Motor Review: Nissan Leaf Road Test It’s the first five-seater massproduced electric car, but James Baggott finds out the Leaf isn’t for everybody What is it? Nissan would have you believe it’s revolutionary. It’s the first five-seater, all-electric car in production, producing zero emissions and costing just £2 to ‘fill up’. The benefits don’t end there either. Buyers enjoy zero road tax and company car drivers won’t be clobbered by any Benefit in Kind. That means someone driving a 1.6-litre diesel Ford Focus, paying £4,000 company car tax per year, would see that amount back in their pay packets.
What’s under the bonnet? A big fat electric motor. Flip the catch, show any non petrol-head the unit and most will be convinced it’s a standard engine – to the uninitiated it certainly looks that way. It’s the fat power cables that give the game away. That motor produces 108bhp but it’s the big dollop of 280Nm of torque, available immediately, which really makes the difference. That’s equivalent to a Porsche Boxster and certainly makes the Leaf feel sprightly enough.
What’s the spec like? Nissan made little noise about spec on the launch, concentrating more on the technology, but customers will be pleased to hear there’s lots to entertain. Headliners include sat nav and reversing camera as standard, as well as central locking, alloys, climate control, a CD player and electric windows and mirrors. The only option is a solar panel on the spoiler that tops up the 12v battery. That costs £250.
What’s it like to drive? Nissan says the Leaf’s range is 109 miles and has calculated 95 per cent of daily car travel is less than 25 miles and the average journey is 8.5 miles. There are two power modes, a normal and an eco. In eco, power is seriously
reduced but the range improved and in normal the Leaf is surprisingly swift. What’s immediately apparent is how quiet the car is and how well it rides over bumps – you forget very quickly you’re driving an electric car.
What does the press think of it? Autoblog said the Leaf could possibly be the most impressive car it has driven all year. The Green Car Website loved it and said owners would claw back the higher purchase price with lower running costs. Autocar also said that despite the ‘real world range’ being only about 80 miles it was ‘easy to see its huge potential as a comfortable and practical school run car’.
What do we think of it? We like it a lot, but the 26 dealers currently selling it will need to heed the maker’s advice and ensure the right buyers are snapping them up. It’s true that at £25,990, with the government’s £5,000 grant thrown in, the Leaf looks expensive but we’d liken it to a new Apple Mac: It might do the same thing as a normal computer, but knowing you’re at the forefront of technology and slightly wacky-cool for owning it, will make that extra cash worth spending.
Selling Points 1. £1 will take you 73 miles – in a Focus diesel £1 is good for 11 miles 2. On a PCP (most popular buying method) it costs £399 per month. 3. Company car drivers will pay no Benefit in Kind.
Deal Clincher You can fuel it at home for just £2 a fill up.
Model: Nissan Leaf Price: £25,990 (inc. £5,000 government grant) Engine: electric motor
Power: 107bhp, 280Nm Max speed: 90mph 0-60mph: 11.9s MPG: 109mile range Emissions: 0g/km Residual values (three years): 37%
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