Electric cars are the future of motoring whether you like it or not. Most car manufacturers are developing their own EVs which will be going on sale within the next few years. Plug-in hybrids are still more popular as they feel like a less severe transition but with the Government slashing grants on the vehicles they do look a little less appealing.
Almost 60,000 electric cars were sold in the UK over the past year and a total of two million have been sold worldwide. As diesel sales continue to decline, the charge to battery-powered vehicles will begin to ramp up. What’s more, a new report suggests that electric car costs could become on par with petrol and diesel vehicles by 2021 and become cheaper than them by 2024.
One of the legacy cars in the electric car movement is the Nissan Leaf. It was a trailblazer when it first launched in 2010 and over 300,000 versions of the electric vehicle have been sold so far. Its influence has certainly grown over time from a niche, early adopter vehicle to the bestselling electric car in Europe.
Perhaps the most significant changes to the Leaf have been the much-needed design refresh and the increase in range. Previously, the car looked like a mechanical bug. It was cutesy and unusual and was almost too radical. It was like it was designed to basically just scream out the fact it was battery powered, which wasn’t the most appealing.
Now it looks like the grown-up cousin of the Micra and features a modified V-motion grille and more dynamic hatchback looks. It is taller and longer than you’d assume which leads to good interior space and a decent boot. It’s a pretty good looking car that doesn’t look too out of the ordinary which helps its appeal.
Inside the car has many ports, heated seats and a number of driver assistance systems, and is on the whole packed full of tech. While the interior is mostly nice, apart from some rough plastics here and there, some of the switches feel a bit cheap such as the heated seat switch. The upgraded Bose sound system is great and sound super punch, bright and loud but there is a trade-off when you purchase it as it takes up a chunk of the floor space in the boot, which is worth knowing.
The seating position is excellent and gives you good visibility all around. The seats are really comfortable and there is ample space in the rear for three passengers but taller passengers may find headroom less than ideal on longer trips.
Nissan’s infotainment system is okay but the navigation and was is slightly low resolution and not the most responsive. However, if you connect up Apple Car Play and Android Auto, it is much better and useable.
One if its trump cards is how quiet the cabin is, it’s really peaceful at around 30mph. Turning a car on and setting off the first few times feels unusual because you cannot hear a thing which is actually really pleasant and you don’t have the chug of a diesel or petrol engine spluttering. However, because of how quiet it is because there is no engine at motorways speeds you’re more aware of the wind and tyre roar.
Nissan’s electric vehicle will be able to sprint from zero to 60mph in around eight seconds but because the vehicle has instant torque because it doesn’t need to go up the gears like a combustion powered vehicle it feels much faster. This helps at junctions, traffic lights, switching lanes and at roundabouts. Its acceleration is most impressive from a boot 30mph to 60mph and takes a few seconds to get up to speed.
It’s an incredibly fun vehicle to drive and the steering is responsive and sharp. The suspension is a little unusual at lower speeds as it constantly feels like it’s working and figuring itself out to give you a comfortable ride.
On the whole, the car is incredibly fun to drive and is nippy and agile and doesn’t feel heavy or cumbersome on corners. Whether you’re on the motorway or cruising around town, it is something that is enjoyable to drive.
The e-Pedal is really a triumph. It allows you to drive the vehicle with just one pedal and will apply a harsher engine braking when you lift off the accelerator, which will, in turn, charge the battery up using the regenerative technology.
The first time you use it it may feel a little strange but after a few minutes, you feel really comfortable with it. It actually makes driving real smooth and effortless when you train your foot to the sensitivities of the pedal. In addition to this, the regen effect is giving you more range and miles as you go along.
Range is also very idealistic . It quoted 154 miles when full which quickly turns into 144 when you put the heater on. Then if you’re travelling at 70 the degradation is a few miles faster than it is at 60 mph.
There is no feasible way you’d get 154 miles if you drive like you normally would. Even if you are more conscious and don’t rag the car into 70mph on the motorway you’re still not going to be able to be able to get 154 miles out of it.
During Express.co.uk’s testing, the idealistic nature of the quoted range was really evident. When inputting a trip that was a total of 117-miles into the car’s navigation system it said that the car may not get to the destination, despite it showing 157 miles of range on the dashboard. Even when considering higher speed driving, the heating being on and other myriad factors, a discrepancy of around 50 miles seems ludicrous.
The range is something you will always think about. You think about it before you leave, during and even after you get out of the car and the journey becomes a planning mission to see how far you can get before you need to charge. We found it at times a little stressful when on the roads and had to go without things such as heating, music and seat heaters just to be able to conserve a little bit of range.
Should we really compromise on things as basic as the heater just to be able to travel a little further? It got to the point where when testing we would wear a jacket and potentially get a little cold to negate needing to charge it sooner.
Nissan is bringing out a 200+ mile Leaf which I’d recommend just to allow yourself some semblance of contingency.
The Leaf is a fantastic car and you can see why it is the most popular EV in Europe. It’s stylish, generously equipped is a lot of fun to drive and is comfortable when chunking off long distances. However, the car feels hard to recommend. It’s sad but the infrastructure completely undermines it. Similarly, the 150 miles of range is pretty low and when you have to do long distances you’ll have to be factoring in charge times, which isn’t a problem if the points work but their’s no guarantee they will.
In addition to this, there are vehicles such as the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona EV costing a little more than the Leaf but coming in with more space and range they seem like a savvier buy.
However, if you don’t regularly travel long distances and have off-road parking then it’s an easy car to recommend. It’d be perfect in cities and villages and it is lovely to drive. If you can charge at home then you will rarely run into the problems as you can just plug it in at the end of the day in the same way you would a smartphone.
The Leaf is a good car, but it’s not for everyone and is somewhat being let down by the network around it.
- Price: from £26,690 (after Government grant)
- Engine: Electric – 40kW
- Power: 0 to 60mph in 7.9 seconds, 89mph top speed
- Range: 157 miles
- Recharge time: 7h 30m (6.6kW charger) – 80 per cent in 45 minutes (50kW fast charger)
- Rivals: Hyundai Ioniq Renault Zoe, Toyota Prius Plug-in
- Rating: 7/10