Time Well Spent: Nissan Leaf Tekna

Mike Humble:

The UK engineered and built zero emission Nissan Leaf Tekna
The UK engineered and built zero emission Nissan Leaf Tekna

Electric vehicles may conjure up many varying metal images to the uninformed. Some may think of fork-lift trucks or milk floats clinking down the street in the dark dank early hours. Whatever your own take may be, cleaner and more efficient vehicles can only be a good thing be it petrol, hybrid or pure electric propulsion. Personally, I have sat on the fence when it comes to electric vehicles (E.V) though I have driven one or two that actually really impressed – one being a zero emission electric 7.5 tonne truck.

Nissan produce the British designed and engineered Leaf at their Sunderland plant and I was more than happy to get to grips with this pure E.V which came in the form of a five door top of the range Tekna model that retails for £30.435. Leaf is not a small car being a similar size to say a Focus or Golf so room and space for passengers is at class average. It’s also well equipped too featuring all the usual knobs and buttons such as climate control, auto wipers, Sat Nav and all round power windows just for starters. An impressive BOSE sound system comes as standard but the fitted sub woofer is annoyingly secured to the boot floor.

In "Tekna" trim the Leaf is well trimmed and specified. Quality is very good as are the ergonomics. Foot operated handbrake is awkward and takes some getting used to.
In “Tekna” trim the Leaf is well trimmed and specified. Quality is very good as are the ergonomics. Foot operated handbrake is awkward and takes some getting used to.

It feels very well-built and solid in construction, which it should do with a kerb weight of around 1.5 tonnes owing to the 192 laminated cells of lithium-ion which makes up the battery pack. A simple push button brings the Nissan into life with a jolly little tune and a display of check lights, select drive, release the parking brake (foot operated) and away you go. There’s nothing complicated in terms of driver controls – forwards and backwards – what more do you want? You have an impressive belt of torque too and the car flies if you just plant the accelerator into the carpet, power relates to 109Ps and 254Nm of torque.

Economy mode tames the Leaf to wring the most of the juice from the power supply but even in this mode, progress is never sloth-like. As for refinement all you can hear is a faint noise from the motor and the usual road / wind noise – imagine being towed but being in complete control. The lack of noise is weird at first but you soon become accustomed to the hush. The brakes are very strong and little bit fierce in bite but this is due to the traction motor turning into a generator when you coast or apply the footbrake in order to put some charge back into the batteries. Select “B-Drive” and the regeneration is even stronger but very handy when travelling down steep hills.

Instrument panel although a bit U.S.S Enterprise works well and features an in depth vehicle computer which is pleasingly simple to decipher.
Instrument panel although a bit U.S.S Enterprise works well and features an in depth vehicle computer which is pleasingly simple to decipher.

In terms of ergonomics and interior fit and finish, the Leaf is a very practical and thought out piece of kit which feels very well built – only the boot layout and lack of a flat load floor count against it. Not so much as a squeak or wonky piece of trim could be found and the climate control thumps out plenty of instant heat or ice cold air. The leather seats are well padded and not only feature heating up front, but in the rear… even the steering wheel rim is heated. Rear seat passengers have ample leg and headroom and plenty of space for odds and ends can be found for those who like tidy housekeeping. Comfort is very good and the Leaf rides nicely and handles tidily with quick steering but the set up lacks communication and feel.

Around town, the Leaf is no slouch and the same applies on motorways or dual carriageways, but beware… very fast driving will deplete the batteries alarmingly quick. Charging comes from a 10A home cable or a 50Kw rapid charge similar to the ones you see in city centres or motorway service stations. My own experience found that an overnight charge on 10A domestic electricity was enough to bring the power level to almost maximum capacity for the next days usage. Using the car on a very mixed commute that includes a bit of motorway work, the Leaf had a range of roughly 80 – 90 miles. But despite trying not to worry, your eyes seem to remain fixed on the range display.

The Leaf is literally plug and play. 10A domestic or 50Kw fast charge points are fitted. An overnight boost from your home supply should be enough charge unless you totally exhaust the batteries. Still not enough "on street" points for those who live away from the bigger towns or cities.
The Leaf is literally plug and play. 10A domestic or 50Kw fast charge points are fitted. An overnight boost from your home supply should be enough charge unless you totally exhaust the batteries. Still not enough “on street” points for those who live away from the bigger towns or cities.

I reckon it needs a little bit more range to really convince more people into trying one, and some of the charging points have been known for reliability issues. On a shopping trip to Crawley we were unable to use the on street charging point due to technical issues and the battery was critically low. Thankfully, Louie at Motorline Nissan in Crawley came to the rescue by offering to charge the car from their showroom point and he even gave us a lift into town. But reservations like this are what stop people from experimenting and sampling the world of zero emission vehicles. There is a place for these vehicles but the limitations are more than obvious.

But of course, half the battle is educating people into a new way of thinking and we English are sticklers for tradition. With a little more development, more reliable and plentiful charging points and a better range, electric cars will eventually take off. But until that day comes, I have to admit I wouldn’t personally buy the Nissan Leaf… which is a bit of a shame because the technology is superb. It works without issue and despite the fact there is no beating heart under the bonnet – it has real character and soul!

AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING – 7/10

THE HUMBLE OPINION:

A wonderful demonstration of UK design and engineering know-how that works right out of the box. Only the charging infrastructure and range worries would stop me from signing the deal sheet. It was also noticed that some of the dealers seem lacking in knowledge about the car – a point I found out when ringing around for help in a busy town centre with a near flat power pack.

You couldnt use it as an all purpose vehicle… its too limited in range and practicality but with time and further research, the time will come. But if you live and work in or around a major town or city, the Leaf is an ideal solution to our stealth tax world of V.E.D and congestion charging. As a car? Its a great little thing and an impressive showcase of tomorrow’s technology

MODEL TESTED: Nissan Leaf Tekna

PRODUCED BY: Nissan Manufacturing Sunderland

PRICE AS TESTED: £30.965.00 Inc Optional Paint

EQUIPMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Leather trim – Nissan CARWINGS “find a charge point” function – Climate control – Cruise control – Heated front & rear seats – Alloy wheels – BOSE audio – Six airbags – Domestic & fast charging facility – Keyless entry & ignition – Reversing all round camera’s – Regenerative braking / charging.

Driveline: Electric Motor
Power: 80Kw -109Ps & 254Nm of torque
Brakes: All round discs with ABS / EBD
Suspension: All round coils rear twist beam
Luggage Capacity: 355 up to 720 litres
Emissions: Zero
Range: 90 miles
Performance: 0 – 60 in 11.5 seconds*
Top Speed: 89mph*

*= Claimed manufacturers data

THE HIGHS: Instant performance – Solid build quality – Easy to use and drive – Refined – Well equipped – Good long warranty – British designed and engineered – Comfortable – Impressive technology – Cheeky styling – Clever on board computer with “take you there” facility for finding charge points and full “telematic” options.

THE LOWS: Patchy dealer product knowledge – Charging points can be scarce away from the bigger towns & cities – Range needs to be much better – Very expensive to purchase – Boot layout is poor owing to seats not folding flush to the floor – Difficult to enjoy without being fixated on distance capability – Awkward foot operated park brake.

For more information on the Nissan Leaf Tekna CLICK HERE


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