Nissan has confirmed new Leaf electric hatchbacks will now come with the brand’s ‘Canto’ safety sound, designed to give the brand a “sonic identity”. Named for the Italian word for ‘song’, the sound is supposed to alert pedestrians and other vulnerable road users to the electric car’s presence at low speed.

The announcement comes as part of the 2021 model year upgrades, which see the Leaf updated with in-car wi-fi and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration tech. But the big news is the Canto sound system, which was promised in 2017.

The idea is essentially an evolution of the sound already fitted to the Leaf, but Nissan has tweaked it so it will change as the vehicle accelerates and slows, giving other road users a better idea of what the car is doing. Almost four years ago, Nissan promised a sound that would be “clearly audible, without being overly disturbing”.

Now the sound is here, although it will only be enabled at speeds of up to 18 mph. Nissan has developed the noise at its HQ in Japan, but claims it has tweaked the sound for the European market. The company says that means it will not be “too alarming to pedestrians, residents and passengers”.

“Customer safety is paramount, not only for those behind the wheel, but those surrounding the car as well,” said Marco Fioravanti, the regional vice-president for product planning in Europe. “As the world becomes more and more electrified, this sound will soon become part of the soundscape of our roads as Nissan’s signature electric vehicle (EV) sound moving us closer to our goal of a zero-fatality driving experience.”

Nissan Leaf 2021 Canto system

Meanwhile Paul Speed-Andrews, the noise and vibration development manager at Nissan Technical Centre Europe, explained how the sound was adapted for Europe.

“After engineering the ‘Canto’ sound, we installed it in the 2021 Leaf to enable us to carry out both subjective and objective evaluations to better match the expectations of the European customer,” he said. “It was important that we not only created a sound that aligned with the new regulations, but also matched Nissan’s brand image. We have always been pioneers in safety and innovation and it is great to know we are helping to shape the future of electrification.”

The 2021 Nissan Leaf is available to order now in a choice of two battery capacities and three trim levels.

Gallery: Nissan Leaf 2021 Canto system