If you look at the E-Tense solely from a performance point of view, it can’t quite match its Hyundai Kona Electric or Kia e-Niro rivals. Its 134bhp falls some way short of the 201bhp produced by the Kia and Hyundai, so, unsurprisingly, its acceleration is more sedate. Still, 0-62mph in 8.7sec will be quick enough for most people, and the E-Tense feels surprisingly nippy at city speeds.
Perhaps more important to many electric car buyers is the issue of range (how far you can travel between charges), and there’s mixed news on that front. The battery’s 50kWh capacity is smaller than those of some rivals and won’t take you as far as the e-Niro's, but the E-Tense can still officially manage a respectable 200 miles between charges. In the real world, it’s more likely that 180 miles is achievable.
When it’s time to charge up, the E-Tense can be taken from 0-80% (for about 150 miles of range) in just half an hour if you can find a 100kW public rapid charger, but these are far more commonplace in Europe than in the UK. Meanwhile, a full charge from a 7.4kW home charger takes around seven and a half hours.
If you’ve never driven in an electric car, you’ll be really impressed by the absence of engine noise in the E-Tense; this puts it at an immediate advantage over the rattly 3 Crossback BlueHDi 100 diesel. There’s also more sound deadening in the E-Tense than in fossil-fuelled versions, so it’s quieter at a cruise. That said, you can still hear some wind noise from around the windscreen pillars at motorway speeds
Unfortunately, in other respects, the E-Tense isn’t great to drive. The steering wheel serves up precious little feedback from the front wheels and you’ll experience considerable body lean in corners, so driving the E-Tense in a spirited manner isn’t a rewarding experience, even though grip levels are reasonable.
As with any electric car, regenerative braking returns waste energy to the battery when you lift off the accelerator. In the E-Tense it offers two levels of operation, but even the strongest mode doesn’t allow one-pedal driving like the Nissan Leaf can offer. The brake pedal feel is inconsistent, too, and will take some getting used to if you’ve not driven an electric car before.
Ride comfort is a mixed bag. When you first set off you’ll notice a pleasing floatiness to the suspension that leads you to assume it will be uber-comfy, but that suspicion will evaporate as soon as the first sharp-edged pothole you encounter sends a nasty shudder through the car. At faster speeds, you’re jostled around in your seat more than you are would be in an e-Niro, too.