Nissan Leaf hatchback
Price £21,490 - £30,590
- Zero emissions
- Easy to drive
- Looks like a normal car
- Limited range
- Expensive to buy
- Forgettable driving experience
At a glance
"The Nissan Leaf remains a pioneering machine and one of the most comfortable, quiet cars on the road."
If the Nissan Leaf is the car of the future, then the future is already here. The Leaf was the first mainstream production vehicle designed to run purely on electricity, but since its launch in 2010 it's been joined by the likes of the Renault Zoe.
There's certainly plenty to recommend it. It doesn’t emit any CO2 directly and it can be charged from a household power socket. That takes 12 hours, but Nissan recommends a home charging unit, which takes just four hours to charge from empty to full.
By the end of 2015, Nissan says 96% of service stations in the UK will have a Rapid Charger, which are capable to charging a Leaf's batteries from 0% to 80% in around 30 minutes. All of a sudden, a quick-ish pit stop for power could become a reality.
The Leaf has been designed as aerodynamically as possible, meaning it can slip through the air very efficiently. The car's battery pack is housed in the floor of the car to avoid encroaching on passenger or boot space.
The biggest limit to practicality is the car's range. Nissan says it’ll cover up to 124 miles on a single charge, but that's driving in ideal conditions. When it's very cold, or when the air-conditioning is used a lot, you can expect that range to almost halve. Even so, most drivers cover less than that in a day, so those commuting short distances shouldn’t worry.
Even so, there's no petrol engine as a safety net. That means that if you do occasionally make long journeys and don’t have the opportunity or the time to recharge, you might be better off with a range-extended electric vehicle such as the Vauxhall Ampera, BMW i3 range-extender or Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Although covered under warranty, the Leaf's battery will cost around £5,000 to replace if it wears out, although Nissan promises you’ll get £1,000 cash back for your old battery if that's the case.
The Nissan Leaf is eligible for the government's £5,000 electric-car grant, which means you can buy one for around £21,500 in its most basic trim, Visia. At £1,000 intervals, you can choose from a Visia+ or Acenta, or for another £2,000, the Tekna.
We’d recommend the Leaf Acenta, because it features the Nissan Connect system (which integrates smartphone apps) and the rear parking camera from the Visia+ model, but adds Carwings (which allows you to start, stop and monitor charging from your smartphone). Other kit you’ll find on the Acenta model includes a seven-inch touchscreen, cruise control and suede-effect trim.
Nissan Leaf extremely cheap to run thanks to the promise of 124 miles of driving for £2 in electricity
The Nissan Leaf is relaxing but unexciting to drive
Very little wind or road noise and near-silent running makes the Nissan Leaf extremely relaxing for occupants
A limited range hurts the everyday practicality of the Nissan Leaf
Lack of moving parts means there’s less to go wrong in a Nissan Leaf