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Nissan Leaf review

An electric vehicle that feels like a real car. It's expensive but fun to drive and comes loaded with kit.


Driving information

If you’ve been inside a Toyota Prius and looked at the hideously complicated dash, odd dials and distracting animations showing when you’re running on petrol or battery power, you’ll be pleased to know that Nissan has not tried to reinvent the wheel just because the engine has changed from petrol to electric.

The instrument cluster consists of LCD displays, which give you the electronic equivalent of a rev counter – only instead of revolutions it shows you how much power you’re using. The only difference between this and a standard counter is that there’s a negative section, which shows you how much power is feeding back into the battery from regenerative braking when you lift off, coast downhill or brake.

Nissan Leaf dashboard

One of the main problems people have with electric vehicles is range anxiety, where they worry if they’ll make it to their destination before the batteries go flat – unlike with a petrol or diesel car, you can’t catch a bus to the nearest petrol station and come back with a gallon can. Nissan has attempted to mitigate such worries. On the dash is a prominent charge meter, which shows you how much power remains. The 7in touchscreen can also be set to show what systems, such as drivetrain and air conditioning, are drawing power and your estimated range. You can even hit a button to have a map display your range in two concentric circles; the white one is where you’ll definitely reach, the grey circle is where you’ll get to if you drive economically.

To aid economical driving, the Leaf shows a tree growing on the dashboard when you’re driving sensibly. The longer you keep this up, the more branches and leaves you add to your tree. It’s a simple but effective method of making sure that you’re not wasting power.

Nissan Leaf tree building

You can also set the car to Eco mode, which saves power and attempts to get more back from regenerative braking, but means acceleration goes out of the window. It’s the kind of mode that works when you’re pootling around town, but as soon as you hit the motorway you’ll want to turn it off and get more power.

Nissan quotes a range of 109 miles, but what you actually get really depends on how you drive and what other systems you have on. For example, the car showed us that turning on the AC would reduce the car’s range by 12 miles. All electrical systems have an impact on range, from lights to radio to windscreen wipers. In our test we weren’t driving particularly economically, but would have managed around 80 miles if we’d have driven the car to exhaustion.

In short, there’s enough battery power for the vast majority of commutes as well as extra headroom for additional diversions such as stopping at the supermarket on the way home.

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