Driven: Nissan LEAF
After all, it doesn’t really matter how good an electric car is behind the wheel when fleets have to weigh up a £25,990 OTR price (after the current £5,000 Government grant) against low running and tax costs.
Which is a shame as the Nissan LEAF drives surprisingly well. This is the first electric car I’ve driven and I certainly hadn’t foreseen the quiet, effortless and sublimely torquey performance of the LEAF. The 80kW electric motor generates an initial surge of torque that makes it downright fun to drive in urban conditions and gives a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds– and whilst it’s less nippy at higher revs on the motorway, it’s still perfectly competent. It’s also incredibly smooth, helped by the fact that there’s only one gear for forwards.
Another big surprise about this car is just how practical it is. It’s Astra/Focus sized for one thing and really well built, which means that going eco doesn’t mean stuffing yourself and your passengers into something the size and quality of a baked bean can. The interior is light and airy and there’s plenty of room for front passengers and good headroom in the rear. Boot space of 330 litres (maximum 680 litres) is not up there with conventional c-segment vehicles and the positioning of the battery behind the rear seats means that they don’t fold flat but it’s certainly not the big compromise that I envisaged.
What could be a stumbling block for some – in addition to the initial purchase price – is the range. Over the first few days that I tested the model I only needed to undertake low-mileage trips, mostly on urban routes – which are clearly the car’s heartland. Although I did venture onto the motorway for around 25 miles it was still well within the car’s stated 109-mile range.
But a subsequent 77-mile round trip showed the limitations of this model when it comes to regular motorway runs and long-distance jaunts. Even travelling one junction on the motorway at 40-50mph decreased the range faster than the miles to my final destination and although I drove carefully for the rest of the route using local A and B-roads, I still only made it back with 10 miles to spare – although dedicated driver training would probably have helped me improve this.
For a large number of drivers the Nissan LEAF will not make sense, either on a cost level or in terms of practicalities. But for the right person in the right company, it presents a great way to cut costs and slash emissions without presenting too much of a compromise.
Great car to drive but really only suitable for drivers undertaking urban or short daily journeys. Charging infrastructure and the need for a dedicated domestic or corporate charging point are also considerations.
Sector: Lower Medium
Type: Battery Electric Vehicle
Price: £25,990 (after £5,000 government grant)
Electric range: 109 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging port: N/A