Nissan Leaf Visia

24kWh

Nissan Leaf, front
Nissan Leaf, front
Nissan Leaf, side
Nissan Leaf, side
Nissan Leaf, rear
Nissan Leaf, interior
Nissan Leaf, charging

IT once seemed as if electric cars might be all the rage by the second decade of the new millennium and while their popularity has increased they haven't taken the world by storm in the way some predicted.

Perhaps that's down to the fact car manufacturers have been reluctant to put all their eggs in one basket but arguably the biggest stumbling block to mass EV take-up has been the lack of investment in charging infrastructure.

Efforts at public charging facilities still seem somewhat piecemeal it has to be said.

Nissan is further along the road than many and the Leaf is a fine example of an all-electric and affordable family car.

It looks in many ways like a fairly average hatchback, though interestingly there are a few quirky design flourishes that set it apart.

Key among them are the protruding front headlights that give the nose an almost bug-like appearance.

Sit in the driver's seat and the Leaf starts to feel very different. It's a standard five-seat layout and boasts a roomy cabin but you soon get a sense of the unusual.

The instrument panel is very much designed around the car's electric nature with the battery power status being a predominant feature.

A noticeably small gear selector has just forward and reverse modes, while the ‘handbrake' is actually a footbrake next to the clutch.

It's a cinch to drive, once you've worked out where everything is and in essence not really that different to a ‘normal' car.

As with all electric vehicles it's eerily silent and also feels surprisingly quick. Unlike vehicles powered by internal combustions an electric vehicle offers instant torque.

It defaults to an eco mode which actually slows the car down considerably from the standard mode, which is positively sprightly.

While I preferred the speedier setting I ended up sticking with the eco mode for the most part, initially as I wanted to get a feel for the vehicle and its range. Ultimately I found I needed to keep it in the eco setting in order to get to my destination, but in fairness that was because I didn't plan my charging in the way one really needs to with an EV.

One of the biggest learning curves is appreciating that you can't just stop and put fuel in. You do need to plan in advance. Yes, you can stop at certain locations and do a ‘supercharge' though even that will take some time, so you might need to combine it with a lunch stop.

Of course most people will simply charge the Leaf at home - and that's what I did. It's possible to charge it fully overnight from ‘empty' using a standard domestic socket via the first of two leads provided. The second lead is for the faster public charging points.

Having almost got caught out a couple of times (my own fault entirely), I found an overnight charge at home ‘filled it up'. However if you want to go from zero to a full charge it needs to be a full night.

There are two battery choices with the Leaf, a 24kWh one which will give the car a range of 124 miles or a 30kWh which gives the car a 155 mile range. Some versions also have a B-mode unit on board which provides a greater amount of energy recovery.

My daily commute is about 28 miles, so I figured I didn't need to charge it every day but unplanned for extra journeys, which added another 40 miles two days running, ended up getting me into needle-nudging territory.

Had I charged it fully from empty or thereabouts every night (estimated to cost around £2.80) I wouldn't have had any problems and still spent a fraction of what I would have done on petrol.

Also, the Leaf won't overcharge - the recharging process switches off when it's full. Recharging is done via a flip-up panel in the bonnet.

One thing that's worth remembering when calculating distances to be covered and ‘miles in the tank' is that an electric motor behaves differently to a conventional engine.

Ordinarily you'd think if you were covering motorway miles at a reasonable speed you'll get better economy but in an electric car you'll eat up more power this way. Its maximum economy is at lower speeds, though when idling it won't be using any power - unless you have the air-conditioning or heating blasting away.

The Leaf Visia costs from £26,180 and it qualifies for the Government's current £4,500 subsidy for zero emission vehicles and there are a number of ways of going about making the switch to electric motoring including leasing the car and the battery.

Overall I got to rather like the Leaf. It drives nicely enough, has a comfortable ride and that uncharacteristic turn of pace is rather pleasing.

I'm sure if I was using it on a daily basis I would be far better at planning my journeys and making sure I always had enough ‘juice' to get me to and from wherever I needed to travel.

FAST FACTS

Nissan Leaf Visia 24kWh

Price: £26,180

Mechanical: 107bhp, 24kWh electric motor driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 89mph

0-62mph: 11.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 124 miles

Insurance Group:22

C02 emissions: 0g/km

Bik rating: 0%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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