Notwithstanding the debacle with Renault and their Zoe I was still determined to try an electric car on a long-term test. I saw that Nissan were promoting seven-day tests for their Leaf electric car. My nearest participating dealer was Nissan West London at Park Royal. I made arrangements to pick up a car on a Friday afternoon so my seven-day test would cover both driving at the weekends and also potentially a longer commute into London.  Nissan did not insist on my house being fitted with a fast charger and said the Leaf would be fine being recharged overnight from a three-point domestic supply. So, so far, so good.

My initial impressions of the Leaf were mixed. Externally it is very ugly, particularly its ungainly rear end. In fact it is so ugly it makes a Prius look like a 50s Ferrari. I’m not sure I could drive a Leaf every day without losing a great deal of self-respect.

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Nissan Leaf – goggle eyed monstrosity

 

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Nissan Leaf – bulbous rear end particularly unattractive

 

Why should electric and hybrid cars be generally so ugly? Is it because manufacturers expect them to be driven by people who view them just as a means of of transport? Who care more about making a bold environmental statement than they do about driving something that hurts the eyes? Or are they supposed to be “cute ” like the execrable Nissan Figaro and Fiat 500 and therefore appeal to women drivers?  Do manufacturers assume women care more about the environment then men and are therefore more natural customers of such cars?  BMW have shown with their sublime I8 that an environmentally compelling car does not have to look bland.

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Stunning BMW I8 demonstrates how to design the rear of an electric hybrid car

 

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The front of the I8 is equally stunning. A 6 month old one sells for a 45% premium. A 6 month old Leaf sells for an equivalent discount.

 

Inside the Leaf is a much better car. It’s spacious and there’s plenty of room in the back for a grown adult, unlike in the back of the Tesla where anyone over 5 foot eight would struggle to be comfortable. The quality of the interior is also pretty good, but this is a £30,000 car (without the current Government grant of £5000) and so it should be. I found the satnav system to be very good though the absence of a DAB radio as standard seems stingy. In addition, in common with some other electric cars such as that Tesla, the seats are uncomfortable over anything but the shortest journey. The controls, however,  are clear and intuitive and I had no trouble in driving the car after only a quick briefing.

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Clear and futuristic instruments on the Leaf and intuitive and well thought out. However, for electric cars I fear the message shown is all together too familiar.

 

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Nissan Leaf – good quality and spacious interior marred by uncomfortable seats.

 

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Nissan Leaf – excellent satnav but no DAB radio

 

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