Nissan LEAF: practical family car? #nissanLEAFcar21

The Nissan LEAF electric car is a 100% electric and some might say that makes it immediately impractical for a family but over the last few days we decided to use it as our main family car to see if this instinctive guess was right or a bit left of the mark.

We normally drive a Vauxhall Zafira. You can read my thoughts about it in my comparative review of the Zafira and a Ferrari 458 I was lucky enough to have a go in. Now we have three kids under 5, with all five of us in the car we have to be a little canny with the seating arrangement. The rear seats aren’t wide enough for two kids seats and an adult, or three kids seats. This means we have to employ the pop up row of seats in the boot and make the boy and Fifi draw lots to see who sits right in the boot.

That was the first point of genuine surprise with the Nissan LEAF- we could get two kids seats and an adult (wifey) in the back. Okay, it might not be enormously comfortable for a long journey but something like 95% of the journeys people make are under 25 miles, and it’s certainly comfortable enough for that.

Before we set off for the first time, we did the safety first precaution that’s been at the forefront of our minds in any new car since Fifi opened the door of the Skoda Yeti hire car on a roundabout in Italy last year. We flicked the child safety lock catches on the rear door locks. It’s nice to see  a car full of electronics as the LEAF is still has a simple foolproof manual switch.

big enough for a Stokke Xplory. Which is nice

Next up is the boot space. The boot in the LEAF isn’t huge, there are some compromises because of the distribution of the batteries but what space there is is wide, accessible and certainly big enough to take a Stokke Xplory, as you can see.

Oddly enough, this pushchair is a bit of a squeeze in the narrower Zafira with one of the split folding boot seats up.

The final aspect of practicality as a family car has to be the perceived rhinoceros in the room- does the range of 109 miles and the method of charging impinge on our use of the car? Well it’s the Easter holidays for the kids and so far we’ve been to a farm activity centre, shopping in Welwyn Garden City, visited the inlaws, I’ve been to a networking event in it and used it for my commute to work.

I think what the chap at the Nissan Innovation Centre at the O2 said to us holds resonance. He said treat the car like your mobile phone, you never let that run out of battery, so your LEAF shouldn’t either. But to be fair, even though we’ve been out and about a lot, with three under 5’s the only time we’re realistically in a car for over an hour is when we’re going away for the weekend. Even trips to activities locally like Whipsnade or further a field to Legoland are easily manageable without having a full charge in the car. Getting into the habit of plugging it in to the charging point when you get home is easier than it would have been ten years ago before smartphones became so prevalent.

I must admit I was surprised how spacious the LEAF is- how we could get the whole family and a pushchair in it with little or no effort. I was also surprised that we’ve not had to tailor our activities to accommodate it’s drive method (or more importantly it’s recharge method). We shall definitely be using it to go into central London over the Easter Bank holiday, I’ve got that much faith in it.

You can read more about the challenge we’re in here