Nissan Leaf 2019 [blank]

Nissan Leaf hot hatch review: Twin-engine electric car tested

Quick drive

It's a prototype for now but Nissan has created an all-wheel-drive Leaf hatchback that could pass for a modern day Nissan Pulsar GTI-R. And we've driven it.
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Electric car skeptics might be tired of hearing about the slingshot acceleration of battery-powered vehicles – once the wick has been turned up – but here’s a statistic that might put things into perspective.

This Nissan Leaf all-wheel-drive prototype has more torque than a Nissan GT-R supercar.

For the technically-minded, that’s 680Nm versus 632Nm.

And before the keyboard warriors get clicking, yes we know the GT-R trounces the Frankenstein Nissan Leaf for power (419kW versus 227kW).

But a 0-100kmh time of about five seconds means this cobbled-together test car is no slouch.

Indeed, with its hatchback body and compact proportions it could even be a modern day Nissan GTI-R. (For millennials, that’s a turbo all-wheel-drive version of the Nissan Pulsar that predated the original Subaru WRX. See below.)

We got to slip behind the wheel of this weird creation as a guest of Nissan during the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.

The test was conducted inside Nissan’s top secret research and development facility so (a) there were no real-world driving impressions and (b) it amounted to a 1.5km test drive if you include the slalom and wet skid pan.

The acceleration felt like, well, what a five-second car feels like, but without any noise other than the gasps from the engineer in the front passenger seat and the other journalist in the back seat.

Nissan was also at pains to demonstrate new technology that reduces the amount of front-to-back “head toss” of occupants when the car is braking and accelerating in stop-start traffic.

We sampled the car with and without this mode enabled and there was definitely a difference, even if it was subtle.

Dear Nissan, please fit this technology to every taxi in Australia to help reduce passenger fatigue from “cabbie’s foot”.

Dear Joshua, sorry we can’t fit this tech to taxis because our anti-seesawing system is linked to clever software – specifically, how the front electric motor interacts with the rear electric motor to subtly reduce jerkiness in slow-moving traffic.

Next up, we tackled a slalom in the dry. The all-wheel-drive grip was profound, with the front wheels effectively pulling the car out of tight turns. Wider and stickier tyres than standard didn’t hurt, either.

Nissan has also fitted larger friction brakes to the Leaf test mule, so it stopped like a performance car.

The final instruction: go as fast as you can around a large wet circle.

The first attempt was with clever tech activated to keep the rear end from skidding out.

The second time without the extra assistance, to show what a crap driver you really are.

And a third time to remind you how much better advanced stability control technology is than your right foot on a brake pedal.

Impressed with this Nissan Leaf on steroids? Yes. What does it mean? We don’t know. Will you keep asking yourself questions in this story? Probably not.

While it looks like a Nissan Leaf hot hatch (yes please) this in fact is a mobile laboratory for Nissan’s upcoming electric SUV.

If it has anything like the acceleration and grip of the technology sampled in this test bed, the Nissan Ariya will be yet another car to make performance enthusiasts weep.

However, amid all the smoke and mirrors – and secrecy – I just hope Nissan looks at what it has already created: a fully electric all-wheel-drive hot hatch with performance to smoke a Volkswagen Golf R, Subaru WRX, and Audi S3.

They already have the name: Nissan GTI-R.

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