I love the Lamborghini Huracan. I love its outrageous styling, unapologetic bluster and most of all its naturally aspirated V10 engine. But no matter how technologically advanced that glorious unit is, it’s a dinosaur, a relic. The real future of cars is this: the all-electric Nissan Leaf and its ilk with their tiny fuelling costs and low emissions.
The Leaf itself isn’t new, it’s been around since 2010 but for 2016 it’s be tweaked. There’s a little exterior retouching and some new colours but the biggest difference is the option of an uprated battery array, putting out 30kWh compared with the previous generation’s 24kWh – which remains available.
This boosted powertrain now offers a maximum range of 155 miles on a single charge. It’s a useful 25 per cent increase over the 24kWh version’s reach and puts the Leaf back at the top of its class. As before, the Leaf can be charged from a regular household supply or at the growing network of public chargers. It can also be ordered with a 6kW charging system, cutting the time taken to fully charge the batteries.
Nissan are clear that range anxiety is still an issue that puts many car buyers off electric vehicles (EV) and hope that these latest improvements, along with predicted running costs of just 2p per mile will help ease that fear.
As well as better range and charging infrastructure, what’s likely to help attract sceptical customers is the fact that inside and out the Leaf looks much like any other C-segment car. Early EVs tried to stand out with wild styling and interiors requiring you to be a certain kind of extovert to choose one. The Leaf, while you’d never call it pretty, sits more easily beside its fossil fuel-fired brethern and shares many components with the likes of the Pulsar and Qasqhai, meaning anyone will feel comfortable behind the wheel.
On the road, as well, it feels and behaves much like any C-segment car. The ride isn’t class-leading but nor is it bad. There is some wind and tyre noise but this is partly more obvious because of the lack of any sound at all from the drivetrain.
The electric motors are smooth and almost silent and with the CVT transmission give seamless progress. Due to the nature of electric motors all the torque is available instantly, meaning the Leaf will do well darting through the cut-and-thrust traffic of your average city.
The 30kWh version of the Leaf goes on sale alongside the 24kWh model and comes at a £1,600 premium over the smaller-capacity version. Only available in the two higher trim levels – Acenta and Tekna – it starts at £24,490 but is elegible for the Tier 1 government grant, which dropped from £5,000 to £4,500 in March.
All trims come with start/stop system, auto air conditioning and Bluetooth and USB connectivity but the Acenta adds a seven-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, alloys and cruise control. Plump for the Tekna and you get an uprated stereo, leather upholstery and a 360-degree Around View Monitor parking assist system.
The Leaf also comes with the NissanConnect EV system, a replacement for the previous Carwings setup. This allows a driver to use their smartphone to monitor the car’s charge status, view driving data and pre-heat or cool the car. It also offers a charging point map which not only tells you where to find a charging station but also if it’s currently in use.
Leaf has been a huge success for Nissan. Even with the explosive growth of the EV and plug-in market in the last two years it has maintained its dominance of the sector – its 12,000 sales representing nearly 60 per cent of all EV sales in the UK.
With faster charging and more powerful batteries giving it range advantage over its rivals again, it looks likely to continue this enviable run.
Price: £26,490 (including £5,000 plug-in grant)
Engine: AC synchronous electric motor with 30kWh battery, producing 108bhp, 187lb/ft
Transmission: CVT automatic driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 89mph, 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds