Aston Martin celebrates its 100th anniversary with a radical one-off concept car
Nissan LEAF review (2011 onwards)
Summary: Nissan's all-new electric family car will soon go on sale. Could this be the environmental answer we've been waiting for?
We like: zero emissions, nippy acceleration, space, practicality, quality
We don't like: poor range, dull steering, styling won't appeal to everyone
GALLERY: Nissan Leaf
In a utopian fantasy of the near future we'll all be zooming around silently in our electric cars, enjoying our rejuvenated planet and saving ourselves a fortune on petrol and diesel.
And then the reality kicks in. Electric cars have one fundamental drawback - range! Fancy a trip to Scotland and back? You'd be quicker walking.
Nissan realises this, too, which is why it went to great lengths to explain that its new Leaf is a car for those people who predominantly only travel short distances and live in the city.
But the one fundamental difference between the Leaf and the handful of other electric cars out there is that it is a proper family hatchback. Like a Golf or Focus. Only it runs only on electric and produces zero emissions. So, is now the time to embrace a sparky new future?
The advantage of electric motors over regular combustion engines is that they produce maximum torque at 1rpm. And in this case that's 206 lb/ft of torque, the same punch as an Audi A3 2.0 TFSI petrol.
As a result, the surge can certainly be felt in your back and the Leaf moves off the mark promptly. It even passes other dawdling cars in a flash and often it feels wrong that something so green should also prove so nippy.
In fact, nippy is probably a very apt word in the Leaf's case, because while it picks up speed effortlessly initially, after a few seconds of foot-to-the-floor acceleration it starts to peter out. The top speed is 87mph, limited no doubt to conserve the battery life.
Ride & handling
With a combination of an electric motor and weighty battery packs, the handling is going to be affected. And, the Leaf isn't an awful handler; it feels like any other car in that class - bar the Ford Focus.
The body will roll in bends, the front tyres can sometimes scrabble for grip, the ride can become bouncy and choppy on poor surfaces, but it is a family car after all.
The one thing that does disappoint is the dull steering. It's impossible to feel what the car is doing which nulls any driving enjoyment.
Silence is golden, unless you're in an electric car. Because then you've got to iron out the wind noise from the mirrors, the swipe of the wipers, the roar from the tyres.
Nissan's engineers have changed the wiper motors so they produce less noise, the suspension has been set-up so that it transfers less din into the cabin, and the door mirrors have been designed to attract as little wind rustle as possible, though some can still be detected at speed.
Inside, the cabin is contemporary but there are a few space-age details to make it feel more sci-fi such as a mouse-style gear selector, a colourful, graphical display and a sat-nav that can display a radius of how far you can travel on the remaining charge.
The Leaf can also be linked to your smartphone or computer to tell you how much battery juice is left, you can programme routes and zap them to the sat-nav and even turn on the air-con remotely.
Space is plentiful, too, with room for five adults and a boot that is very deep but accommodates 300-litre of luggage with the seats up. And the quality of the cabin materials is generally very good, feeling soft and robust and displaying a quality feel that you don't get in some of the cheaper cars in this class.
Economy and safety
It'll cost you roughly £2 to recharge the batteries for eight hours, which will allow you to travel about 100 miles though on a leisurely drive you should be able to see 130 miles. Fast driving will seriously deplete the range.
There is also the option of a 30-minute quick charge that will restore 80% of the battery power.
The batteries also have a five-year warranty - but be warned, Nissan won't release prices for these and the cost of replacing them could be hefty.
With the Leaf, Nissan has produced the world's first totally-electric family car. It is a tempting proposition if you only travel short distances, but the Leaf won't suit everyone.
|Need to know|
|Engine||Electric motor and battery|
|0-62mph||10 secs approx|
|MPG||range of 100 miles approx|
|Ratings out of five|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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