When asked about the new Nissan LEAF, which he had just spent the week test-driving, Paul Neville admits, “I was a tad sceptical about swapping my regular estate car for something electric-powered.”
As the MD of a company that coaches executives, Paul often works at different locations each day, so he has to have a car he can rely on.
“Once I got behind the wheel I was really surprised,” says Paul. “One of the first things I noticed, actually, was how quiet it was. When I pushed the start button there was none of the typical engine noise that I’m used to with my ‘normal’ car, no vibrations and of none of the usual petrol smell wafting through the vents while the engine warms up.”
It may be quieter and cleaner than your usual petrol or diesel motor, but the Nissan LEAF’s lightweight lithium ion battery’s performance is equivalent to a “regular” 2.5-litre V6 petrol engine with a top speed around 90mph.
“It felt great out on the open road,” says Paul. “One particular work meeting I had involved a 40-mile round trip from my home in Reigate to Walton-on-Thames. I had no problem keeping up with the flow of traffic on the motorway and I loved the fact it was so effortless and quiet.
“This journey had a bit of everything, including back-roads, which were fun. I could sample the handling. The cornering felt a lot lighter than my usual car and there was none of the bumpiness I’m used to.”
Aside from the daily commute, Paul used the Nissan LEAF for shopping runs into town, allowing him to check out its performance in traffic.
“When it comes to acceleration, the power comes in almost immediately,” he says, “which is ideal when you’re darting in and out of gaps. The power delivery is very smooth and there’s none of the clunkiness you get from having to change gear.”
Another thing that impressed Paul was the Nissan LEAF’s onboard technology. “I really appreciate innovation in cars, and the Nissan LEAF was everything I expected in that department.
The touch-screen sat nav is beautifully laid out, one of the best I’ve seen, and very accurate. It tells you exactly where the nearest charging points are, which is very reassuring.”
Paul had reservations about how far he could go between battery topups.
“I was initially anxious about getting stuck somewhere and not being near a charging point,” he says. “But the on-board display tells you exactly how many miles you’ve got left.
“Once I got used to the car, I wasn’t afraid to let the battery run down properly before I recharged it, rather than topping it up constantly. When I got home each evening, I plugged it into our house’s outside socket and it was ready to go next morning.”
The crucial question, though, is whether he could see the Nissan LEAF fitting into his life on a permanent basis. “It very much fitted around my lifestyle and needs – driving to work, dropping my son at school, popping into town to see friends, and I quickly got used to having it,” he says. “ For what I need from a car, it’s ideal. It shows you how electric power can definitely be a viable alternative.”
‘I was surprised by how stylish and nippy the Nissan LEAF is’
Will the battery run out really quickly?
No. The LEAF has a range of up to 109 miles of normal driving – way more than most people do on the average daily commute – and the dashboard display tells you exactly how much range you have left. And if you switch to ‘Eco’ mode, you can increase your range.
How easy is it to ‘re-juice’ the batteries?
Very. The Nissan LEAF comes with a six-metre cable that you can plug in at home – or one of the hundreds of charging points located around the UK.
How long does it take to recharge?
Around eight hours from empty to full charge using the home charging point. To install this a British or Scottish Gas engineer will come to your home and do a quick suitability assessment, then fit the charging point in the most convenient location. This is around a third quicker than charging your Nissan LEAF through a conventional socket.
What are the running costs like?
A lot less than the average petrol-powered family car. A full recharge using a British Gas home-charging point costs less than £1.91 on an Economy 7 overnight tariff*. Not only that, but road tax and London congestion charge are free.
How spacious is it?
There’s enough room in the boot for a weekly shop and the seats fold down conveniently for bulkier loads.
The LEAF generates an impressive 110bhp.
Acceleration: 0-60mph takes less than 12 seconds.
Onboard technology: A touch-screen sat nav comes as standard – along with Bluetooth connectivity for your mp3 player and phone.
Innovative touches: Download the clever CARWINGS app and you can use your smartphone or computer to remotely switch on the heating or air conditioning. It will even set the timer for charging.
Price: From £25,990.
*Using 7 hours at British Gas’ Economy 7 rate and 1 hour at their Standard Rate
For further information and to book a test drive, visit nissan.co.uk/leaf