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by Tim Beissmann

The upgraded 2013 Nissan Leaf has launched in Japan, boasting a more compact and environmentally friendly electric powertrain, an expanded driving range, a revised interior and a number of other enhancements over the original model.

The update arrives less than two years after the Nissan Leaf debuted in its home market in December 2010, and is expected to make its way into Australian showrooms sometime next year.

Upgrades to the Leaf’s electric propulsion system have led to an increase in its total driving range of 14 per cent, which under Australian conditions should see the compact EV’s capacity increase from 170km to around 193km on a single charge.

Integrating the electric motor with the inverter and DC/DC converter has reduced the size of the components by around one-third and cut their weight by 10 per cent. Nissan has also reduced the amount of dysprosium (a rare earth element) in the updated electric motor by 40 per cent to further enhance its eco claims.

The 2013 Nissan Leaf is about 80kg lighter overall than the previous model thanks to its combined powertrain unit, a streamlined battery module and case structure, and the use of other lighter parts throughout the car’s construction.

Nissan says the Leaf’s new motor and its lighter body deliver a “more responsive and exhilarating acceleration feel”. The brand’s engineers have also focused on improving the responsiveness of the steering at medium vehicle speeds and have adjusted the suspension relative to the car’s new weight. Hill Start Assist has also been added to aid driving smoothness.

Long-life charging – where the battery is charged only to 80 per cent to extend its life – is now available in all charging modes (e.g. trickle, standard, fast-charge), and the charging port now features a locking mechanism, LED light for night charging and an electromagnetic opener for the charging port lid.

Inside, the 2013 Nissan Leaf is available with a black interior as an alternative to the existing white, and leather seats are available as an option.

Boot space grows from 330 litres to 370 litres as the on-board charger relocates from the back of the car to the front.

Nissan’s Around View Monitor 360-degree camera system is available as an option in the 2013 Leaf, while its remaining battery capacity is now shown as a percentage in the multi-function display.

Three new colours are also available: Dark Metal Grey, Brilliant White Pearl and White.

Already available in two specification levels in Japan (X and high-grade G), Nissan has introduced an entry-level Leaf S variant with a more basic equipment list and a cheaper price point in an attempt to attract new buyers.

Nissan Australia currently only offers one well-specified variant, which is priced from $51,500.

A total of 68 Leafs have hit the road in Australia this year, although the current sales rate is less than inspiring. Just 17 were registered across the country between August and October, including four (less than one a week) last month.

Despite the low numbers, Nissan Australia corporate communications manager Peter Fadeyev said the car maker was doing “very well” with Leaf, and was more focused on its long-term performance rather than month-to-month sales.

Fadeyev said he was unaware of any plans to introduce a cheaper entry-level Leaf in Australia at this stage.

Specifications of the updated Nissan Leaf will be revealed closer to its anticipated Australian release in 2013.




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