Nissan Leaf review
The Nissan Leaf was an electric car standard bearer in the UK but how does it compare with more traditional small car choices?
The Nissan Leaf is something of a trailblazer in the UK car market. When it was launched in 2010, it became the first all-electric car to sold on UK shores and basked in the accompanying publicity for some time., It still looks an attractive option today, due to plenty of standard equipment and a starting price of just a little over £16,000.
The big selling points of the Nissan Leaf, though, are its zero emissions potential and ability to slash your car running costs at a stroke. In fact, Nissan claims that it'll only add around £260 to your annual electricity bill when it's charged at home.
When it was first launched in the UK, only one Nissan Leaf model was available. However, Nissan has since expanded the range so there’s now an entry-level Visia, a Visia Plus and an Acenta before you get to the range-topping Tekna.
The Nissan Leaf is a good way into electric vehicle ownership due to the two pricing plans - firstly, there is the 'Leaf Flex' plan, which allows buyers to own the car, but lease the battery. The second option is the 'Leaf' plan, which, in non-Nissan speak, is buying the car outright.
Nissan fits every leaf with Bluetooth and keyless go as standard. The range-topping Tekna version of the Leaf also offer premium car kit such as a BOSE stereo system, a heated steering wheel and heated seats. This means it can compete on paper with more expensive EVs such as the excellent BMW i3.
The downside, though, is that the Leaf (like other fully-electric cars) suffers from a limited range. Nissan claims that the Leaf can manage 124 miles on a single charge - so it's a great commuter in the city but not so great for long motorway journeys.
Our choice: Leaf Acenta
Like that other eco-car of note, the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf certainly has distinctive styling. This is partly due to its aerodynamic design but there’s some neat detailing too.
Nissan has sculpted its bodywork in order to improve efficiency, which in turn, helps boost the range of the Leaf. The unusual high tail looks ungainly, but like the rest of the body, it was developed to house the large battery back, and also in the pursuit of efficiency.
There's no exhaust pipe on the Leaf, (zero emissions, remember), the charging point is under the blue Nissan badge on the front.
The entry level Nissan Leaf Visia comes with 16-inch steel wheels and black plastic mirrors, so it can look a little dowdy. However, the high-tech read-out that reveals how much power the car has left and how efficient your driving is, can be good fun.
The performance of the Nissan Leaf is leisurely but the aim of the game here is efficiency so most buyers won’t be too bothered. Courtesy of its 108bhp battery-powered motor, the Nissan Leaf will reach 60mph in 11.5 seconds and has a maximum speed of 89mph.
On paper, that doesn't look too impressive but the instant torque delivery common to all electric cars sees all 284Nm of the Leaf’s muscle arrive at once. The car feels nippy in town as a result.
It won't come as a surprise to discover that the Nissan Leaf isn't a serious driver's car and the handling is pretty inert. However, if you just relax and enjoy the smooth ride, it's a great commuter car and decent for nipping about town in.
The jury is still out on the long-term reliability of electric cars generally and the Nissan Leaf is no exception.
Nissan, though, has a strong reputation for building reliable cars and it's worth bearing in mind that electric cars have fewer moving parts than their fossil fuel-burning counterparts. They should, therefore, prove as reliable as any modern petrol- or diesel-powered car.
The batteries in the Nissan Leaf are the biggest concern as their efficiency can drop over an extended period. If you lease the batteries, however, and the battery performance drops below 75 per cent, Nissan will replace them free of charge.
The Nissan Leaf features a standard, 60,000-mile warranty but for the battery and electric motor this cover lasts a further two years. Plus, with the maximum five stars from the Euro NCAP crash tests, the Nissan Leaf is just as safe as any other small family car.
Early versions of the Nissan Leaf trailed more traditional family hatchbacks in the practicality stakes, due to the battery pack hindering interior space.
However, Nissan has solved this issue and the Leaf is now as practical as any Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus hatch. Three adults can sit in the back in comfort, and the spacious 370-litre boot means it can carry plenty of luggage too.
The driving position in the Nissan Leaf is comfortable with an adjustable seat and steering wheel meaning it should suit anyone. The range is the most concerning part of Leaf ownership as once the 120-mile maximum range of battery charge is gone it takes eight hours to get to full capacity again from a normal power outlet. At least, there are more and more fast-charge points appearing in the UK, which can give you an 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes.
To get the most out of the batteries you'll need to change your driving style a bit - it takes great care to wring the most out of the Leaf's range and even then you’ll be lucky to achieve 120 miles. Thankfully the read-outs on the dash can help you see where you are going wrong.
The Nissan Leaf should be very economical to run as it doesn't need fuel and exhaust emissions are zero. The Leaf can even be a genuinely zero-emissions car if you charge it from a green power source.
This also makes the Leaf free to tax and it costs very little to keep charged. Nissan claims that only £257 will be added to your electricity bill at the end of the year from keeping it charged for average usage patterns.
Plenty of standard kit makes the Leaf seem pretty good value for an electric car, but compare it to any of its standard fuel rivals, then it does start to look expensive. Acenta and Tekna models are fitted with an air-source heating system, which is less of a drain on the battery than the conventional car heater found in the entry-level Visia.