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Less weight, more choice for 2013 LEAF

The upgrades are available on Japanese-market LEAFs at the moment, bringing the model line-up to three trim levels. Leather upholstery, new alloy wheels and Nissan's Around View Monitor camera-based parking assistance system have all been introduced as part of the refresh, while the range has been boosted 14% to 141 miles (228km) on the Japanese test cycle.

Cars ordered in the entry-level S grade have no fog lights, alloy wheels, BOSE audio or Around-View Monitor system but can offer the same range as the G and X trims. This brings the entry price of the LEAF down to 3,349,500 Yen, or just under £25,500.

For 2013, the LEAF gains 40 litres of extra boot space due to a redesigned charging unit which is now relocated to the front. The high voltage unit has been reduced in volume by 30% and is 10% lighter than in early vehicles, contributing to an 80kg reduction in the car’s overall weight.

Nissan has also developed a new motor, which reduces the use of rare-earth metal dysprosium by 40% compared to its predecessor. This is used to strengthen its heat resistance, and was previously applied uniformly across the magnets. New developments mean this can be distributed just between the crystals the magnets are made from.

Weight reduction, revised steering settings and the new motor are claimed to make the updated LEAF more fun to drive.

An updated version of the European market LEAF will be shown at the Geneva Motor Show next March, with production starting at Sunderland starting the same month ahead of an April sales launch. Nissan hasn't confirmed how much of the Japanese LEAF's improvements will make it into the British-made LEAF, saying specification would vary between the two.

Alex Grant

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