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The futuristic-looking and sizeable Nissan LEAF sets the benchmark for electric cars

ELECTRIC cars are still a relative novelty, and the Nissan LEAF is something of a revelation.

On the inside, with its light and airy cream and grey interior, and blue-lit digital dash and instruments, the car has a futuristic look about it.

However, viewed from the outside, there’s no indication that it’s different from any petrol or diesel-powered vehicle you see on our roads.

The Leaf sits on its own purpose-built platform and is a few inches longer than a Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus.

But, because the batteries are under the floor in the centre of the car and it gets its power from a small electric motor, there is much more passenger space inside the cabin, making the Leaf a truly comfortable five-seater.

Nissan designed the car using the “smart fluidity” principle, claimed to combine “pleasing flowing lines with aerodynamic efficiency”.

This is noticeable when the Leaf is viewed from the side, the shoulder line sweeping up from the front wing to the rear of the back door, where it drops over the rear wheel. One noticeable omission is the existence of a radiator grille. Instead, the front end houses nothing more than a small hatch that contains the vehicle’s plug-in charging point and a larger bonnet for access to the electric motor.

The back view is dominated by a large window framed by thin, boomerang-shaped, vertical tail lights, while the absence of an exhaust pipe and a “zero-emissions” badge gives the game away as to what is powering the vehicle.

Conventional in looks, much the same applies to the way the car drives. Power is instantaneous from the 109bhp electric motor that generates 280Nm of torque.

This propels the Leaf from a standing start to 62mph in a respectable 11.9 seconds on full throttle.

But you get the impression it is far quicker, possibly because of the near lack of noise coming from the car.

Nissan have limited the Leaf to 90mph to maximise the vehicle’s range, which will see it cover up to 109 miles from a full charge, depending on weather conditions and how the car is driven.

I was also impressed with how well it handles. With its low centre of gravity, the Leaf compares well to any modern car with an automatic gearbox.

Silky-smooth on the uptake, stable through the corners with kart-like handling, the Leaf is a brilliant all-rounder.

And because of the high position of the seats – again down to the batteries – occupants get a great view of the road ahead.

Charging the car is done at a specially installed point at home. Using this hard-wired unit, the Leaf can be fully charged in eight hours.
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