Some people still associate electric cars with milk float performance, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth – particularly in the Leaf. With a 0-60mph time of around eight seconds, it’s much nippier than a Renault Zoe and will even outsprint a Volkswagen e-Golf. You actually have to be a bit gentle with your right foot when accelerating out of junctions or you’ll spin up the front wheels.
Unlike in most petrol and diesel cars, when you lift off the accelerator pedal you feel yourself slowing down quite quickly as the regenerative brakes harvest energy to replenish the battery. You can increase this effect by moving the gearlever to B mode, or go one step further by pressing the ‘e-Pedal’ button between the front seats. This makes the regenerative braking effect so pronounced that you barely have to use the brake pedal at all.
But when it comes to electric cars, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can speed up and slow down; it’s about how far you can get between charges. Nissan makes a bold claim of 235 miles – this, admittedly, is based on a wholly unrepresentative official European test cycle called the NEDC, but it’s still better than the 230 miles and 186 miles achieved by the Zoe and e-Golf respectively on the same test.
In our real-world tests, the Leaf managed 108 miles on a full charge. That’s better than the e-Golf (93 miles) but considerably behind the Zoe (131 miles). However, our tests were conducted in chilly weather (3-5deg), which has a big impact on battery performance. It’s safe to say all of these cars would have much longer ranges in the summer.
Nissan Leaf ride comfort
Although you feel more of bumps as they pass beneath you than you do in an e-Golf, the Leaf is far more comfortable than a Zoe or a BMW i3.
In fact, ride comfort is hard to fault on the motorway and faster A-roads. It’s only around town that you notice being jostled around a bit, although potholes are still dealt with in a respectable fashion.
Nissan Leaf handling
The Leaf is far from a hot hatch but it does stay more upright through bends than a Zoe or an e-Golf. Its steering is a match for the e-Golf’s, too; less natural-feeling but heavier and a bit more precise.
You might imagine that the supposedly sporty rear-wheel-drive i3 would be the benchmark for handling in this class, but actually the Leaf is far more composed and settled along twisty roads – especially when the road gets bumpy.
No electric car in this price bracket is truly great fun to drive, though. So if want one that is, you’ll need to save up for a Tesla Model S.
Nissan Leaf refinement
Electric cars tend to be much quieter than their petrol and diesel counterparts because there’s no combustion engine burning fuel and pumping cylinders.
So, if you’re used to a conventional car, you’ll find the Leaf eerily hushed on the move. True, the e-Golf is even quieter because its suspension goes about its business with fewer clunks, and there’s a bit less wind and road noise, too. But the Leaf is definitely a more peaceful companion than the cheaper Zoe.