Nissan Leaf: Car of the Year

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Worthy winner, but it’s not really a ‘proper’ car

When is a car not a car? When it is a Nissan Leaf, according to some of the 58 judges for Europe’s annual Car of the Year contest. The radical, purpose-designed, all-electric family car scored the most points to gain the accolade of Car of the Year 2011, yet it also gained more zero point scores than any other car in the seven-strong shortlist except the bargain-SUV Dacia Duster.

I did not put the Leaf top, not least because I didn’t include it in my own nominations. (Each judge nominates seven cars, and the seven most-nominated form the shortlist.) But neither could I dismiss it as irrelevant, as four Italian and four Spanish judges did with their zeropoint scores.

There is no doubt at all that the Leaf is a significant car, and the most technologically forward-looking out of all the past year’s new cars. Car of the Year should reward innovation, but too often the winner in this perfectly democratic process –as with last year’s Volkswagen Polo – is simply the car that the greatest number of people like enough not to penalise with a low score.

Radical cars are more likely to polarise opinion, so their victory is all the sweeter. The Leaf’s win is a narrow one, its 257 points just nine ahead of the second-place Alfa Romeo Giulietta (248) and 13 ahead of the Vauxhall Meriva in third (244).

For the record, the other scores are 224 for the Ford C-Max, 175 for the Citroën C3/DS3 pair, 145 for the Volvo S60 and 132 for the Dacia Duster. So, where’s the controversy with the Leaf?

This is what I said in my citation: “Some will put the Leaf first, because it’s both electric and a ‘proper’ car which looks good and feels good to drive. But it is very expensive unless subsidised, and if it comes to a halt after 60 miles and is then immobile until recharged, it doesn’t do the full job a car should do. Excellent effort, but not there yet.

It is, therefore, a local commuter car at best.That was my view, and no doubt that of the more negatively inclined zero-scorers (I gave the Leaf four points; each judge gets 25 points to spread between at least five cars, with no joint first places and a 10-point maximum score). All that said, the Leaf is still a worthy winner for the way it signposts the future. Besides which, the competition wasn’t exactly fierce this year.

My personal shortlist included four cars which didn’t make the final cut. One of these, the Jaguar XJ, surely deserved outright victory for its aluminium construction, its fabulous interior and its class-beating driving characteristics, but perhaps it’s too indulgent for these austere times. I also nominated the Peugeot RCZ (the most entertaining Peugeot in years), the Nissan Juke and the splendid Saab 9-5. Instead of these four, we had the Duster, the Volvo S60, the Meriva and of course the Leaf.

In the end, my top vote went to the excellent Ford C-Max. Here, then, are extracts from my citations for the Ford and the other cars, with the scores awarded.

Ford C-Max (8 points):Where it really scores is in being a total delight to drive, with a near-miraculous combination of incisive handling and a supple ride that makes family motoring a pleasure for all aboard. For me, the sportier five-seater C-Max, with 1.6 Ecoboost engine, is the most complete new car of 2010.

Citroën C3/DS3 (6 points): The C3 is a pleasant super-mini with old-school French suppleness, more appealing to me than last year’s Polo winner. The DS3, however, is a joy. PSA has rediscovered what makes a good sporting hatchback, while adding a fine dose of quality and sophistication. In the DS3, something of the Peugeot 205 GTI returns.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta (4 points): It could have chased overall victory with its MultiAir engine option, svelte looks, keen handling and supple ride, but is spoilt by silly mistakes: illegible greyon- black instruments, a seat-recline wheel covered by the seatbelt. Also, what should be the most desirable version, the Cloverleaf, rides the worst and feels the clumsiest.

Opel/Vauxhall Meriva (2 points): Looks great, the rear-hinged rear doors work well, interior is cleverly planned. But it’s adull drive with lacklustre engines.

Dacia Duster (1 point): Old technology repackaged as a bargain-basement SUV. It works very well, with an appealing simplicity in an overcomplicated world. A fine antidote to excess, but hardly a Car of the Year.

Volvo S60 (0 points): A likeable car but there’s nothing special here. The Saab 9-5 is much more interesting.

The coming year, then, belongs to the Nissan Leaf. Soon it will be joined by another pair of purpose-designed electric cars from the Renault-Nissan alliance, the cute Renault Zoe hatchback and the Twizy city car/scooter.

If they catch on, and buyers accept the limited range on one battery charge, then maybe a purely electric car could indeed be viewed as a proper car. As yet, I’m unconvinced.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones