Turning over a new Leaf

January 02 2020
Turning over a new Leaf

Second-hand Style, with Richard Cooke

BACK in October I wrote a stink-o-gram to Bristol’s Mayor Marvin Rees, asking him (in what with hindsight seems rather harsh language) just why he hadn’t pulled his finger out and made a decision on Bristol’s air pollution plan. This plan had been delayed for years, Marvin’s obfuscation resulting in the threat of court action by the government. I did not expect a response but – knock me down with a feather - he came up trumps.

In November he announced that central Bristol will be a diesel-free zone from 2021, and the council agreed that this was a jolly good idea. The scheme needs government approval but, if enacted, Marvin will have gone from embarrassing laggard to a UK air quality pioneer. Credit where it’s due, Mr Rees, because I think you’ve made the right decision. The plan will inconvenience many people for a short period and, more seriously, it will financially impact small business owners with diesel vehicles. But it will immediately stop people dying, and generally make life more pleasant for everyone in the centre of town. I urge central government to wave it through.

In the meantime, if you still own a diesel car and drive it anywhere near Bristol, you need to move fast. The local used market will start to fill up with unwanted diesels as the deadline approaches, and that means your car will be worth less as a trade-in. This is happening already in London, as people change out of diesel and get back into petrol or go electric for the first time. What should you do? I’ll do my best to control my inner Mr Toad – Poop! Poop! – not everyone wants the fastest, shoutiest petrol-guzzling road rocket. Some people just want to get to work or drop the kids at school. For this demographic – you? – I revisit the Nissan Leaf.

When I first drove the electric Leaf in 2017, I was pleasantly surprised by the speed, silence and space that it offered. I was less impressed with a range of just 80 miles from the 24KWh battery. So this month, I drove the facelift version, equipped with a bigger 40KWh battery (about 150hp).

Like the previous model, this is a very spacious car and it retains the futuristic swoopy lines of the Mk1. All the power and torque is available immediately, as before but even more so. The Leaf is properly fast. You can also drive it purely on the throttle if you engage the ‘e pedal’. This regenerates the battery and slows the car as you release the accelerator. As an aside, the colour of my test car (officially called ‘Spring Cloud green’, but I prefer ‘Sparkly Spearmint’) is really attractive. Handling is neutral, steering light, brakes excellent when you need them. The dash is finished with leather, along with the thick-rimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel. For cold mornings, both front and rear seats are heated. Cooking model Leafs do without these creature comforts, but you’ll pay very little extra for them on the used forecourts, so look out for the top ‘Tekna’ specification.

Have Nissan overcome their range issue? Almost. This 40KWh model manages 140 miles in real-world driving, so you still can’t get from Bristol to Heathrow and back without stopping to charge up. For that journey, you’ll need the too-new-to-test-here 62KWh ‘e+’ Leaf and have at least £38k spare. That’s a chunky £16k more than a two year old 40KWh (or £160 for every extra mile of range). Two years ago, the Leaf looked like an absolute steal second hand, as range anxiety kept prices low. As this becomes less of a problem and the regulatory tide turns inexorably in favour of electric cars, used values have firmed. That said, Nissan are still offering much more for less compared to their rivals, especially German manufacturers. Whilst Mr Toad wouldn’t have bought a diesel in the first place, you may have. Possibly on the advice of previous Governments, who were wrong. A used Leaf isn’t a bad way to come back in from the cold.


What to pay

Nissan Leaf 40KWh: From £22k for a 2018 model with 12k miles.