Nissan Leaf: an impressive electric car

With electric cars, everything comes down to one question: how practical is an electric car in a country like ours where there aren’t any public charging ports? While that is still a relevant question, there is Leaf, a fully electric car that Nissan launched in 2011, which is both affordable and practical. I got a chance to drive this technological marvel when the company showed it in India recently. This was a time to find out whether going green means throwing practicality out of the window.

Now about the important issue: the power. Propelled by a 80 Kw electric motor that spits out mere 107 hp, you think the Leaf — an acronym for Leading, Environmentally-friendly, Affordable Family car — will be a mule at best. But when you push the start button and press the accelerator hard, the Leaf actually pushes you back as the power gushes in. What is more unnerving is that the electric motor is so silent that without alerting you, it can have the car speeding off. The 280 Nm of torque is what makes the Leaf so quick off its heels.

The initial pick up is nothing short of impressive. I wanted to push the Leaf to its limits to discover its handling capabilities. Believe it not, I put it through a slalom track, and the electric car passed the test with flying colours. It remained planted and stable while taking turns sharply. It didn’t misbehave and make me nervous, rather it changed my entire outlook towards electric cars.

What is even more impressive is the driving range of 150 km per charge. Keep in mind that this comes at a zero-pollution level. But also be aware that the Leaf has to be charged for eight long hours. Being a genuine zero-emission vehicle, spacious enough to carry five people, and with a nippy performance, the Leaf is certainly one impressive electric car. Too bad Nissan doesn’t have plans at the moment to bring the car to India.

The car is a conventional hatchback with state-of-the-art aerodynamics. The Leaf didn’t get a futuristic design because this tried-and-tested structure helps Nissan keep the costs down. But it stands apart from other hatchbacks with its flared nose and uniquely sculpted headlamps. The design is meant predominantly to improve the car’s aerodynamics by reducing the drag. Even the rear is designed in a flowing manner for this purpose.

What does feel space age is the cabin with the bright blue, 7-inch infotainment monitor. All the controls are easy to use as they are all clearly marked on the touch screen. Sure the speedometer display shows its age and reminds you of a Star Trek movie, yet it shows all the required information, like the battery charge. The beautifully crafted gear lever looks more like a piece of art. The shifter is slick and even with a slight nudge, easily slots into drive mode. The seats are comfortable and there is very decent head and legroom for the rear passengers. It has a 370-litre boot space.

The Leaf might not be a stunner but the top variant comes with loads of equipment like 17-inch alloys, LED headlamps, satellite-navigation, a reversing camera, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity and a rapid charging port.

Engine: 80 Kw
Power: 107 hp
Torque: 280 Nm
Charging time: Eight hours
Driving range: 150 km per charge Arup Das is Features Editor at AutoX