-quiet runabout.
Out is the cutesy frog look, in is the...what, grumpy toucan? Still, the increased range and added bonus of scrappage incentives will sweeten the deal.
It's a very different look from the front – the lights are more conventionally laid out than before and the bonnet seems lower. The charging compartment is in roughly the same place, but less conspicuous now that the Nissan logo has been moved elsewhere.
The proportions of the new second-generation Nissan Leaf are very similar to the old car. The window line and windscreen are the same, but the front end is much more squared-off and less bulbous. Much attention will have been paid to testing the Leaf in the wind tunnel or using computer software to test airflow to make the car as slippery and efficient as possible through the air.
Without sitting in the car to get a feel for the quality of the new cabin, it's hard not to have the impression that the new interior is a step backwards. The new Leaf definitely has its eyes on conventional small hatchbacks rather than trying to stick out and be distinctive. It's slightly ironic that the second-generation digital instrument panel reintroduces dials, even if they're pretend ones. Drivers clearly aren't ready for space-age information displays.
In side view it seems that the bonnet isn't as low as it seems, merely that the visual difference with the change in headlights has had a profound impact on the look of the car. The sloping rear hatch looks like it will be a bonus for aerodynamics, but not so much for load space. The floating roof at the back of the car is all the rage right now – where the previous Leaf set the bar for electric vehicle design, the new car scampers after the main conventionally engined players. Could Nissan be worried about the threat posed by the likes of the new Mini EV?
Some of the blue accents of the first-generation car remain at the rear end, but otherwise it's a completely different story. Name badge aside, you'd be hard-pressed to guess this is the same car, but that's not to say that the new car doesn't cut a cash. The lights wrap around the corners and the black gloss plastic over the hatch livens things up. The boot opening looks marginally more practical, but still seems quite narrow – such practical touches are what set cars apart when you're living with them everyday.