Nissan Leaf review
The electric Nissan Leaf offers low running costs and a spacious interior, but a short range
The Nissan Leaf is a big name when it comes to electric cars - it was the first exclusively battery powered car to sell in the UK in significant numbers. It features plenty of equipment and a comfortable ride, as well as ultra-low running costs and an upfront price that's not as big as you might think.
When the car was launched it was only available as a single model, but now the range includes Visia, Acenta and Tekna specifications. The entry-level Visia version is an affordable way into electric car ownership, and it allows the Leaf to compete with some newer rivals like the Renault ZOE and BMW i3.
Rather than buying the batteries, you can choose to lease them for the duration of your Leaf ownership, which can save some money and keeps the purchase price, which is subject to a £5,000 government grant, as low as possible. The Leaf comes with sat-nav, a reversing camera, Bluetooth and keyless go as standard. It can even compete with family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf for practicality.
One thing electric cars suffer from at the moment is range, and 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. You could go for a range-extending model like the Vauxhall Ampera or Chevrolet Volt, but these cars are a lot more expensive to buy.
Our choice: Leaf Acenta
The Nissan Leaf is certainly distinctive and that's partly thanks to the aerodynamic design. The bodywork is sculpted to improve efficiency and boost the range of the car as much as possible. The unusual high tail is partly a result of aerodynamic necessity but the large battery pack in the rear of the car also contributes to the Leaf's ungainly rear end. Of course, there's no exhaust pipe at the back but you do get a charging point under the Nissan badge at the front.
Go for the entry-level Visia model and you'll only get steel wheels and black plastic mirrors, but all models are well equipped and feature a high-tech read-out of how much power the car has left and how efficient your driving is.
With just 108bhp, an 89mph top speed and an 11.5-second 0-60mph time, the Nissan Leaf's performance doesn't look that impressive. However, because all 284Nm of torque is delivered instantly, it feels nippy in town and it's pretty fun to drive around in.
The handling is dull and it's definitely not set up to be a brilliant driver's car - but if you just relax and enjoy the smooth ride then the Leaf is a great car to commute and nip about in.
We still don't truly know how reliable electric cars are in the long term but because they have so few moving parts it seems likely that they will be just as, if not more, reliable as modern petrol or diesel engined models. batteries are the biggest concern, as they can become less efficient over time. If you lease the batteries, however, then if battery performance drops below 75 per cent, Nissan will replace them free of charge.
A standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty applies to the Nissan Leaf, but for the battery and electric motor this 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.
The large battery pack hindered the interior space of the early Leaf models, but this newer version is as accommodating as most family hatchbacks, and three adults can sit in the back in comfort. Plus, the 370-litre boot means it can carry plenty of luggage too.
The driving position in the 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 miles of battery charge is gone it takes eight hours to get to full capacity again. However, more and more fast-charge points are 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. Thankfully the read-outs on the dash can help you see where you are going wrong.
There aren't many cars that can boast such low running costs. With no fuel and no tailpipe emissions, it's free to tax and costs very little to keep charged. Nissan claims that only £257 will be added to the electricity bill at the end of the year from keeping it charged.
Thanks to rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, keyless entry and sat-nav as standard it's pretty good value for an electric car. Compare the Leaf to a small petrol or diesel car, however, and it looks more 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.