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.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_7876.jpg

Nissan Leaf – goggle eyed monstrosity

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_7871.jpg

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.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_5971.jpg

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

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_5968.jpg

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.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_7874.jpg

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.

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_7872.jpg

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

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd2/39612197/files/2014/12/img_7875.jpg

Nissan Leaf – excellent satnav but no DAB radio

 

Advertisements

One of the peculiarities of the show was the fact that many manufacturers brought along their modern cars as well as cars from their heritage collections. Some highlights below.

20140413-181444.jpg

Volkswagen brought along a lot of VWs, Skodas, Seats, Audis and half a dozen Bugatti Veyrons. What an ugly car – though this colour scheme is smart.

20140413-181507.jpg

The same Veyron – note its a manual. Must be one of very few without flappy paddles.

20140413-181526.jpg

On the Audi stand there was the 2013 Le Mans winning LMP hybrid diesel – complete with French bug graveyard

20140413-181545.jpg

My parents had two of these VW Variants when I was growing up. Like the Beetle they were air-cooled with the engine at the back (see the cooling gills at the rear). In winter we would drive up to see my grandparents in the North of England and my brother and I would take it in turns sleeping in the boot which, being over the engine, was lovely and warm . No child seats then..

20140413-181606.jpg

Peugeot had this lovely 504 Coupe on their stand. Designed by Pininfarina its one of my favourite cars and very rare in the UK.

20140413-181626.jpg

Peugeot chose to showcase the new R version of their striking RCZ Coupe. Commencement of production of the RCZ was the sign that Peugeot had begun to get their mojo back after decades of producing rubbish. The R version looks great and is the most powerful production car ever produced by Peugeot. Sadly it will be produced in very limited numbers and sales will not helped by a £30k plus price tag.

20140413-181644.jpg

Citroen chose to show case their new Cactus Crossover. I think it looks great inside and out. Having been on the receiving end of far too many car park door opening dents I love the idea of the protective air pockets on the sides. They look good too. Fantastic French design. You could never imagine a German company coming up with anything like this.

20140413-181743.jpg

BMW had a lot of great cars on display. The CSL is a wonderful 70’s icon and one of the most beautiful coupes ever built. Especially in 70’s orange.

20140413-181800.jpg

M1 Sports – a real 80’s supercar

20140413-181819.jpg

Martini Liveried Batmobile CSL racer. Great to see that livery back in racing with Williams F1.

20140413-181839.jpg

Another lovely CSL in another great 70’s colour

20140413-181903.jpg

Z8 Sportscar – undoubtedly a great car bout now over £120,000?

20140413-181921.jpg

Supercar bargain – V12 850 CSi. These wonderful Ferrari baiters are very undervalued but look great, are fast and have that cracking engine. Sure fire future classic.

20140413-181938.jpg

The stunning new BMW i8 electric sports car. Absolutely stunning from all angles.

20140413-181953.jpg

20140413-182007.jpg

The i8 is so of the future it makes most other new cars look like antiques. Can’t wait to drive one.

20140413-182028.jpg