5th November 2018
The first-generation Nissan Leaf has done more to popularise electric vehicles than any other, including among fleet users. Now we have the second-generation model that ups the game considerably with more power and greater range, as well as lower prices. So, just as the government is reducing its grants to EV, can the Leaf still persuade us to make the change to battery-only power?
After a brief foray in the Leaf yesterday, it’s fully charged and ready for action today. The car has a claimed maximum range of 168 miles on the WLTP cycle, which certainly addresses any worries over being stranded chargeless. That matters when you live in rural Scotland as charge points become few and far between outside of the large conurbations. Still, a jaunt up to Perth is simple, quiet and even soothing thanks to the Nissan’s driving manners.
I didn’t bother plugging the car in to charge last night as there was still plenty of battery life showing on the dash display. Today consists of local running around and, in previous experience, this is what cuts battery range significantly. Not so with the Leaf. This is where its E-Pedal comes into its own, though it takes a little while to adjust to driving without the need for the brake pedal most of the time. The upside is much greater regenerative charging and it soon offers a very smooth way of driving.
Battery topped up overnight from a socket in the house, the Leaf is all primed for a drive into Edinburgh today and its longest journey of the week. I’ve checked to see if any charge points are free at my destination, but they’re all in use, so we’re flying on one charge. In the end, any worries about this 100-miles round trip are unfounded and the Nissan zips along the motorway with help from the ProPilot that acts as a very advanced cruise control. I could easily get used to this almost chauffeur-like service.
A change of pace today with a long-awaited UK drive in the Volkswagen Up GTI. It’s been one of the hot cars of 2018 and, as a fan of the warm hatch breed, it’s been on my to-drive list. The pint pot hatch doesn’t disappoint and with 115hp it’s slower from 0-62mph than the eco-focused Leaf. No matter, the VW feels quick and that’s what matters. It’s a car you can squeeze every ounce of performance and handling from within legal limits. That makes it far more rewarding and enjoyable than the Polo GTI I tried recently.
An often overlooked feature of the Nissan Leaf is its single speed nature. The gear lever works like any other automatic, which can dupe you into ignoring it. However, it’s been one of the highlights of my time with the EV as it’s given the car a truly seamless belt of acceleration. The smooth nature of this underlines the overall fuss-free and stress-reducing character of the Leaf. I’m very much a convert after disliking the first-generation model.
I like the looks of this Leaf and several friends and neighbours have commented on it, some even surprised it’s an EV because it ‘looks normal’. I think there’s a compliment in there somewhere. One downside, though, is the recharging cable lying loose in the boot and the stereo’s amplifier taking up load space. It’s also in a vulnerable position when loading the car. Overall, though, this is a minor quibble in a very capable car with low running costs.