Since those first cars were launched, the Leaf has been gradually evolving with bigger battery capacities and more performance. The most expensive version now has a range of 239 miles, which should be plenty for most drivers. It is a pricey option though, so think carefully if you really need the extra capacity, or could make do with the cheaper battery.
Whichever Leaf you choose it is easy and surprisingly fun to drive. The controls are all simple to use and pretty familiar to anyone who has driven an automatic car before, and the acceleration away from a standstill is enough to take most first-time Leaf drivers by surprise.
Despite the simplicity there’s still plenty of technology. The most interesting is probably the e-Pedal, which means you can drive the Leaf without touching the brakes, except in emergencies. It works in the same way as a fairground dodgem ride – press the accelerator and the car gathers speed as you’d expect, but lift off and the car will slow down and stop. It takes some getting used to but makes driving in traffic much more relaxing and is more efficient. When the car is slowing down the motor is switched automatically to become a generator and it feeds power back into the battery so it’s never wasted. And don’t worry, the e-Pedal also operates the brake lights so following drivers will know you’re slowing down.
The Leaf also has an app which lets you do all sorts of clever things such as checking the battery charge level and sending destinations to the navigation. Our favourite feature is the ability to preheat the car though. If you wake up on a frosty morning, you can start the Leaf’s heater to have the car warmed before you get in. Besides being comfortable and saving on de-icer, it also preserves the car’s range as you are using mains rather than battery power to run the heater.
Our only real concern about the Leaf is its price. It does look a little expensive and the models at the top of the range are not far off the price of a Tesla Model 3. There are often good finance offers at dealers though, so it shouldn’t necessarily be an obstacle.