Nissan has unveiled its long-awaited next-generation Leaf electric vehicle, offering a significant redesign and improvement in specifications and technology compared to its predecessor.

Seven years after the original Leaf, and more than 275,000 sold, the new Leaf is looking to make electric vehicles even more mainstream by appealing to a wider audience with its new sporty look and spec sheet full of tech.

Say hello to the new Nissan Leaf. 

The new Nissan Leaf has dramatically improved its design over the original model. It not only improves its aerodynamics but it brings a sportier, sleeker look to the Leaf, with simple, clean lines that result in a sleek silhouette.

Inspired by Nissan's IDS Concept, the new Leaf might not be as futuristic but it follows in the path of other popular Nissan models, including the new Micra and the X-Trail for a finish that steers away from an electric vehicle look into one that is more mainstream.

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Nissan's signature V-Motion grille sits on the front, trimmed with blue mesh to distinguish it as a Nissan EV, while a floating roof is one of the features taken from other models in the Nissan line-up.

There are projector beam headlights either side of the grille, which give the Leaf a new lease of life, while the charging port at the front has been reconfigured to a 45-degree angle for easier access. The rear has a distinctive design too though with combination headlights, a diffuser-type rear bumper and a spoiler integrated into the window graphics.

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Inside the cabin of the new Leaf, the interior continues to borrow from other Nissan models with a "gliding wing" framework like the new Micra, but it also has a redesigned information display with a simple configuration for a clutter-free look.

A lovely 7-inch full-colour TFT touchscreen takes centre stage in the middle of the dashboard with a premium matte chrome trim, while dual cup-holders are positioned between the driver and passenger seats to make way for a storage area at the base of the central console.

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Vibrant blue stitching is present throughout the cabin, found on the seats, door trim, armrest and steering wheel, while the power switch and shift knob also continue the blue EV theme with blue detailing.

Overall the new Leaf has a lovely, striking design and one that marks a huge improvement on its predecessor. It will come in five colours, as well as two-tone options and interior options include all black or pale grey.

The new Nissan Leaf is packed with technology, with three intelligent driving systems on board, from the company's ProPILOT autonomous system, which launched in July 2016, to the e-pedal.

ProPILOT is the same as it was when we sampled it on the Serena last year, allowing the driver to enable autonomous driving functionality at the touch of a button when driving on single-lane highways.

Once enabled, the technology will control steering, acceleration and braking between speeds of 30kph and 100kph, and it will also ensure the vehicle stays in the centre of its lane. If the car in front stops, the ProPILOT system will apply the brakes to keep the new Leaf at a safe distance, coming to a full stop if necessary. When the traffic starts again, so will the Leaf.

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Expanding the ProPILOT system is ProPILOT Park, which debuts on the new Leaf. This technology automates parking in three scenarios including parallel park and bay park, controlling acceleration, braking, handling, shift charging and parking brakes to guide the car into the selected spot. 

ProPILOT Park combines four high resolution cameras with information from 12 ultrasonic sensors to complete the manoeuvre but the driver is required to hold their finger down on the parking button next to the gear knob, after pressing start on the touchscreen for the system to work and the parking to complete.

The e-Pedal has been introduced to the new Leaf to provide simplicity when driving. Rather than having to use an accelerator and brake, drivers can accelerate, decelerate, stop and hold the car on a hill using just the e-Pedal by increasing or decreasing the force with which you are pressing the pedal.

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Releasing the e-Pedal will bring the new Leaf to a complete stop and hold it there without the need to press the brake pedal. It has a deceleration rate of up to 0.2g and the break lights will appear on the rear depending on the situation to warn the driver behind that you are braking.

Elsewhere, Nissan has also introduced Apple CarPlay compatibility and a range of advanced safety technologies including Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning and Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication, among others.

As the new Nissan Leaf has only just launched, we didn't get a chance to drive it properly in order to test its performance, nor has Nissan specified the exact specifications for the UK model so it is not yet clear what comes as standard and what is an option.

We know the new Leaf comes with a 40kW battery, which is a 38 per cent increase on the current model, and we know its maximum power output is 110kW, which is also an improvement on the current model and its 80kW maximum. We also know it should achieve 0-60mph in 7.9-seconds.

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How it will drive and the range it will achieve is yet to be seen, though Nissan has claimed the new Leaf has a torque increase for improved acceleration and it is said to offer a range of 235 miles, up from the 155 miles of the current model, so we have high hopes.

We had a demonstration of ProPILOT Park, which we really enjoyed for its simplicity. There are a few hoops to jump through, three steps to be exact, in order to get the new Leaf into its parking spot but the technology is great and doesn't require much learning with step-by-step instructions telling you exactly what to do.

The fact that you are required to hold the parking button down at all times during the parking process means you still have an element of control, with the car coming to a full stop if you take your finger off the button. ProPILOT Park doesn't require white parking lines to work or locate a parking spot but it does need 600mm either end of the car for parallel parking, which might make it redundant in London.

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Our time with the e-Pedal was hugely limited, lasting only the duration of the ProPILOT Park demonstration, for most of which we didn't need to do anything, but it's certainly an interesting technology and one we are looking forward to trying out on real roads. No doubt it will take time to get used to, but we suspect it will achieve its goal of making driving less stressful and more enjoyable.

Pricing has yet to be announced for the new Nissan Leaf, though the company said it will be "comparable" to the current model. The new Nissan Leaf will be available in the UK from January 2018 and we can't wait to take it for a spin.