The first Nissan Leaf took the concept of the electric car as a normal piece of everyday transport that bit further. It didn’t seem like an electric car so much, it was much more like simply a car. One that went decently, handled competently and was practical transport. The second generation built on that solid platform. But even so, will it work in your real life?
Many people at first compared the whining of a slow electric car to that of a milk float – not that many of the younger trendy owners would know what a milk float was. But the Leaf was reasonably quick, quicker even than Ernie, and, as we know, he drove the fastest milk cart in the West.
Nail it out of junctions and you’ll spin up the front wheels and waste power. Even when you’re being less lead-footed, the Leaf is still quicker than a Renault Zoe or the VW e-Golf, two electric competitors. A 0-60mph time of about 8sec is just the thing for those hoping to nip through traffic.
However, many electric car owners drive with one eye on the range, easily as much as the performance, and obviously heavy use of the right foot will diminish the range just as it would in a petrol or diesel car. Range anxiety is definitely a thing in the world of electric cars, and everyone knows the official figures are irrelevant – full range is 235 miles officially.
In that real world we’ve decided you inhabit a full charge is good for less than half of that, but 108 miles on our test is still 15 miles more than the e-Golf even if it’s behind the Renault Zoe. Expect a longer range when the weather warms up.
Range can be enhanced by making use of the regenerative braking, which has several modes from mild to so severe simply taking your foot off the gas is like putting your foot on the brake pedal. It takes a bit of getting used to but it does extend the range a bit.
For a pure electric vehicle the Leaf handles and rides very competently. It’s certainly more comfortable than a BMW i3, and stays reasonably planted through corners. It’s no driver’s car of course, few electric cars are, but there are no great compromises to going electric in this department, with the added bonus that it goes about its business in eerie peace and quiet.
Like all cars, there is more kit on offer as you move up the trim levels. Basic Visia trim doesn’t include the rear-view camera that other grades get, and you’ll need to go above it to get the 7in infotainment system that all other grades have. It’s a good system but not as good as the 8in one in the comparable VW.
Overall the cabin, in which the driver sits quite high, feels fairly well put together but you’d not really call it premium – which is fair enough as you’re not paying that sort of money. Even with those high front seats there’s plenty of room in every direction in front and in the rear it’s very good apart from a faintly restricted headroom.
There is a sensible array of storage and stowage areas and the boot can swallow seven carry-on cases, which is impressive and beats the space in either the Renault Zoe or VW e-Golf. Mind you, it’s not the simplest of spaces to access due to its shape and the high lip, but you can fit it all in there with a bit of effort.
So who wants to save the planet? Yes, yes, polar bears, put your paws down. We all do – but what we really want to do is to save money while looking virtuous at the same time. And the Nissan Leaf is a sound choice based on such considerations.
There’s the low benefit-in-kind tax, the lack of any road tax, the use of cheap electricity – particularly if you sign up to a cheaper tariff – and of course the government (that’s you, the taxpayer) also throws in a £4500 sweetener.
But even with all that there are only certain circumstances where this would work out cheaper if you’re buying the car yourself. If you do a lot of miles and if you regularly drive into London’s Congestion Charge Zone and its new fees, then you’ll be sitting pretty.
Prices on the road start at £26,490 and since the first model proved a paragon of reliability you should be able to assume the same thing for the new model. Not only that, but it also proved more reliable than even a Tesla Model S, and comes with a raft of safety equipment including AEB, lane departure warning, blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
You didn’t get all that on Ernie’s milk float.