There are several reasons why you shouldn’t buy this type of vehicle, but once you try it you’ll never want to drive your old car again.
After a few months of living with the Nissan Leaf, I’ve come to the conclusion that very few people who take the plunge on an electric vehicle will go back to a conventional car.
They still remain prohibitively expensive to buy but the ownership experience takes some beating.
Lockdowns have clipped our wings in recent months, so the Leaf has been pottering around town on short trips to the shops and golf course. It’s gone a week or two without even needing a charge and there’s a certain smug satisfaction to be savoured as you glide silently past petrol stations.
It’s also sneakily fast, a bit like that kid at school who didn’t look vaguely athletic but would leave you in their dust in the 100-metre dash at the athletics carnival.
It’s an ungainly looking thing. The tyres are too close together, the silhouette is anything but svelte and the styling is late 90s.
But that makes it all the more entertaining when someone stares you down at the traffic lights only to be left in your wake when the flag drops.
The official 0-100km/h time is about seven seconds, but the instant supply of electric torque means the initial 0-60km/h run feels hot-hatch fast.
Be warned, though, if you’re heavy on the accelerator, the range will drop fairly quickly. The official 380km range is achievable with sensible driving – and the car on its maximum braking regeneration setting – but leadfoots are likely to get at least 50km less.
Familiarity with the Leaf has bred contempt in some areas, too. The dash layout is functional and easy to use, but lacks the wow factor of more modern rivals, while the parking brake is foot activated and you can’t wind up the windows once you’ve turned the car off.
All distinctly low-tech for a car that’s supposed to be at the cutting edge.
Back-seat passengers aren’t particularly well looked after either. There are no rear air vents or USB ports – there’s only one port and a 12-volt plug in the front – and although head room is above average, leg room isn’t great.
They’re all first-world problems but when you’ve paid circa-$65,000 drive-away you might feel a little short-changed. After all, for that money you could get a petrol-powered entry-level luxury sedan.
There are other small annoyances, too. The rear load area is smallish and if you drop the back seats, the load area has a noticeable step in it. A subwoofer eats into cargo space as well, although it’s worth it as the audio system is a good one.
The quality and fit of materials can’t be faulted, though. Nissan knows how to screw a car together and there have been no noticeable squeaks and rattles in several months of driving.
There are some hard plastic surfaces but also some nice finishes that lift the ambience.
The black perforated leather seats with suede bolsters and blue stitching are easy on the eye and the backside, while the small gear selector with blue surround gives off a bit of a space-age vibe.
Safety is a strong suit, too. Radar cruise control, a surround-view parking camera, traffic-sign recognition, lane-keep and blind-spot assist are all standard. The only missing item of any note is rear cross-traffic alert.
In short, there’s a lot to like – and less to dislike – about the Leaf. Buyers who can get past the sticker shock are unlikely to be disappointed.