Nissan's second-generation Leaf is not the cheapest mass market electric car, but it has many things going for it
Turn to this new Leaf The second-generation Nissan Leaf is zippy on the road, even in efficient Eco mode. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

You know those new-fangled restaurants where the waiter tells you what is on your plate at the start of each course?

Presumably, they do this so that you know what you are eating. In the world of nouvelle cuisine, you can never be too sure.

Some cars are like that. Even at close range, you wonder if what you are looking at is a wagon, a hatch or a low-slung crossover - especially if they come with fanciful names like "gran coupe" (four-door saloon) or "grand sports tourer" (multipurpose vehicle or MPV).

Not the Nissan Leaf, though. Even if it is an electric car, there is no mystery or ambiguity about its role and function. It is a biggish, tallish hatchback, fashioned with pleasing lines and consideration for aerodynamism.

It is the second-generation Leaf, but the first to be available to retail customers here. It is slightly bigger than its predecessor and a lot more elegant. It weighs a bit more, but that is mainly because of its bigger battery, which gives the car a more useful range.

Over a three-day test-drive, the car clocked nearly 200km and had at least 50km of range left. The first-generation car tested here in 2012 had less than half the real-world driving range.

The new Leaf has 110kW of power and 320Nm of instant torque, versus its predecessor's 80kW and 254Nm. The figures translate to zippy performance on the road, even in the most efficient Eco mode.

In fact, this entire test-drive was done in Eco mode. Ordinarily, driving in Eco entails some hair-tearing - even if you are trying to overtake a fully loaded Deliveroo scooter.

But the Leaf has so much available torque that driving in Eco all day does not come with huge sacrifices. Floor the pedal and the car will zoom past trucks which are clearly exceeding their 70kmh limit.

The car does not have superfluous features, but it is far from bare. Cruise control, keyless system, all-round camera, self-folding mirrors and single-zone climate control are some of the things which make it easy to live with.

Next to the Eco mode button is E-pedal, which allows you to drive the car with just the accelerator. Each time you lift off, the regenerative braking is so strong it will slow the Leaf down to a crawl and then a complete stop.

Coupled with its underfloor battery bank which acts like a ballast, E-pedal allows you to take corners with precision quite effortlessly - even if the steering is a little detached.

Compared with the similarly sized Hyundai Ioniq Electric, the new Leaf is pricier (by more than $15,000), a tad less efficient (by about 14 per cent), and attracts a higher road tax ($1,494 a year versus the Ioniq's $1,082).

But it is a quicker and more driveable car all round. And more importantly, it has appreciably longer driving range.

The Leaf is also rather presentable, coming across like a modern model and resembling no other Nissan. In fact, it does not look like any other car.

The test unit had a parcel shelf which rattled intermittently and an infotainment screen which went blank once.

Barring these niggles, it is highly palatable, as a family carrier or a junior executive car.