Nissan Leaf driven

* All-electric car on the road * Zero-emissions at the wheel * On sale now, from £23,990...

 Nissan Leaf driven

What is it? According to many, the very future of motoring
Price £23,990 (with £5000 Government grant)
Target Price tbc
MPG n/a
CO2 0g/km
On sale Now

Ignore the Nissan Leaf's ordinary-looking bodywork what lies beneath is anything but the norm. Say hello to the world's first mass-produced, all-electric passenger car.

It certainly won't be the last after all, we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels eventually. So, whether electric cars are the final answer to the future of motoring, or merely an interim solution, they'll play a big part.

Here's the deal: underneath the Leaf's floor sits a lithium-ion battery pack, which you charge by plugging the car into any domestic mains socket. That power then drives the front wheels via a 108bhp electric motor.

On the road

Don't expect sluggish, milk-float performance, though. The electric motor makes its full 207lb ft of torque available from standstill, so it pulls hard the instant you hit the accelerator, and feels just as strong on the move. That makes it incredibly easy to drive.

The suspension is good, too. It makes light work of nasty bumps, but there's enough control to keep things tidy in bends. The position of the battery also gives the car a low centre of gravity, making it feel even more agile.

Refinement is another huge bonus. Apart from a faint whirr when you first pull away, you won't hear a peep from the motor. There's some wind- and road noise as speeds increase, but it's only noticeable because there's nothing else invading your eardrums.

Running costs

The biggest bonus of electric power, though, is the benefit to the environment, and the miniscule running costs that go with it. Although the coal-fired power stations supplying most of the electricity will gush out CO2, the car itself produces tailpipe emissions of precisely zero. Plus, Nissan reckons you'll spend just £257 per year on filling the Leaf up with electricity.

Granted, it's pricey to buy at £28,990, but a £5000 Government grant will help towards that. You get stacks of luxury kit for your money, too. You won't make many sacrifices on the practicality front, either. The cabin is plenty roomy enough for five people, and there's even a decent boot.

The practicalities

As great as the Leaf is, though, it won't suit everyone. The maximum range on a single charge is around 100 miles (that figure drops significantly if you drive fast), and it takes around eight hours to recharge from a household socket. Fast-charging points can deliver an 80% charge in 30 minutes, but at the moment, they're few and far between.

However, if your journeys are sufficiently short and sufficiently regimented, the Leaf could well fit in with your lifestyle and if it does, you'll absolutely love it.

What Car? says