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Life with Nissan LEAF

In the second of three test drives, Niall and Natalie find that the 100 per cent electric Nissan LEAF is a fun and practical alternative way of motoring

When IT manager Niall Scott and wife, Natalie, took delivery of the new Nissan LEAF, they had a few reservations. “I was expecting something strange and futuristic-looking, and then this stylish car pulls up outside,” says solicitor Natalie.

“That’s when I realised that this was going to be different.”

With two small children (Lilia, aged four, and Evelise, two) the Scotts need a car that’s spacious, practical and good on the open road. “A lot of my family live locally,” says Natalie, “so at weekends we often head off for the day to visit my cousin in Burnley, my auntie or my father.”

“That’s about a 70-mile round trip from where we live in Manchester,” says Niall, “but the Nissan LEAF has a range of 109 miles, so we knew we’d have plenty of juice. Obviously, if you drive around with the heating on full blast, the battery will drain a lot quicker, but there’s a dashboard display that tells you how many miles you’ve got left, so you know when to recharge.”

Niall adds: “It is important to plan your journey but, as a family, we’re used to that. Plus, the Nissan LEAF’s built-in sat-nav system shows you just where your nearest charging points are, so you know what your options are.”

There are more than 700 easy-to-use public charging points scattered around the UK, most of which are free to use. On their trip to Burnley, Niall and Natalie used the POD Point, where you simply swipe your card, pull down the hatch and plug the car in.

“Out on the open road it performed better than our family saloon,” says Niall. “The acceleration was really smooth and responsive. And the more you use it, the more you get to know how your driving style affects the battery life.”

Aside from visiting relatives, the Scotts used the Nissan LEAF for all their essential journeys, including the weekly food shop, trips to the Trafford centre and the school run.

“I picked the kids up in it every day,” says Niall. “They loved it. They called it the ‘spaceship’, because of the cool lights on the dashboard.”

As well as impressing the youngest members of the Scott clan, Niall found the Nissan LEAF’s on-board technology especially useful when it came to parking. “It was great for reversing into tight spots, because I could see exactly how much space I had. It really took the stress out of it,” he says.

Natalie agrees: “All in all it was really fun to drive, I’d love to keep one as a second car.”

The Test-drive experience

  • “It’s very comfortable on the motorway both as a driver and passenger,” says Niall. “And it’s surprisingly quick: the power comes in the moment you press the accelerator”
  • “In all honesty, we thought it wouldn’t be very practical for us but there’s plenty of boot space for the kids’ stuff,” says Natalie.
  • “I like its eyebrows,” says Lilia, the Scott’s four-year-old daughter, referring to the headlights on the Nissan LEAF.
  • “I’m not usually one to consider environmental factors,” says Natalie, “but, I love the digital display that ‘grows’ a little tree when you drive sensibly – it’s great fun and makes you think about how much energy you’re using.”

Busting the myths of electric cars

How safe is it?

Your safety is paramount with airbags and anti-lock braking, break assist and electronic stability programme. The Nissan LEAF emits a sweeping low-high sound at speeds below 17mph to ensure the car is heard. These are just a few of the reasons it has been awarded five-stars by NCAP.

Will fitting a home charging point involve major work?

Not at all. An engineer will assess whether your home is suitable, then fit a charging point in the most convenient location. After that, you can recharge your Nissan LEAF around a third faster than with a normal socket.

Can you go on long distance drive?

Yes. A full charge will give you up to 109 miles. As well as public charging points across the country, Rapid charge where 80 per cent charge takes 30 minutes is available at Nissan dealerships and as an emergency measure you can charge on a domestic socket as long as the wiring complies with the latest electrical standards.

Are there any tips for extending the battery life?

Yes. Nissan’s intelligent telematics system gives you pointers on how to change your driving style to maximise the car’s range.

Plus, if you switch over to Eco mode, you can increase the car’s range by up to 10 per cent.

How easy is it to drive?

The Nissan LEAF is actually lot simpler than driving a ‘normal’ car. As with any automatic, there’s no clutch pedal to worry about and, instead of a gear stick, there’s a shifter knob between the seats. To go forwards you put it into ‘D’ (for drive), then shift into ‘R’ (for reversing). When you’ve parked up, simply press the ‘P’ button in the middle of the shifter.

Essential information

Power: Around 110bhp.

Charging: Simply plug the Nissan LEAF into your home charger or public charging points, found all over the UK.

Acceleration: 0-60mph is just under 12 seconds.

Range: Up to 109 miles.

Creature comforts: Air con and sat-nav come as standard.

Advance technology: The CARWINGS system lets you use your computer or smartphone to set the timer remotely for charging and heating.

Price: From £25,990.

For further information and to book a test drive, visit nissan.co.uk/leaf