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Nissan Leaf review: While you were busy charging your smartphone, we were charging an electric car

 

“The Nissan Leaf is a lovely electric hatchback car that will help you to say goodbye to petrol or diesel, oil changes and emitting carbon dioxide. It’s a car that redefines the way you drive a vehicle.”

The Nissan Leaf, which stands for Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car, was introduced three years ago in South Africa and remains an affordable electric car, especially when compared to the futuristic rival BMW i3. By Gugu Lourie

The formulation of our positive impressions of the Nissan Leaf 2016 model began the moment the electric car was delivered.

Earlier the delivering driver called to say he was unable to find Techfinancials offices and was getting lost.

We arranged to meet at a Sasol filling station.

The car immediately drew the interest of petrol attendants. Their admiration of the car seemed to get the better of them. They circled the car in obvious admiration.

Once they find out the beauty was an electric car with no need for a petrol or diesel refill the attendants were left flabbergasted.

The driver handed me the key and remote and I too was in awe of the Nissan Leaf.

The vehicle is 100% electric. Its motor is powered exclusively by an advanced 24kWh rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

You have to charge the Nissan Leaf like a smartphone.

Dumbstruck Desmond, one of the petrol attendants, eventually mustered courage to ask: “So where do you charge the car?”

I told him Nissan has built charging stations at its dealerships, where you can pull in to top up the Leaf.

“So how long does the charge of the car last you?” Tendai, another petrol attendant, asked.  “I hope it’s not like my phone that I have to constantly charge.”

Having done my research on the Nissan Leaf I proudly said: “With a full charge, you can drive from Meyersdal Eco Estate to Centurion and thereafter you will need to top up the car again at a nearest Nissan charging dealership.”

By then more onlookers had gathered around to have a look at the electric car parked at a petrol station.

They said they were impressed with the Nissan Leaf’s exterior. They also loved the interior with adequate seating and legroom.

Then came a question, which I dreaded the most, Tendai asked: “So how much is this electric car? Can I afford it my broer?”

I paused briefly before answering: “It’s just below R500 000 and remember it’s an electric car; you save money on petrol and service”.

The price seemed prohibitive and my newly found Nissan Leaf admirers soon went about their business.

Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf car comes with a range of high-tech features such as navigation, a rear-view monitor, Bluetooth connectivity and more

Left on my own I could explore the electric car and drive away.

I drove to the Nissan Glen dealership to have the car charged, but to my surprise the first person I inquired with about the top up had absolutely no clue.

Someone suggested we talk to Ernest, a mechanic, who turned out to be well-versed with the Leaf.

Ernest politely showed me how to top up the car. I was thrilled to find out that using the rapid charger was free of charge.

After the top up for 185km the car was good to take my son to school in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised to learn the top up was more than enough to cover my daily commute of about 100km.

The charging infrastructure is persistently improving, but the fact remains that to be safe in driving the Leaf had to be contained in areas where Nissan charging dealerships are located.

I wanted to venture into Eldorado Park with the car but didn’t want to be stranded if the batteries run out.

In the morning, I put the car into eco mode and off I went without a sound. My son asked if I had started the car because he could not hear the engine roar.

After I told him the Nissan Leaf was an electric car he seemed less disappointed about the absence of the engine roaring into action.

All you have to do to get it moving is press the start button. A red light on the dashboard indicates it is ready to go.

Nissan Leaf
The driver can change the centre console either to drive or reverse and thereafter you can go after releasing the brakes to drive quietly

The driver can change the centre console either to drive or reverse and thereafter you can go after releasing the brakes to drive quietly.

Amazingly the Nissan Leaf emits zero carbon dioxide.

My son quickly fell in love with the car. He was intrigued by the reversing camera with predictive path technology displayed on the colour touch screen.

He also liked the stylish, modern and comfortable seats and the ample legroom.

The Nissan Leaf, which provides relaxed rides, has 370 litres of boot space to accommodate a number of bags.

The Nissan Leaf car comes with a range of high-tech features such as navigation, a rear-view monitor, Bluetooth connectivity and more. The Nissan Leaf is also fitted with the Hill Start Assist System technology, which came in handy in the hills of the south of Jo’Burg as I need not have to worry about the car rolling in steeps after stopping on a traffic lights.

Final verdict

The Nissan Leaf is a lovely car, but the charging infrastructure still has a long way to go. But the benefits of driving it are enormous. You will save on petrol and maintenance costs. This car has really changed the way I think about vehicles.

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