Unbeknownst to many, Nissan actually has a rather chequered past when it comes to producing electric vehicles. Previous attempts began back in 1995 with the Prairie EV, followed by the equally unsuccessful Alanta EV and Hypermini products. The turning point was in 2005 with the Pivo and Pivo2 offerings which laid the foundations for what we see now – the Nissan Leaf. The Green Insurance Company offers electric car insurance if you are thinking about going “green” on the roads, so with that in mind  let’s see what the Nissan Leaf 2011 as to offer.
At first sight, the Leaf does not really give anything away. If you had not been told that this is an electric vehicle, there would be no way of knowing by simply looking at it. As a small family hatchback it has quite a conventional setup, although there are touches here and there to produce a more aerodynamic shape, such as the LED cluster headlights. The charging point is that the front of the vehicle, literally in the car’s nose, and despite there being no conventional engine underneath the bonnet, there is still a regular grille to direct cooling air underneath it. Internally, the Nissan Leaf has a good-looking design, with a bright and spacious feel. The driving position is quite high and produces a comfortable driving position with well-placed peddles. There is a large multimedia system in the middle of the dashboard, combining sat-nav, vehicle monitoring systems and entertainment options.
The performance of the Nissan Leaf is pleasantly surprising. Reaching 60 mph in a touch under 11 seconds, the electric engine certainly knows how to get the car in motion, and performs very well on the motorway. In urban settings and driving around town, the Leaf is a nippy vehicle, accelerating from 0-30mph in only 3.6 seconds. When put into Eco mode, the vehicle still performs well, although with reduced acceleration and slightly heavier engine braking. All in all, this vehicle is excellent for driving around town and making short trips, and even surprises on the motorway, happily buzzing along at 70mph.
Fuel Efficiency
Of course, the cost of running an electric vehicle is one of the main selling points for the Nissan Leaf. At 100 miles per charge, you will certainly not be running to a charging point every five minutes, and Nissan estimates that a full charge should only cost £2-£3. This makes for a comparative MPG of 129 miles in the city, and 102 on the motorway.
Bottom Line
It is hard not to like the Nissan Leaf. As a small family vehicle for making short trips it is an excellent choice. The interior is well put together and feels comfortable to drive. The inbuilt IT system is very useful and easy to use, and provides many different options at the touch of a button. The main downside of the Nissan Leaf is the cost – at a touch under £31,000, it may be priced out of the market for many people, although savings on road tax and fuel certainly offset this. All in all, the Nissan Leaf is a very solid effort and will satisfy most drivers.