Saturday 05 March 2011
Top speed: Over 90mph Range 109 miles (EU NEDC test)
Tailpipe C02 emissions: zero
CO2 impact: depends on power station fuel mix
Best for: short journeys
Also worth considering? Lexus CT 200h, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Toyota Prius
If I had to choose one word to capture the essence of the new battery-powered Nissan Leaf, it would have to be "brilliant". If there is a single word of qualification that describes its most important limitation, it is "range".
The Leaf's brilliance is hard to over-state. Pretty much every other plug-in electric car is either an adaptation of an existing car – for example, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV – or a low volume model that doesn't pretend to provide the sort of space, comfort and practicality that mainstream conventionally powered cars do; the popular G-Wiz falls into this category. The Leaf is something else. For the first time, one of the world's leading car groups has engineered a purpose-designed electric vehicle to compete (almost) without excuses against established petrol and diesel cars. It has been the subject of the same sort of major development programme, the sort that costs billions, as any other Nissan has, and is going into full mass production at the company's plants around the world, including in the UK.
The result is, in most respects, astonishingly good. The drivetrain is superb; gloriously smooth and quiet, it probably has the capacity to persuade even the most hardened petrolhead that electric cars can be fun. And its handling and road-holding are of a pretty high order too, so you won't be turning over a new Leaf if you buy one – except in the metaphorical sense of cleaning up your act by embracing low-emissions motoring. Nissan has also hidden the batteries well; they barely impinge on the space provided for passengers or their luggage. Quality and attention to detail are excellent.
The one respect in which the Leaf can't keep up with the competition, of course, is in terms of the distance it can travel before it needs to be recharged – perhaps a hundred miles if you're lucky. I think current concerns about the range of electric vehicles will fade as drivers learn how to adapt their driving styles in order to maximise battery life, technology improves and more public recharging points are established. Research shows that most motorists' daily mileage can be accommodated by the Leaf anyway.
Nevertheless, its limited range means that it is hard to recommend the Leaf as a first or only car for buyers who don't live in urban areas – for now. But for shorter journeys, for those who can afford it, Nissan has probably come up with just about the best second car in the world.
Life & Style blogs
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers
Airline food across the classes: Ever wondered what the other half are eating?
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
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Huawei P8 review: best phones nobody's seen from the biggest company nobody's heard
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
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