Electric motor delivers masses of pace, and with no engine there's very little noise
The interior looks pretty normal, considering all the wizardry, and it's easy to use, too
Well equipped to protect, proven by five-star Euro NCAP result
All that new technology might make you nervous, but Nissan has a fantastic reputation and the electric motor comes with a five-year warranty
Practical enough for a small family's everyday needs, though the boot's a bit tight
Well equipped as standard - and you can even check the car's remaining charge using your smartphone.
Unlike most cars, the Leaf can produce its maximum power as soon as you touch the accelerator, which means it's quick from the off. Otherwise it feels much like a normal car to drive. The suspension soaks up bumps well and the Leaf is pretty agile, too; it's actually rather fun to drive. What's most unusual is how quiet the Leaf is - with no engine to speak of, all you notice is a bit of tyre rumble and wind noise when speeds rise.
Despite the technology on board, everything has been kept very easy to use and normal-looking - even the materials are a bit ordinary, though they feel very solid. The touch-screen sat nav can be a little confusing but it incorporates many extra functions and the car keeps you updated about your economy, the remaining charge in the car, and where the nearest charging point can be found. The Leaf has room for four adults (five if they're friendly), and although the boot is quite short, it's also quite tall so overall it's a good size. If you need to expand it you can drop the rear seat backs but the location of the battery here means there's a big step in the load bay when you do.
The Leaf's standard equipment list is pretty comprehensive: dual-zone climate control, four electric windows, keyless entry and Bluetooth are all provided, as is an advanced satellite-navigation system that incorporates dozens of other useful functions including a reversing camera. Entry-level cars miss out on alloy wheels and the heat pump system that improves battery range, so we’d go for mid-level Acenta trim.
Although it's packed with new technology, Nissan has a great reliability record so there should be no worries there - in particular, the components for the electric drivetrain have a five-year warranty. It also comes with stability control and six airbags as standard, and it achieved the maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, including 89% for adult safety and 83% for children.
The Leaf has a bright green image and it's a comfortable family car that's good to drive - but a limited battery range means it won't suit many people's lifestyle. While Nissan claims a range of 124 miles on a single charge, in reality the maximum is more like 90 miles, and this can drop to around 50 in cold weather and if you're operating any of the other electrical systems, such as the lights or heating. The Leaf isn't cheap to buy, either, although the Government will contribute £5000 towards your purchase and you can lower the initial cost by a further £5000 if you lease the battery, which costs from £70 per month. Zero emissions means you won't pay any road tax, and charging it with electricity will cost a fraction of what you'd pay for petrol. None the less, its short range compromises its usefulness, as does the fact that you'll need access to a mains point to charge it up, which most city dwellers will find difficult or impossible.