Long-term test review: Nissan Leaf

Long-term test review: Nissan Leaf

Mileage: 4,201
Efficiency: 3.6 miles/kWh

I’m loving my time with our Nissan Leaf. As well as being electric, it’s just a really good car that’s easy to live with. It has lots of space, rides okay, delivers swift acceleration that I enjoy and offers all the gadgets I like to play with – and all for just under £30,000.

But what do other owners think? I met up with Middlesex-based Ian Bryant, who regular readers will remember won a Leaf for 12 months in our competition, to see how he’s getting on. And the first thing Ian told me summed things up. “I’ve persuaded eight other people to buy a Leaf,” he said.

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“It doesn’t cost much to run, it’s comfy, it holds the road well and has good acceleration,” Ian went on. “I love Autopilot, e-Pedal is very easy to get used to and that means I’m not getting loads of brake dust on the alloys. I enjoy not going to the filling station and I’m smug in the knowledge that I’m not doing the environment any harm.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Ian, though. Like me, he didn’t enjoy the best of experiences with his local dealer. His is Nissan Hanwell, and it took staff there three attempts to fix the heated seats, while a groan as the mirrors folded also needed attending to. His car suffered a slight graze on the rear bumper when it was at the dealer as well, and he had to wait 15 minutes for someone to answer the phone on one occasion.

Like me, Ian gets frustrated with the app that should link seamlessly to the Leaf; it takes an age and often can’t find the car at all. And with an EV, being able to monitor charging and set the climate control when it’s plugged in is really handy.

This hasn’t dented Ian’s enthusiasm for electric motoring, and we’ve been comparing our power usage. He’s averaging four miles per kWh, and I’m achieving 3.6 miles per kWh with my longer drives and motorway runs.

When I can get the app to work, it tells me that over the past two weeks I’ve driven 347 miles, which has cost me approximately £9.06 in electricity. At current fuel prices, that would have set me back more than £50 in a petrol car averaging 40mpg.

In a world that now features affordable electric cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro that offer well over 250 miles from a single charge, thanks to their bigger 64kWh batteries, our Leaf is starting to fall behind. We expect a version with a larger battery to be announced soon though.

That will make potential buyers think hard about how they’ll use their cars and which version they’ll need. I’d spend a bit more on a model with a bigger battery; I tend to do a fair few motorway journeys that my car can handle easily, but it might leave me needing a charge if I need to go on somewhere else.

Personally, with a charger at home and in the office car park, I rarely use public chargers. I’m definitely not charging every day either; when I know I’ll just be commuting to and from the office – a 44-mile round trip – with a little leeway I can go three days without a charge, so I don’t plug in every night.

Second report: Nissan Leaf

Poor dealer service detracts from our Nissan Leaf experience

Mileage: 3,846
Efficiency: 3.9 miles/kWh

It’s amazing how car dealers can turn a minor problem into a major headache. I’m loving living with our Leaf, but the passenger window recently refused to go more than half way down. Not a huge problem, although I thought I’d get it fixed sooner rather than later.

Ancaster Nissan in Slough said it would have to charge a £140 investigation fee – refundable if it was a warranty issue – and couldn’t see me for 10 days. Meanwhile, Nissan London West made no mention of any charge to look at the car and slotted me in within a couple of days.

Any visit to a dealership is a bit of an inconvenience, but I thought I’d drop the Leaf off in the morning, use public transport to get to and from work, then take the train again to collect the car the following morning. Simple.

That’s assuming the garage keeps in touch and calls you when it says it will, which Nissan London West didn’t. So my careful planning was thrown up in the air, and it was only after a moan on social media that I got a call the next morning, from the dealer and Nissan’s customer service team, to apologise and tell me my car was ready. I wasn’t able to get back to the garage for a few days, so it delivered the Leaf to me with the window working perfectly and whatever was blocking the mechanism removed.

I shouldn’t have been too surprised; Nissan garages were ranked 25th out of 28 in our most recent Driver Power dealer survey. Clearly, there’s lots of work to do, but phoning when you say you will isn’t too hard, is it?

It’s a shame because the Nissan Leaf is a star – comfortable, quick, efficient and easy to live with. It’s a real conversation starter and has already persuaded many friends and family members that they should go electric next time around.

First report: Nissan Leaf

We pick up our new Nissan Leaf from Sunderland factory and test its credentials on road trip back south

Mileage: 2,575
Efficiency: 4.1m/kWh

As the resident office geek and a fan of electric cars, the opportunity for us to run a new Nissan Leaf wasn’t one that was going to get past my desk. I’ve been lucky enough to run a Tesla in the past and loved the car and EV ownership, so what will it be like to live with a more affordable electric car?

Our top-spec Tekna car costs £28,390 after the £4,500 Government plug-in grant, or £30,055 when the metallic paint and optional £1,090 ProPilot parking assistance are added. You can buy a Leaf from just £25,190, but Tekna adds so many luxury features (heated front and rear part-leather seats for example) and hi-tech kit (ProPilot level two autonomous driving, LED lights and a Bose audio system) it looks like good value to me.

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With the new 40kWh battery on board and a claimed range of 168 miles according to the new, supposedly more realistic, WLTP economy tests, the new Leaf should be easier to live with than ever before. So what better way to put it to the test than to go and collect my car from the production line at Nissan’s factory in Sunderland where the Leaf is built, then drive it the 273 miles south to my home in Buckinghamshire.

Each Leaf takes around 12 hours to build and it was great to be able to watch as the red body shell was kitted out with its interior fittings and eventually the drivetrain and wheels. Watching the well-choreographed workings of the factory, combining automated robots with the skilled workforce, was fascinating and the quality of the finished product has been seriously impressive so far.

With my smartphone connected and the standard Apple CarPlay in full swing, Apple Maps guided us out of the factory gates, on to the A16 and on our long journey south. To get the most from
the full charge, I kept the car in its Eco setting and the speed down at around 65mph on the motorway. That was simple enough to do by engaging ProPilot at the earliest opportunity.

A blue button on the steering wheel activates the tech, followed by a prod of the cruise control button to set the speed I want to travel at. Then it’s just a case of keeping tabs on the car – it works the throttle and the brakes and keeps itself in lane, while I gently hold the steering wheel and remain ready to take over.

Although you have to stay alert – with visual and audible reminders if the system thinks you’re not paying enough attention – it’s a much calmer, more relaxing way to cover miles.

There’s also the matter of judging charging needs using the handy Zap Map app. I was confident I could make the journey with just one full charge en route, but erred on the side of caution by stopping earlier than I needed to, and add in a ‘splash and dash’ stop towards the end of my journey to get me home.

The first charge was just off the M1 near Sheffield, where the Instavolt fast charger was operating free for a limited period. It coincided with lunch, giving us plenty of charge to head south.

Our second pit stop was at the HQ of the UK’s largest charging network, Chargemaster. It’s just a short hop from the M1 in Luton and gave me more than enough charge to get home.

The more congested roads of the south let me make good use of the Leaf’s ePedal, which ups the regenerative braking that lets you drive using one pedal – with a bit of practice. Occasionally, you need to override it with a bit of extra braking, which isn’t always smooth.

The Leaf has impressed so far with its comfort, space, quality and tech – which is why it won the technology trophy at our recent New Car Awards. And so far, the claimed 168-mile range seems pretty accurate: I’m averaging 4.1 miles per kilowatt hour, which with a 40kWh battery equates to 164 miles of range. Of course, if I’m driving around town more that will go up and it might come down if I spend longer on the motorway.

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