Nissan Leaf hatchback

£25,790 - £31,490

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.

But now models such as the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S are elbowing in on the electric-car market, so does the Nissan Leaf has what it takes to compete with newer arrivals?

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, despite there being two 'sizes' of battery. The 24kWh (kilowatt hour) version can 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.

There's also a 30kWh version available, which is capable of 155 miles, boosts the car's long-distance useability. It costs an additional £1,600, but for most drivers that's a price worth paying.

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 £20,800 in its most basic trim, Visia. At £1,000 intervals, you can choose from a Visia+ or Acenta. There's also Acenta+ and Tekna trim. The more powerful 30kWh battery commands a £1,600 premium.

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.