Ultra-low-carbon car winner

  • 17 categories of awards
  • All the winning models featured here
  • What Car? Car of the Year 2011 revealed
Words ByWhat Car? Staff

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What Car? Awards 2012 website

Nissan Leaf
List price 23,990 (including Government grant) Target Price 23,990

There's no room for sentiment. Sooner or later well all need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, so whether electric cars are the future of motoring or merely a stopgap before commercially viable hydrogen fuel cells arrive, theyll play a huge part in our lives.

The revolution is already under way, which is why weve added this important gong to our Car of the Year Awards.

You can banish any notions of milk-float performance, because the Nissan Leaf's 108bhp electric motor makes it as nippy as an equivalent petrol or diesel and its actually easier to drive. The full 207lb ft of pulling power is on tap from the off, and there arent any gears to worry about. You simply press the accelerator to go and the brake to stop.

It isnt only the environment thatll benefit from you driving a Leaf, either. Nissan reckons youll spend just 257 on electricity every 12,000 miles, and even if thats optimistic, the fuel costs will be around a quarter of an equivalent diesels.

Refinement is another bonus. Other than a whine as you accelerate up to speed, the motor is virtually silent. Theres a bit of wind- and road noise, but its only really noticeable because theres no combustion engine noise.

Owning a Leaf does demand compromise. It has a maximum range of just 100 miles. Then, when youre out of juice, youll need to plug it in and wait eight hours for a full recharge. A three-hour plug-in will give you a 50% charge. Fast-charging stations cut that time to 20 minutes for an 80% top-up, but these are few and far between at the moment.

Then theres the price. Even after a 5000 Government grant youll be forking out nearly 24k: you can get a bottom-end BMW 3 Series for that. On the plus side, the Leafs pleasant interior is stacked with equipment.

So what did the Leaf beat to win? The Tesla Roadster is a true supercar in every sense.

Itll whizz you to 60mph in under four seconds and even trounces the Nissan for range, managing up to 211 miles on a charge. However, with only two seats, barely any boot and a pricetag of 88k, its appeal is limited.

We were impressed by Mitsubishis i-MiEV, too until we found out the price. It costs exactly the same as the Leaf, yet is smaller, slower and has an inferior range.

Nissan Leaf review

0-62mph 10.8sec Top speed 87mph
Maximum range 100 miles
Running costs
CO2 0g/km (tailpipe), 81g/km (approx. impact)