Nissan's real world EV is here
Often priced out of potential New Zealand owners' budgets because of successively EV-naive governments which lack the vision to provide the hefty subsidies for such vehicles enjoyed overseas, Nissan's famous Leaf is now stickered at less than $40,000.
This means that when you go into a Nissan showroom - not all of them, just yet, however - with a budget for a high-end Pulsar hatch or sedan, you could easily find yourself driving out again in the Leaf.
That's if you had the thought to calculate what your average daily driving needs are and have realised that despite the Leaf not being able to go 500 kilometres on a tank it doesn't matter because most motorists only travel that kind of distance when they're on holiday.
In fact, they generally commute a maximum of 140km there and back, and with Nissan claiming that a full overnight charge will take you about 160km, you could commute up to that full distance if the city or office where you work has a handy charging point.
Which is another reason why EVs haven't captured the New Zealand imagination as much as they should have: Most of our cities and working areas don't have charging points.
We nearly had some, but plans to furnish charging points in Christchurch passed out of focus with the advent of the earthquakes, and sadly there are no areas allocated for them in the immediate future. Pity, for while the city is early in its rebuild process, making them available is surely easier now than when all the new buildings have gone up.
But that should still not stop anyone from going to the Nissan Leaf for their daily drive. As we've said, its new price of sub-$40k, thanks to an unwanted overseas order, means that New Zealand has at last an electric vehicle without an eye-watering price - it was originally to be $30,000 more.
The Nissan Leaf's new sticker will see the 2011 World Car of the Year, and the world's best-selling pure-electric car in history, competing directly with similar-sized petrol powered vehicles both on purchase price and on a total cost of ownership basis.
"Nissan has taken a number of pioneering steps with the Leaf electric car," says John Manley, managing director at Nissan New Zealand.
"This is an exceptional car and we are delighted to make it more appealing to New Zealand new-car buyers.
"I encourage any urban commuters considering a five-door hatchback to take a drive in a Nissan Leaf. First-time drivers of the Nissan Leaf are always surprised by its spirited performance matched with its fun-to-drive nature."
The car is indeed surprisingly brisk and with the batteries giving it a pleasingly low centre of gravity it's a very capable machine in terms of cornering, with its relaxed, quiet nature reinforced by a quality of ride that makes it feel like a much larger car.
The cabin is light and airy, and driving the car is even simpler than using a plain, ordinary automatic - only an awful lot quieter and with astonishing levels of refinement.
At the recent Geneva Motor Show, without a stopwatch, we counted the car up to 80kmh in about six seconds which would suggest an easy sub 10-second 0-100kmh time.
However, driving like that all the time might take the edge off the car's range.
Our road tester noted when he first drove the Leaf: "For all its appeal to sandal-wearing eco-freaks, the Leaf is a curiously normal car to drive. That's once you account for a silence when mobile that's uncanny and strangely endearing.
The near-noiseless operation of the car is a good reason for it to possess one of the most clear-eyed and wide-ranging reversing cameras ever fitted to a motor vehicle. Pedestrians, especially toddlers in driveways, are made safer by the wide-angle vision the camera gives to the Leaf's driver.
"There's a lot to like about the Leaf's ability to deliver personal mobility that is relaxing and free of stress. The suspension delivers a ride of Rolls-Royce quality, and the positioning of the heavy battery is low and distributes weight evenly to all four wheels. Nissan's choice of a hatchback body that is larger and wider than average expands the car's versatility."
On the safety front, the Leaf has been awarded a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating and in terms of technical peace of mind it is backed with a full factory three-year 100,000km vehicle warranty and a five-year battery warranty.
Along with the new pricing, Nissan New Zealand is also expanding the number of dealerships qualified to sell and service the Leaf.
"All approved Nissan Leaf dealerships have completed comprehensive training of its sales and service personnel to provide customers with the best information and aftersales support for this innovative new technology," says Manley.
Nissan Leaf sales and service dealerships are: City Nissan Takapuna, Giltrap Nissan Newmarket, Manukau Nissan South Auckland, Jim Wright Nissan Hamilton, Bay Nissan Tauranga, Hawke's Bay Nissan Hastings and Gazley Nissan Wellington in the North Island.
In the south there are: Cockram Nissan Christchurch and Drummond and Etheridge Nissan Ashburton, with more to come in the future.