Review

Nissan Leaf hatchback

£26,030 - £31,730

As the first mass-produced electric car to be sold in Britain, the Nissan LEAF will undoubtedly be heralded as a pioneer in the transition from internal combustion to alternative means of propulsion in the car industry.

Now, however, there are more modern and more advanced EVs out there. Can the Nissan still keep up with rivals like the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S? Or is it starting to get left behind?

Well, there's still plenty to recommend it. Apart from how it's powered, it behaves exactly like a traditional family hatchback – except it's quieter and (in some cases) more comfortable. It's also very cheap to run – an overnight charge will cost a few pounds at most – and exempt from road tax. It also sits in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax band, meaning it makes plenty of sense as a company car (as long as you don’t have many long trips).

It has easily enough performance for town, where it's quiet, comfortable and relaxing to drive. Range anxiety can make it a little more stressful out on the motorway, but as long as you stay within the limits, it's fine.

What's likely to put people off, however, is that limited range. Now, in 30kWh (kilowatt hours) trim, the LEAF has a maximum range of 155 miles, while the 24kWh version can manage up to 124 miles. But these figures can only be achieved under perfect conditions, so if it's too cold, the air-con's been on too long or if you encounter hills on your journey, the range can seriously reduce.

A charge from a household plug takes about 12 hours, while a home charging point will takes about four hours to charge it fully. There are also many fast-charging points around the country, too – these can charge the Leaf to 80% battery capacity in just 30 minutes.

There's no safety net, however, so if you get stuck, you’re pretty stuck. If this concerns you, then a plug-in hybrid like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV might be more your cup of tea.

It's also worth remembering that the Leaf's battery won’t last forever and, while it's covered by a warranty, it’ll cost a lot to replace – although Nissan will contribute £1,000 if this needs doing. So, especially if you’re buying used, it's worth checking how much life is left in the battery.

Although the LEAF does look quite pricey to begin with, it qualifies for a Government grant towards its purchase, so that cuts down the price a lot. There are three trim levels – Visia, Acenta and Tekna – each of which is pretty well equipped. We recommend Acenta, as it gives you access to a range of connected apps, letting you control various aspects of the car from your smartphone.

The 30kWh models costs an extra £1,600, but we reckon it's worth it for the extra range. You also have the choice of leasing the battery for a set monthly cost. This lowers the purchase price considerably, but does mean you never own the battery.

In terms of safety, the Leaf is impressive, too. A five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating should put any worries to rest. A range of airbags and a tyre-pressure monitoring system complement the traction control, anti-lock brakes and stability control on the standard safety kit list.

The car also has a very good reputation for reliability, finishing eighth out of 200 models for this quality in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Thanks to the fact that electric motors are so simple, with few moving parts, Nissan Leaf servicing is both straightforward and affordable.