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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.

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Charging and iPhone App

You can charge the car in one of three ways. First, you can plug it into an ordinary three-pin socket, although a full charge takes around 12 hours. Alternatively, you can have a dedicated 16-amp power supply fitted in your drive for £995, which will charge the car in around eight hours. Finally, Nissan garages have 50kW fast chargers, which will top the car up to 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes.

Nissan Leaf driving range

The built-in satnav has an option to find the nearest charging station, although at the time of writing the closest ones to our Milton Keynes test drive were more than 40 miles away in London. This situation will improve – Regional Development Agency One North East has plans to install 1,000 charging points across North East England by March 2013 – and the car will update the list of available stations automatically.

Nissan Leaf charging stations

You access the charging dock through a dedicated flap at the front of the bonnet, which you release by pulling a catch inside the cabin. The dock contains both the fast-charge and regular charging ports, and there’s a cable to charge from standard UK sockets in the boot.

Nissan Leaf charge flap

What’s particularly clever about this car, though, is the web interface and iPhone app (an Android app is also on its way). Once you’ve configured a username and password through the touchscreen in the car, you can access its vital statistics from the web interface or iPhone app using the Nissan Carwings system.

Nissan Leaf charge

The web interface and apps are simple to use and let you check the car’s current charge status. You can set a schedule for automatic charging, so you can make the car only charge at night and take advantage of cheap rate electricity, and even set a minimum charge limit. Even smarter, you can configure the AC in the car to come on at a certain point, so that you can climb into a cool or warm car depending on the weather outside. This last feature is best used when the car’s on charge so you don’t drain the battery with the energy-intensive aircon.

Nissan Leaf climate

The car connects to Carwings over existing mobile networks, but there are no bills to pay and you only need a web connection from your iPhone or PC to access all the features.

Entertainment

You access the car’s entertainment features through the 7in touchscreen. The car stereo supports AM and FM analogue stations and will play music from CDs; the screen hinges automatically downwards and forwards to let you access the CD slot when you press eject.

Nissan Leaf USB port

Alternatively, you can plug in an iPod to the USB port or use the 3.5mm auxiliary input to hook up any MP3 player. A more convenient method is to connect to your handset via Bluetooth, which takes just a few seconds to set up. As well as giving you hands-free calls and voice dialling, you can stream stereo music from a compatible player.

Nissan Leaf phone dialling

We had no problems getting either our Android or iPhone 4 working this way. Even better, the track skip buttons on the touch screen and steering wheel let you skip tracks on the phone. This worked on both the iPhone’s iPod app and in Spotify with our offline playlists. The system can’t pull track names from the device, so you need to check your phone’s display to see what’s currently playing.

Nissan Leaf audio controls

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