TEST DRIVE: Welcome to the pure electric new Nissan LEAF

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TEST DRIVE: Welcome to the pure electric new Nissan LEAF

Most people now know that Hybrid cars (combination of an electric motor and petrol engine) are a possible way forward in the drive to reduce emissions.

Certainly in cities they do make sense. However what about the pure electric car?

The Nissan LEAF was one of the first pure electric cars on the Irish market when it was launched here back in 2011.

In their best year Nissan say they sold some 400 LEAF models, but their targets are set higher for this new model with Nissan forecasting 1,000 units for 2018.

The biggest question still hanging over the pure electric car is range. Indeed two new words have become part of the electric car lingo now and they are “range anxiety”.

The new LEAF has however made great strides in this area. When I tested the “old” LEAF I managed a real range of about 160km. This new car managed on average 205km between charges (shows 230km from a full charge) and I was not striving for range by driving in an unpractical fashion.

Nevertheless you still need to plan your motoring, find out where charge points are available (though the car sat nav will guide you perfectly to one) and think about range all the time.

Has it got any street cred?

This new LEAF looks way better than the old one and its fair to say its now a stylish looking car that does not scream ECO!

What’s it like inside?

Nissan have made great improvements to the interior. It just looks and feels better.

I like the fact that useless “energy use” digital readouts have been relegated to sub menu’s and more practical information is presented to the driver.

Equipment levels are very good too though I still find the driving position a bit high, feeling perched in the car rather than sitting in it this as a result of the battery being under the main floor.

It seats four in reasonable comfort and the boot is a decent size too.

What’s under the bonnet?

A 40KW electric motor! Performance is very good with lively acceleration typical of electric propolsion.

The new LEAF also boasts an e-Pedal which uses brake energy to recharge the battery.

Takes a bit if getting used to as when you lift off the accelerator the car brakes quite noticeably (the brake lights are activated too) and it can bring the car to a standstill from lower speeds without touching the brake pedal. It can be deactivated by a switch too.

Will I enjoy driving it?

The new LEAF handles just fine. Its not rewarding or dynamic but its quiet and refined and feels good on the road. Wind road and tyre noise are well suppressed and thats more difficult when you don’t have the noise of an engine to distract.

So What’s the verdict?

As an electric car it works but know the real range is about 200km. The new LEAF is styled well and built to a very high standard. Eighty per cent of LEAF owners charge overnight at home at a cost of about €4 for a full charge, yes just €4! The ESB will fit a charge point to your house free of charge when you buy a new LEAF. In Ireland there are now some 1,200 public charge points available, but thats still not enough. As a car I liked the Leaf, but Ireland still has quite a way to go before the infrastructure is there to make pure electric car motoring a reality. Cars like the LEAF therefore make a great second car, after all 200km for about €4 in energy costs is unbeatable! LEAF starts at €26,290 to €32,600.