Nissan Leaf e+

Nissan Leaf e+, front, dynamic
Nissan Leaf e+, front
Nissan Leaf e+, profile, dynamic
Nissan Leaf e+, rear
Nissan Leaf e+, electric motor
Nissan Leaf e+, charging port
Nissan Leaf e+, interior

THE pros and cons of electric cars are well-documented and the choice as to whether you drive one is, for the time being at least, largely down to personal conscience and preference.

However, a week behind the wheel of the latest Nissan Leaf e+ during a busy shopping period did reveal a perk to emissions-free motoring that I had not previously considered.

Buy your gifts at a mall or supermarket which has electric charge-points, of which there are a growing number, and you're almost certain to get a parking space as long as you also take the opportunity to top-up your battery.

Admittedly, with experts predicting the number of plug-in vehicles on our roads is set to soar in coming months, finding a free charging point may soon become just as difficult as finding any other parking space.

And this dramatic increase in competition, as all the major car makers join the march towards greener motoring, is why Nissan introduced the Leaf e+ last year.

The original Leaf was the trailblazer for mass-produced electric cars when it hit the road in 2011 and remains the world's most popular one - with more than 400,000 sold globally.

In the past couple of years, though, the choice has increased dramatically with numerous models set to launch in 2020.

In an effort to keep up with the new kids on the block, the Leaf e+ offers extra power and range thanks to its 62kWh battery rather than the 40kWh one found in standard Leafs.

Kicking out 217ps compared to the 150ps of 40kWh versions and offering peak torque of 340Nm - the upgraded e-powertrain means the Leaf e+ feels considerably more punchy despite being slightly heavier.

The 0-62mph sprint comes up in a very respectable 7.3 seconds and Nissan says that acceleration from 50 to 75mph is nearly 13 per cent quicker too.

The car certainly doesn't feel short of pace - dealing with motorway speeds effortlessly, overtaking smoothly and allowing the driver to generally push on confidently.

Range is, of course, the key consideration with any electric vehicle and, according to official figures, that bigger battery means that the Leaf e+ is capable of carrying you for up to 239 miles on a full charge - an increase of 71 miles over its siblings.

While some more recently-arrived competitors do better in this department, that's a solid increase which keeps the Nissan competitive and offers much more peace of mind and flexibility.

The ride is comfortable, settled and, as you'd expect, pretty quiet - and the Leaf e+ offers decent handling and agility with minimal body roll in corners.

For those not used to electric vehicles the controls are not dissimilar to many modern automatics, especially hybrids, and driving this car is a relaxed and uncomplicated experience.

The only thing which may take a little getting used to is Nissan's e-pedal system, which, when activated, allows you to use just one pedal.

Pressing the accelerator drives the car as usual but lifting your foot off it automatically brakes the vehicle, at the same time regenerating energy for the battery.

The pay-off for the more powerful battery is an increase in charge times and it'll take 32 hours to fully charge the Leaf e+ from your domestic supply. Fitting a 7kW wallbox, or using one of the many similarly-rated public charge points, reduces that to 11 hours and 30 minutes.

For the quickest charging you will need to seek out the less common 50kW quick chargers, which can take you from 20 per cent to 80 percent capacity in around 90 minutes.

The 62kWh powerpack is also only available in Nissan's range-topping Tekna trim, so doesn't come cheap at £35,895 with the Government's incentive grant of £3,500. That does get you a lot of kit, though, in what is otherwise a comfortable and spacious family hatchback.

Standard equipment includes an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and navigation; a seven-speaker premium Bose audio system; semi-autonomous driving modes; rear view camera; air conditioning; heated front and rear seats and automatic emergency braking.

While the challengers to its crown are increasing, the Leaf e+ ensures that Niissan's pioneering electric car is still worthy of consideration.

£35,895 (with Government grant)

217ps, 62kWh battery driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

98mph

7.3 seconds

239 miles

21

0g/km

0%

3 years/60,000 miles

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