Nissan IDS Concept

Nissan IDS Concept previews next Nissan LEAF at Tokyo Motor Show

Nissan IDS ConceptNissan has revealed the IDS Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show 2015 to demonstrate its take on the autonomous car of the future – and provide a clear tease as to how the next-generation LEAF EV will look.

The IDS Concept is a zero-emissions EV that blends autonomous self-driving car functionality with artificial intelligence. This, says Nissan, helps give autonomous drive tech real-world relevance – something the firm is planning to launch on several vehicles within the next five years.

Nissan says the IDS Concept offers two functions, Manual Drive and Piloted Drive. Intriguingly, it will learn the driver’s own style and apply this to piloted driving: the cars will perform slightly differently, based on who’s been driving them previously.

Potentially some self-driving Nissan IDS Concepts will autonomously corner, accelerate and brake more quickly and sportily than others!

Nissan is keen to emphasise the fun-to-drive part and says the driver will still remain engaged even when the car is driving itself. This is an important factor in occupants having confidence in autonomous cars.

“Two zeroes”

Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn said: “Nissan’s forthcoming technologies will revolutionize the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility.”

“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react. It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents.”

It’s part of Nissan’s aspirations for zero fatalities and zero emissions, “in our mission to help create a sustainable car-based society”. The firm dubs this the ‘two zeroes”.

Two interiors

The IDS Concept has two interior layouts, one for each driving mode. In Manual Drive, all seats face forward, the steering wheel, dials and head-up display are all present, and interior lighting switches to blue: this is said to improve the ability to concentrate.

However, in Piloted Drive, the steering wheel folds away and the dashboard slides back below the windscreen, replaced by a large flatscreen instead. Seats rotate inwards, the interior is illuminated by soft light and all driving-related functions are handled either by AI or driver voice and gesture control.

Nissan reckons it’s like relaxing in a living room.

Drivers can switch between modes using the PD Commander between the front seats. When in Piloted Drive, this is the only control the driver can operate.

Multi-function exterior

The exterior panels are also functional. For example, there’s an illuminated silver bodyline LED strip that switches to red when pedestrians and cyclists are nearby – this is to assure them the car knows they’re there. The dashboard also has an electronic display that can flash text messages to pedestrians.

The Nissan IDS Concept wears lightweight carbon fibre bodywork that’s just 1,380mm high to lower the aerodynamic drag.

Wheels are large in diameter but relatively narrow in section, like on a BMW i3, again, to reduce drag. It’s a wheel-at-each-corner design to maximise interior space.

High-power EV

The IDS Concept has a 60kWh battery – twice the size of the revised Nissan LEAF we drove recently – and Nissan says the low weight, sleek aerodynamics and low stance “meet the need to drive long distances”.

Today’s extended-range LEAF can do up to 155 miles on a full charge, and the IDS Concept has double the battery capacity. With these other improvements in the EV drivetrain too, a driving range of 400 miles or more per charge seems likely.

For added convenience, the IDS Concept has wireless charging.

Future EV: future LEAF?

The big question is, does the IDS Concept preview the next Nissan LEAF? It seems almost certain the next-generation LEAF will include elements of its styling, such as the crossover-look stance and space-efficient proportions.

Remember, Nissan continues to have huge success with the Qashqai and Juke in Europe; it seems natural for its groundbreaking EV to incorporate similar elements.

We can also expect the next LEAF to be much more aerodynamic, perhaps with bigger, narrower tyres and plentiful body-smoothing features.

What’s also interesting is the autonomous element. Nissan says this is going to happen sooner than we think: a car that has a reconfigurable dashboard may be a bold step for 2020, but having more autonomous functionality on the already highly networked LEAF would also be logical.

Nissan knows the LEAF has done the groundwork in preparing the world for mainstream EVs: its successor can fully capitalise on this if the firm gets the styling and the functionality right. The pretty, clever IDS Concept suggests it’s preparing to roll out another EV revolution in the next few years…

Revealed: the speed cameras most likely to cause a crash

Revealed: the speed cameras most likely to cause a crash

Revealed: the speed cameras most likely to cause a crash

Research has discovered that 80% of UK speed cameras lead to ‘hard braking activity’ – when drivers slam on their anchors in a bid to avoid a fine.

The analysis by telematics company Wunelli defines ‘hard braking’ as a change of speed of 6.5mph or more over one second. That’s aggressive enough to propel a bag on the passenger seat into the footwell.

The speed camera most likely to result in hard braking is located close to the end of the M4 motorway, heading into central London – followed by one on Rochdale Road in Middleton, Manchester.

In third place is a camera heading north out of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, on the Leighton Buzzard road.

On average, the research found that hard braking increases on average by 689% in locations with speed cameras.

Wunelli founding director, Paul Stacy, said: “These findings question whether speed cameras are serving their purpose as a road safety tool or whether they are instead encouraging poor driving behaviour.

“Driving behaviour analysis is now possible on a range of vehicle factors. If you wanted to identify which car driver is least likely to be involved in an accident based on the driving behaviour we have recorded, they would be the owner of an estate car, gold colour, four-wheel drive and about £10k in value.”

The 10 speed camera sites most likely to trigger hard braking

10: Watergate Bank, Consett Road (A692), Gateshead
9: Western Avenue (A40), Ruislip, west of A4180 junction
8: A4010, High Wycombe
7: Chester Road (A556), Mare, Knutsford, Cheshire
6: Garstang Road, Bilsborrow, Preston
5: Iver Lane (B470), Uxbridge, Middlesex, London
4: B5206, north of Shevington, Wigan
3: Leighton Buzzard Road (A4146), north of Hemel Hempstead
2: Rochdale Road, Middleton, Manchester
1: M4, eastbound, near Boston Manor train station, London

Peugeot 308 GTI

Peugeot 308 GTI (2015) road test review

Peugeot 308 GTI

Peugeot 308 GTI: What is it?

We first saw the 308 GTI at Goodwood Festival of Speed in June. Now we’ve finally driven it on UK roads – and on-track at Donington Park – ahead of the on-sale date of 5 November. Peugeot’s hottest hatch might look subtle, but it packs a 250hp punch – or 270hp in full-fat Peugeot Sport guise. Prices start from £26,555.

Peugeot 308 GTI: What are its rivals?

Fast family cars are back in fashion and the 308 has no shortage of capable rivals. First in the firing line is the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the hot hatch benchmark for nearly four decades. The Ford Focus ST and SEAT Leon Cupra are worthy alternatives, too – both cheaper and arguably more fun to drive than the Golf. And the Honda Civic Type R is our (literal) wild card. It offers furious performance speed, but at a price.

03_Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308 GTI: Which engines does it use?

Powered by the same 1.6-litre THP petrol engine as the RCZ-R coupe, the 308 GTI produces 250hp, or 270hp in the clumsily-named ‘GTI by Peugeot Sport’. Both drive through a six-speed manual gearbox (there’s no auto option), hitting 62mph from rest in 6.2 seconds, or 6.0 seconds for the Sport. Top speed for both is a heady 155mph.

Peugeot 308 GTI: What’s it like to drive?

On twisty Peak District lanes, the 308 GTI was grunty, grippy and properly quick. Its turbocharged engine provides ample low-down torque, while lower, stiffer suspension means good body control when cornering. Shame the overly-light steering offers leaves you feeling slightly detached from the whole experience. Moving to Donington Park Circuit, the difference between standard and Peugeot Sport GTIs became more apparent. The Sport has a Torsen front differential that quells understeer (running wide) and really hauls it around bends.

06_Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308 GTI: Fuel economy and running costs

It might offer performance on par with old-school Subaru WRXs and Mitsubishi Evos, but the Peugeot should prove considerably cheaper to run. Average fuel economy for both versions is quoted as 47.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 139g/km (£130 annual car tax). Anecdotally, Peugeot dealers are usually open to offering discounts when you buy, too.

Peugeot 308 GTI: Is it practical?

In a word, yes. The 308 is a five-door, five-seat hatchback with a roomy 501-litre boot. A Ford Focus, by comparison, holds just 316 litres. On the minus side, space in the rear seat isn’t especially generous. And your passengers may start to complain about the rib-shaking ride – the price you pay for sporty suspension.

04_Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308 GTI: What about safety?

If you can restrain your right foot (easier said than done), the 308 is a safe car. It scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests and standard equipment includes super-bright LED headlights, front/rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. The beefed-up Alcon brakes on Peugeot Sport versions also deserve a mention – they scrub off speed with impressive effectiveness.

Peugeot 308 GTI: Which version should I go for?

We think the Peugeot Sport version is worth the £1,600 premium over the regular GTI. For that, you get larger 19in alloy wheels, sports seats, bigger brakes and the Torsen differential. Admittedly, you won’t notice much difference between the two cars in typical road driving, but residual (resale) values for the Sport are likely to be better, too. We’ll leave the two-tone ‘Coupe Franche’ paint option seen below up to you. At £1,300, it’s an acquired taste.

08_Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308 GTI: Should I buy one?

The 308 is a worthy addition to this competitive class, but its blend of subtle styling and serious speed still wouldn’t dissuade us from buying a SEAT Leon Cupra or VW Golf GTI. We suspect it would be a satisfying car to live with, but – judged as a hot hatch – the potent Peugeot is a little too sensible for its own good.

Peugeot 308 GTI: Pub fact

One Peugeot that certainly isn’t sensible is the 308 R Hybrid – a 500hp petrol/electric hot hatch that sprints to 62mph in 4.0 seconds, yet emits just 70g/km CO2. Sadly, the R Hybrid remains a concept for now, but Peugeot boss Maxime Picat has hinted that a production version is possible.

 

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what is it?

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell (2015) road test review

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what is it?

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what is it?

This is a Two-Minute Road Test with a difference. This is Hyundai’s ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle, driven by an electric motor. But unlike conventional electric cars, you don’t have to charge it up by plugging it in. Instead, you fill it up with hydrogen, and this reacts with oxygen to provide a range of 369 miles while emitting nothing but water.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what are its rivals?

The problem with hydrogen-powered cars currently is the lack of places to refuel them. Until there are more hydrogen filling stations, manufacturers won’t build hydrogen cars, and until there are more hydrogen cars, there won’t be more hydrogen filling stations… You get the idea. As such, rivals are currently limited. Toyota is about to launch its Mirai, which will be more expensive than the ix35 but has been designed from the ground-up as a hydrogen car.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what’s special about this car?

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what’s special about this car?

This is where this Two-Minute Road Test gets even more unusual. The ix35 FCEV we’re testing here is actually the manufacturer’s ‘Streetcar Named Hyundai’. It’s being used to take photos of every street in London – 650,000 in total – spread over 50 days and culminating in a timelapse video and a mosaic that will be displayed in London’s City Hall.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what’s it like to drive?

We joined the team in west London for a shift in the driver’s seat. If you have to drive in congested areas, the Hyundai ix35 FCEV is a really relaxing way of doing it. There’s next to no noise, it rides well and the ix35’s high-up driving position provides excellent visibility.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: fuel economy and running costs

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: fuel economy and running costs

The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell can store up to 5.6kg of hydrogen. If you can find somewhere to fill it up, it’ll cost you around £4 per kg. That means you’ll be looking at around £22 per ‘tank’ – and, Hyundai claims, you’ll have a range of up to 369 miles from that. That means it’ll cost roughly half as much as a diesel rival to run.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: is it practical?

The nice thing about the ix35 Fuel Cell is it’s just like a normal crossover SUV in most ways. The batteries are situated under the floor – adding around 150kg to the weight but not taking away boot space. Our main criticism is that it’s feeling a bit dated now – the regular ix35 has been replaced by the Tucson, but there’s no word on a Tucson Fuel Cell yet. Now that could be a very tempting proposition.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what about safety?

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: what about safety?

The ix35 Fuel Cell hasn’t been tested by NCAP, but the regular model was awarded an impressive five stars when it was tested in 2010. We can’t imagine there being any safety concerns over the hydrogen model.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: how much does it cost?

The problem with this technology is its price. It’s still very much in its infancy – so development costs are high and, as it’ll only sell in very small numbers for the time being, Hyundai can’t afford to sell them cheap. As such, it’ll cost you £53,105 – and that’s taking a £15,000 European grant into account. Being an early adopter isn’t cheap.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: should I buy one?

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: should I buy one?

Are you a company that wants to make a statement about your eco-credentials? Are you located in London, where most of the hydrogen filling stations currently are? If so, the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell potentially makes a lot of sense. But for private owners? Wait a few years, but the future is definitely exciting…

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: pub fact

Some big names are taking part in the Streetcar Named Hyundai challenge – including female Olympic boxing champion Nicole Adams and Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing. The car will complete more than 2,000 miles – all within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.

Toyota Mirai 2015

Toyota Mirai review: 2015 first drive

Toyota Mirai 2015

The car of the future will be driven by electric. That fact is near-universally accepted. But what systems provide that electricity are still open to debate. The ideal? Batteries. But batteries don’t last long enough and take too long to charge back up. Battery tech isn’t evolving fast enough to solve this any time soon.

The answer for today is the range extender: combining a battery pack with an internal combustion engine for when they run flat. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is Britain’s best-selling plug-in hybrid car and, significantly, also the UK’s favourite alternative-fuel car. Outselling, yes, the EV-only Nissan LEAF.

But range extenders are still ultimately flawed: when the batteries are flat, they are no longer zero-emissions. The real future, reckon many, is thus another tech – the fuel cell. This is an onboard hydrogen-powered stack that produces electricity on the move. A tank of hydrogen is good for 300 miles. It can be refilled in minutes. It’s easy to install hydrogen pumps at regular filling stations. What’s not to like?

Well, the fact it’s been chicken and egg for years is frustrating. No cars means no hydrogen refuelling infrastructure; no infrastructure means no cars. Enough, says Toyota, which has gone and made the world’s first volume production hydrogen fuel cell car. And it believes the Toyota Mirai may kick-start the fuel cell revolution just as the Prius did for hybrids and now range-extenders over a decade ago.

Toyota Mirai 2015

And so, as of now, you can buy a Toyota Mirai in the UK, in right-hand drive guise. Yes, you really can. It will cost you £66,000, which is why most are expected to lease it instead (for a Tesla-rivalling £750 a month), and you have more fingers on one hand than there are hydrogen refuel stations at the moment. But it’s a start, a significant start. The car of the future is finally on sale in showrooms.

We’ve already established the Toyota Mirai is an unusual-looking thing. The saloon shape, heavy rear, bulging fenders, all mean you won’t mistake it. Will you admire it? Not in images, no: it looks ungainly on the screen. But it does work a bit better in the metal, looking more futuristic than it does awkward – particularly in the bright white metallic colour Toyota chose not to photograph

We particularly liked the floating roofline effect created by the dark rear glass – it’s coupe-like on the top half, even if the bottom bit isn’t. The sharp-edged, squared-off front is distinctive too (particularly the ultra-thin strips of LED lights), but there’s still no denying that heavy rear end is odd. Perhaps we’ll get used to it. And, as Toyota said, since when has the car of the future had to look conventional?

Toyota is only building a few thousand Mirai this year, and will ramp up production slowly. Demand, in its home Japanese market is huge. Combined the two and it means not many car available for export. The UK is still one of just three EU markets to receive cars though, thanks to the country’s supportive, far-sighted approach to hydrogen fuel cells. Time to find out if driving the car of the future makes it all worthwhile.

2015 Toyota Mirai: on the road

Toyota Mirai 2015

Don’t think the Toyota Mirai is all space age stuff to drive: in practice, it’s like a conventional electric car – just one with three times the range and no range anxiety. The 152hp electric motor up front is a punchy thing (with an amusing rotary-like whine) and 247lb ft of torque virtually from rest makes it easy to get the front wheels scrabbling (naturally, traction control is standard).

Despite weighing 1850kg, it’s a reasonably quick machine: 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds compares favourably to conventional-engine cars, and a 111mph top speed means it’s certainly not restricted in any way because of its future-fuel technology. It’s a single-gear transmissions so the only break in acceleration comes when you lift off the accelerator.

The weakest part is the regenerative brake function: tug the tiny centre-return plastic gearshifter back in to ‘B’ for, when you lift off, a little extra regenerative braking (it deactivates when you go back on the accelerator again). Only it seems a bit limp to us: more regen, and thus more ‘free’ charge in the batteries, could surely be sensibly offered – after all, Mitsubishi offers five levels of regenerative braking on the Outlander PHEV.

Toyota Mirai 2015

Is it stating the obvious to say the Mirai is quiet? Partly, although the sense of elegant, gliding well-being from drifting around swiftly in a Mirai won’t quickly wear off. What’s more impressive is how this is well-supported by supple, quiet-riding suspension that dampens away bumps without thud or bang.

It’s partly helped by the fact the Mirai is a heavy thing, with rather rear-biased weight distribution – you sense this when you chuck it about, something that doesn’t come naturally to it – but the pay-off in roll-along smoothness is very in keeping with the nature of the car. It’s more Lexus than Toyota here.

It’s probably pointless to say the Mirai’s steering is a bit artificial and the foot-operated parking brake is positively archaic in a car this futuristic, but they’re minor points when you consider how perfectly well the car of the future drives. Certainly, there are no nasty surprises and no sense it’s a premature step into the unknown.

2015 Toyota Mirai: on the inside

Toyota Mirai 2015

The Mirai could have been all about the tech and saddled with a rubbish interior: to Toyota’s credit, it’s not done that. It hasn’t even just fitted a regular interior from a Prius either. Rather, it’s given the Mirai a bespoke, luxury, high-tech cabin that, again, is almost Lexus-like in its quality, fit and finish. It really is that good.

Soft-to-touch white leather abounds (very early-adopter) and there’s more glossy piano-black plastics than a smartphone factory. The polished aluminium trim looks – and feels – pretty realistic and even the leather on the steering wheel is more premium wallet than Japanese eco-car.

Prominent is a colour touchscreen mounted within a flowing stand-proud beam (there’s a little orange JBL symbol within it, marking the standard 11-speaker premium audio). Behind it is another colour display, like that on a Prius but using hi-res colour displays rather than vacuum fluorescent devices. With a wide dash and glassy cabin, it’s all very open-plan and spacious-feeling. Exceptionally quiet as well – it even has double glazing.

Toyota Mirai 2015

The soft, supportive, futuristically-shaped leather seats are rather lovely too. Mounted high, they give a commanding feel behind the wheel, one of step-ahead superiority, and they’re both electrically powered and (like the steering wheel) heated.

There are only two seats in the rear, but they’re just as supportive and comfortable. They too are heated as well, and there’s a rather Rolls-Royce-like cubby armrest in between. It’s spacious enough in the back and there’s little sense of compromise from having one of the two hydrogen fuel tanks positioned in a bulkhead behind you (the other is beneath the wide-but-short 361-litre boot; such capaciousness is itself an achievement – remember early hybrid Lexus?).

2015 Toyota Mirai: running costs

Toyota Mirai 2015

The small matter of that £66,000 list price is quickly overcome by Toyota’s launch lease deal: own it for £750 a month which, for early adopters who’ll likely run it through the company, isn’t bad. Particularly as that includes fuel costs – yes, Toyota’s throwing in all the hydrogen you’ll use running a Mirai for free too.

There’s logic behind this: it makes logistics for the ultra-slim UK refuel network easier (the stations aren’t manned, so owners are given a PIN to access the pumps). There’s also a notional £200 a month cap, although it’s unclear how much hydrogen actually costs so we’re sure there’s flexibility here.

Toyota Mirai 2015

But such a bold move, combined with Toyota’s 24/7 concierge service for all Mirai owners and a free app for monitoring the fuel cell car, should mean ownership costs aren’t punitive for early adopters. Toyota expects plentiful green car tax breaks too, including free parking to free Congestion Charge.

So you’ll pay a lump sum or a tidy sum per month to own a Mirai, but you certainly won’t fork out a fortune while running it. All the time, saving the planet in the process. Perfect.

2015 Toyota Mirai: verdict

Toyota Mirai 2015

There’s nothing incomprehensible about the Toyota Mirai, which is why it’s so brilliant. The world’s first commercially-available volume hydrogen fuel cell car is as welcoming as a Prius and does not demand you have the programming skills of Emmett Brown to drive.

It’s quite a nice drive too, focusing on refinement and well-being in a way more akin to a Lexus than a Toyota. There’s no shortage of performance or response and little sense of suffering for being an early adopter.

Toyota’s given it us, and it works. It’s expensive at the moment, but this will come down with volume, just as it did with the Prius (and look how successful that many-millions-seller is for the firm now…). The biggest thing to work on now is the refuelling infrastructure – and for that, it’s over to others.

Toyota has proven the hydrogen fuel cell car works. We like it, and are sure you will too. Now let’s sit back and watch how long it takes for the car of the future to be truly viable. What’s the betting it will come sooner than for electric cars?

2015 Toyota Mirai: specifications

Toyota Mirai 2015

Engine: 114kW hydrogen fuel cell stack

Price: £66,000 / £750 a month

Power: 152hp

Torque: 247lb ft

0-62mph: 9.6secs

Top speed: 111mph

Fuel economy: 0.76kg of hydrogen per 100km

Fuel tank capacity: 5kg of hydrogen

CO2 emissions: 0

From lawn mowers to the Civic Type R: we drive Honda’s model range

From lawn mowers to the Civic Type R: we drive Honda’s model range

From lawn mowers to the Civic Type R: we drive Honda’s model range

Can you remember 1965? It was the year the Beatles performed the first stadium concert in the history of music, and Tom and Jerry made their debut. Cigarette advertising was banned on British TV, the Sound of Music premiered and Churchill was buried.

But it was also the year Honda first came to the UK – meaning it’s now celebrating 50 years of selling, er, things here.

Why ‘things’? Well, although you may think of Honda as being that company that makes the Jazz (your nan’s pride and joy, right?), it also makes record-breaking hot hatches, trusty all-terrain vehicles and even lawnmowers. So, for its 50th birthday party, Honda got together a load of its things and we went along to try them out.

Honda Civic Type R

Honda Civic Type R

We’ve already spent a lot of time in the new Civic Type R, but there’s nothing quite like a soaking-wet race track for showing off just how capable it is. With 310hp going through the front wheels, there is only so much its systems can do to prevent torque steer if you chuck it into a greasy corner with too much throttle. But lift off at that moment and enjoy the Type R’s adjustability. It’ll go properly sideways very easily, while depressing your right foot brings it nicely back into line and makes you feel like Gordon Shedden.

That’s until you have a passenger ride with Gordon Shedden. Which we did. The Scot, crowned British Touring Car Champion for the second time just a few weeks ago, manages to hold a conversation while teasing the Type R with the handbrake and showing just how far that adjustability extends when you’re one of the country’s handiest drivers.

Go karts

Go karts

You could say the Honda Civic Type R ‘handles like a go kart’, but we won’t. Not only because it’s a lazy cliche, but also because, on a wet track, you could say it handles better than a go kart.

Honda let us loose on a tight, twisty track in one of its karts – only it was very, very damp. With little more than four wheels, a seat and an engine, it’s very easy to find yourself understeering towards a tyre wall and wishing you had the Civic Type R’s clever electronics to make you look more skillful than you actually are.

Still, engage your brain and learn how to extract the best out of the karts (stamp on the brakes until the back end starts to swing around and then drift, yo) and you’ll have an awful lot of fun in them – if not achieve a particularly good lap time.

ATV

ATV

Honda offers free training with the sale of all its new all-terrain vehicles. You may scoff but if you’ve never ridden one before, it’s definitely worth it. Rik Mayall and Ozzie Osborne both diced with death following serious quad bike accidents – and they were both experienced riders.

But that’s enough of the scary stuff. Hammering around the off-road site at Silverstone (we stayed away from the circuit on the ATVs…), you can have an absolute blast at relatively low speeds. It takes a little bit of getting used to – the hand throttle, for example – and they don’t turn quite like a go kart. But for farmers and those who need to tackle tough terrain, there really is little else that comes close.

Lawn mower

Lawn mower

Honda holds the world record for the fastest ever lawn mower – bagged last year with its 109hp Mean Mower, capable of 130mph. That thing is nuts – created with input from Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, it boasts a high-carbon steel chassis and a 2.0-litre engine from a Honda VTR Firestorm.

We weren’t allowed to drive that at Silverstone (something about health and safety), but we did get a go on a more down-to-earth (common or garden?) mower. The only complication here is that the accelerator is operated using the left-hand pedal, with reverse on the right and a brake in the middle. Yup, we promptly reversed it into a fence.

Still, in keeping with a theme that’s starting to become clear, it’s amazing how much fun it’s possible to have in something many regard as little more than a tool. Seriously, if you’ve got an acre or two, invest in one of these.

Motorbike

Motorbike

And finally, Honda let us loose on a motorbike. We say ‘let us loose’, but a lack of motorbike licence meant we were restricted to a pillion ride. However, it still made for an exciting experience for someone who has never been on a bike before. It’s not as scary as you may expect – pootling through the countryside is pleasurable even at a gentle pace.

The Honda VFR1200F we ‘rode’ is powered by a 170hp V4 engine, combined with a dual-clutch transmission that provided almost-imperceptible gearchanges.

Ferrari 488 Spider review: 2015 first drive

Ferrari 488 Spider review: 2015 first drive

Ferrari 488 Spider review: 2015 first drive

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to drive the Ferrari 458 in anger, you’ll know what an unremittingly fine car it was. Fast beyond your dreams, it combined the aural signature of a Ferrari F1 car with engineering integrity that was unsurpassed.

Now it is being replaced by the 2016 Ferrari 488. You might, like me, think a replacement was unnecessary. But Ferrari never rests on its laurels and its six-year product cycle means a new model is called for.

While the 488 owes a little to its predecessor – the windscreen and folding roof mechanism in the Spider are unchanged – there are many major changes, including a stronger, stiffer chassis and a new power unit.

It’s that engine which will raise eyebrows. It has shrunk 600cc to 3.9 litres, but turbochargers lift the power by 100hp to 670hp, while giving small gains in CO2 emissions and economy, too. The issue is that turbos always have a dramatic impact on exhaust noise, critical for any Ferrari. But, as Ferrari made great pains to point out, it has that point more than covered.

The 488 is also the first production Ferrari, apart from the LaFerrari, to be designed entirely in-house. That means long-term collaborator Pininfarina was not involved, something I reckon I spotted before I asked the question. To my mind, the 488 does not have the elegance of the 458. But maybe that’s what Ferrari wanted.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the road

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the road

Two-hundred-plus mph and 0-62mph in three seconds dead. What more do you need to know? Well, the numbers only tell half the story. It’s not simply the extra power of the 488 engine. The torque that comes from turbocharging means vastly more pulling power right across the rev-range.

While the new rev limit is 8,000rpm, 1,000rpm down on the 458, the performance is a whole lot more accessible at sub-stratospheric engine speeds. As an example, with the manettino set in ‘race’ mode (entirely appropriate for road use if you know what you are doing) the rear tyres will shimmy and the back end step out at quite modest road speeds and throttle openings. The extra torque simply lets those tyres rip.

There is, naturally, a bank of electronics to keep the Ferrari 488 on the Tarmac, the stability system rapidly braking individual wheels to keep things pointing in the right direction. This time around, the systems are even more sophisticated – as they arguably need to be.

It’s very hard – some would say impossible – to build a turbocharged engine that has the throttle response of a naturally aspirated equivalent. And to make matters worse, Ferrari had set the bar very high with the previous 458 Spider. Yet the engineers reckon they have cracked the lag-free goal and there was only one condition where it wasn’t quite there. Driving fast into an uphill hairpin, on the beautiful roads around San Marino, and the switch from trailing throttle to full power brings on a momentary hesitation.

The reverse of this then happens as you carry on accelerating. Such is the sheer ferocity of the gain in speed, the warp speed at which everything happens, that the engine is bouncing off the rev limiter before you’ve had time to grab the next gear.

Sticking the paddle-shift transmission into auto lets the driver get on with the steering, accelerating and braking. Needless to say, the 488 handles these three aspects with alacrity, helped by some incredible work on the aerodynamics. As always, Ferrari avoids the deployable rear spoilers that others use.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the inside

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the inside

The joy of the Spider’s retractable hard-top is its simplicity. The two sections flip backwards into the area above the engine in just 14 seconds, at speeds of up to 25mph. The rear window powers down so there’s a proper fresh-air feel, and more of the deep bass from the engine. The noise is pretty dominant. There’s no ‘quiet’ button, though driving in the gentler manettino settings can be relatively relaxed.

The optional sports seats are incredibly grippy, but firm and unforgiving. Passengers may well ask why comfort has to suffer so much, although keen drivers will love them.

And it’s a nice interior, full of pleasing detail married to technical sophistication. There’s plenty of room, stowage space is reasonable there’s a decent trunk and additional space behind the seats for luggage. Apple Carplay is integrated into the infotainment system.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Running costs

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Running costs

The UK list price is £204,400 and you’ll surely want to add to that from the extensive options list. So it’s expensive, certainly, yet the Ferrari offering is not without merit. Incredibly, new Ferraris now come with a seven-year routine maintenance package included in the price. Yes, that’s no extra for the annual service, apart from wear and tear items. The warranty in the UK is also four years, rather than the three years offered elsewhere.

Residual values are invariably strong for Ferraris, especially as many of its dedicated sports cars, like this 488, will cover low mileages.

Most car manufacturers move to lower capacity turbo engines to maximise CO2 and mpg statistics, but Ferrari, naturally, focuses more on pumping up the horsepower. So the CO2 is down only a touch to 260g/100km, and the combined fuel economy figure is now 24.7mpg.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Verdict

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Verdict

This is such an emotional sports car. No matter how you skin it, how many rivals you put up against the 488 Spider, none them are Ferraris. That counts.

But there’s much more to it than this, for here you getting the very finest engineering money can buy. That’s a bold assertion, but it’s hard not conclude with the awe-inspiring attention to detail.

And then the 488 Spider is an utterly thrilling car to drive, stupendously fast in the right circumstances, but equally rewarding when the limits are more constrained. Personally I’d like the styling to be less brutal, and I prefer the sound of the old naturally aspirated 458. The majority, however, are likely just to lap it all up with a great smile on their face.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Specifications

Engine: 3.9-litre turbocharged V8

Price: £204,400

Power: 670hp

Torque: 561lb ft (760Nm)

0-62mph: 3.0 seconds

Top speed: 203mph (300km/h)

Fuel economy: 24.7mpg (11.4l/100km)

CO2 emissions: 260g/km

McLaren 570S (2015)

McLaren 570S review: 2015 first drive

McLaren 570S (2015)Six years ago, McLaren Automotive was created. Four years ago, it launched its first road car. Today, it’s made more than 6,000 cars, posted its second year of profits after launching more than a car a year, and is now gearing up for its biggest challenge yet: taking on the Porsche 911 with the new McLaren 570S.

Up to now, McLaren has been a supercar and hypercar manufacturer: the 570S (and slightly cheaper, more accessible 540C) is its first sports car. It will also go up against the Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan and Mercedes-AMG GT; it will very quickly become the best-selling McLaren ever.

The 540C costs £126,000 but, at least in Britain, most sold will be the £143,250 570S. Do those price points sound familiar? So they should; a Porsche 911 Turbo PDK is £121,523; the Turbo S PDK is £143,045. Audi R8? £134,500 in 610hp plus guise, £119,500 as a 540hp standard car.

McLaren 570S (2015)

Visually, the 570S is clearly a McLaren family car but less of a mini 650S than you might think from the images (not least because it’s actually bigger than a 650S, certainly in terms of length and height). The front is the most familiar aspect, albeit sharper and more incisive here; and it gets more different the further you go back.

The sides are slimmer, more sculpted, have more form than the big, blocky 650S supercar. The duct in the side is beautifully functional aero, feeding the radiators and directing air aring the rear ‘flying buttresses’; this cancels the lift generated by airflow from the roof. The concave rear window is a lovely touch and the dark-finish rear deck exposes the engine beneath active cooling grilles wonderfully.

The rear is how you’ll split a 570S from a 650S at 50 paces. Without the 650S’ rear Airbrake, it’s a lot slimmer, more taut and toned; the rear haunches are positively curvaceous and the forms are quite something (that’s why body panels are aluminium rather than carbon fibre – it’s the only way to get the surfaces so well-defined).

It’s a striking, exciting, unique car to look at, all the more so as it brings the F1-grade McLaren brand into its most accessible sector yet. Arguably McLaren Automotive’s most important car, the business case largely rests on getting the 570S right. So, is it?

2015 McLaren 570S: on the road

McLaren 570S (2015)

The McLaren shares an engine, key chassis components and architectural elements with the 650S, but not its character. This is key: McLaren hasn’t just made a cheaper supercar, but a sports car with its own distinct feel. They really are more different than you’d ever first suspect.

The 650S has a rear Airbrake that pumps up the downforce for hard cornering; the 570S does not. The 650S has ProActive Chassis Control adaptive anti-roll; the 570S does not (but it retains the adaptive dampers). The 650S has ultra-wide tyres on the rear; the 570S caps them to 285/35-section 20-inch Pirelli rubber. See the approach? Basically, where the 650S is rock-solid and planted, the 570S is playful and slidey.

Feel through the controls is sublime. Steering is immediate, palmy and direct, covering your hands in feedback: needless to say, it’s perfectly, uncommonly well weighted. The firm carbon-ceramic brakes complement it – the pedal’s actually a bit weightier than you’d find in a Porsche, but the depth of pin-perfect accuracy means it’s no issue once you’re used to it.

Because it’s a sports series car rather than a super series, McLaren’s engineered a light and agile front end with truly whip-crack response and turn-in (that panoramic visibility helps here). Confident agility, precision-placement and all that feedback makes it an absolute delight to thread through twisting roads: a mid-engined layout and lack of heft means it’s wieldier than an Audi R8, more alive than a 911 Turbo.

And it’s up for hooning. Rear-end grip is sports car level but not another-level high: you can get the back end out if you dial back the traction systems (McLaren actually engineers them to let you do this while still retaining a safety net) and you soon find drifting out of corners is the most natural thing in the world. Honest. It won’t bite. It’s enormous fun.

McLaren 570S (2015)

Ride quality is barely affected by the switch from active anti-roll to regular anti-roll bars. Compliance and body control are world class and the way it breathes with racecar-like quality of damping over rough roads is superb. And just as the ride dampens away wobbles you don’t want to feel, so too does the ultra-rigid steering, which remains shimmer-free even over the most hideous mid-corner bumps.

McLaren’s changed 30% of the engine compared to the 650S including, significantly, the exhaust manifold. It’s now equal-length and sounds divine – different and more melodious to its supercar sibling. What hasn’t changed is the speed. Boy, it’s fast. 3.2 seconds to 62mph proves it’s fast; it’s the effortlessness and effervescence of this speed that’s so compelling though.

Twin-turbos spool up without delay and deliver humungous torque: the mid-range surge is all you need. Then you find a straight and let it redline – the most wild howl combines with ridiculous performance at this price point. But, crucially, whereas the Porsche 911 Turbo gathers pace without you noticing, you’re with the 570S every step of the way, fully involved in its potency. It’s a wonderful feeling.

There’s more, from the intensity of the punch you want from the seamless-shift gearchange, to the fact all the 570S’ delicious clarity of feel is yours even when you’re not driving on the absolute limit (not something every sports car can claim). Really though, it’s the enthusiastic enjoyment you get from driving it that really sets it apart. McLaren, straight-laced and clinical? The wonderful 570S disproves that absolutely.

2015 McLaren 570S: on the inside

McLaren 570S (2015)

You can tell McLaren Automotive is still a young car company, because the detail improvements within the 570S compared to the 650S are clear. Take the door panels: flat and plain on the 650S, wonderfully detailed and shaped on the 570S. McLaren’s even integrated door bins big enough to swallow water bottles. It’s also worked out how to integrate a glovebox and – shock – installed vanity mirrors for the first time (but not vanity mirror lights: “That would be going too far.”)

McLaren has retained its trademark dihedral (“scissor”) doors for the 570S, engineering them so they take up less space in compact car parks: bosses say you need less space to get in than for a Ferrari 458 or Porsche 911 – and “it’s easier and more elegant to step into a 570S”.

Helping this is a reengineered carbon fibre MonoCell II with a lower, slimmer sill, making the 570S almost a step-in sportscar. The incredibly reassuring sense of sitting within a strong, secure safety cell remains though, just one that’s less compromised, more spacious and better laid out than you’d expect for a non-Porsche supercar.

Visibility is fantastic – panoramic, uncorrupted. The windscreen is wide, super-deep (actually, deeper than it is wide) so you can almost see the apex you want to hit as you hit it; the front wing peaks, visible from the driver’s seat, correspond to the centreline of the tyres, so you can use them as guides. Side windows are deep, McLaren’s moved the door mirror back so it’s out the way, and even rear visibility is aided by the big, concave screen and slim pillars. It all really gives you confidence to drive more quickly.

McLaren 570S (2015)

The cabin design is an evolution of that in the 650S, sharing many of the details such as the portrait-mounted IRIS infotainment screen, beautiful column stalks and snazzy switchgear. It’s slimmed down though, most obviously through the floating centre console that opens up space for extra cupholders and stowage slots.

Indeed, McLaren’s really sweated practicality, claiming class-leading storage space from a central arm rest cubby to ingenious pockets and boxes dotted throughout the cabin. The area behind the front seats is carpeted and spacious, while the 144-litre front luggage bay is deep and wide. It’s one-action open and close too; there’s no fiddly latch to undo like on a Porsche 911.

It exudes modern hand-crafted quality. McLaren knows how to build an impeccably-finished car and the 570S has all the clean-room F1-like finish of other models, despite its higher volumes (after all, it is built on exactly the same line). It’s a high-tech, contemporary luxury that’s unique at this price point and is a cut above Porsche and Aston Martin.

2015 McLaren 570S: running costs

McLaren 570S (2015)

McLaren is quoting remarkable retained values for the 570S, showing how desirable it is. After 3 years and 36,000 miles, the 570S will retain 63% of its list price. The next-best Audi R8 V10? 49.3% – nearly 14% less! The Porsche 911 Turbo S will retain 47%, 16% less than the McLaren. As they’re almost the same price, that’s a big monetary difference.

So it proves: on a PCP finance scheme, your 570S will be worth £90,248 at the end of the 3-year term. The 911 will be worth £67,165. More than £23,000 less. And this is why you can buy a McLaren 570S for £995 a month on finance, rather than £1,533 for a Porsche 911 Turbo S and £1,863 for the Audi R8 V10.

Running costs complement such low (well, by supercar standards) ownership costs. Emissions of 249g/km CO2 are intentional; this dips it beneath the 250g/km US Gas Guzzler tax. For a 570hp car, it’s a relative fuel-sipper, averaging 26.6mpg. Helping this is engine stop-start, fitted to a McLaren for the first time ever; it even has its own button.

McLaren 570S (2015)

Servicing is every 10,000 miles or one year – but the Mobil 1 oil McLaren uses is so advanced, the firm will offer to extend the oil change to two years if you don’t cover 10,000 miles and the visual service check is all OK. Overall maintenance costs are lower than for any McLaren: the firm reckons they’re now half what the servicing costs for the MP4-12C was at launch in 2011.

Aluminium bodywork is easier and more cost-effective to repair than carbon fibre, so this will have a big effect on accident repair work; it should also mean insurance costs are not quite as supercar-exotic as for previous McLarens. Overall, it’ll still be a bit more expensive to run than a Porsche, admits McLaren, but the gap should be manageable for most owners – with retained values more than making up for it.

2015 McLaren 570S: verdict

McLaren 570S (2015)

The McLaren 570S is unquestionably a five-star car, without doubt a new sports car great. Just like the Audi R8 at launch, it’s a new take on the super sports car, one that’s thoroughly McLaren and, because of the supercar richness it delivers for £140k, will have Porsche holding special engineering meetings to dissect it.

It drives wonderfully well and is heroically fast, but it’s the additional usability that will make the 570S. It takes McLaren from being unobtainable to being the cool sports car you may well now see on the street. And what pleasures its lucky owners have in store.

We wondered if it would be too 650S to find its feet in McLaren’s range. We needn’t have feared. The 570S is a delicious new addition to the sports car ranks that everyone considering an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911 must check out. That’s how compellingly complete it is.

2015 McLaren 570S: specifications

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol

Price: £143,250

Power: 570hp

Torque: 443

0-62mph: 3.2secs

Top speed: 204mph

Fuel economy: 26.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 249g/km

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI (2015) road test review

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Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what is it?

The Citigo is essentially a Volkswagen Up with a Skoda badge, which is also available as the SEAT Mii. It’s available in both three- and five-door body styles and a range of different trims. Although it’s been on sale a while, we wanted to get reacquainted with the little Citigo and spent a week with a top-spec Elegance five-door with the higher powered 75hp 1.0-litre engine.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what are its rivals?

The Volkswagen Up fancies itself as a more premium alternative to the Citigo, while SEAT is chasing the female market with the Mii by Mango. Which kind of leaves Skoda owning the value for money territory, which is something the brand does very well. Not convinced by the UpMiiCitigo trio, then you could consider the 108C1Aygo trio, along with Ford’s Ka and Fiat’s Panda or 500.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: which engines does it use?

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The Skoda Citigo is powered by a single 1.0-litre turbocharged unit, with two power outputs: 60hp and 75hp. The latter of these manages to propel the Citigo along at a rather brisk rate, seemingly much faster than the 0-62mph time of 13.9 seconds would suggest. As you’d expect, it runs out of breath at motorway speeds, but once cruising it’s surprisingly good at covering long distances. There is, however, one issue…

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what’s it like to drive?

Our test car was fitted with the semi-automatic transmission, which must be one of the most disappointing systems on the market. It single-handedly manages to wipe off any sense of enjoyment, with lethargic gear changes and an inability to select the right cog for any given situation. It certainly won’t be hurried, but even a smooth and relaxed driving style doesn’t improve matters. It’s a shame, because aside from this, the Citigo is great fun to drive.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: fuel economy and running costs

On paper, the 75hp Citigo automatic could deliver up to 62.8mpg on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 105g/km. Opt for the Green Tech models, available on SE and Elegance trim levels, and the 60hp version offers 68.9mpg and 95g/km respectively. It achieves this through a stop-start system, along with a brake energy recovery system, lowered suspension and energy-efficient tyres.

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Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: is it practical?

For such a small car, the Citigo is surprisingly practical. There’s enough room inside for four adults to be seated in comfort, while even the tallest of occupants will find plenty of head-room. There are also multiple storage bins throughout the cabin, plus a useful 251 litres of boot space, although access is hampered by the high boot lip. Overall it’s a clever use of space, with neat touches, such as a slot for your phone in the cup holder, a clip on the windscreen for parking tickets and pockets on the side of the front seats.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what about safety?

The Skoda Citigo has been awarded the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and includes four airbags and a tyre pressure monitor. You can also opt for parking sensors which, despite the car’s tiny dimensions, may come in handy in tight spaces. For £275, you can order the Safety Pack, which includes a passenger airbag switch-off function and City-safe automatic braking.

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Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: which version should I go for?

You almost certainly won’t want to opt for the semi-automatic transmission, as the five-speed manual is a better option. If you intend to spend as much time out of the city as you do in it, we’d recommend the 75hp version, as this offers better long-distance potential. Elegance trim starts at £10,000, with our car weighing in at £11,810 with some well-chosen options. Not cheap, but the feel good factor is high. That said, the PID (Personal Infotainment Device), which is standard on Elegance models, does feel a bit dated. Bluetooth, sat nav and a media player are welcome, but we’d expect to seem them integrated in the dash. It’s the one area where the Citigo shows its age. It still manages to sit head and shoulders above its rivals.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: should I buy one?

Almost certainly. Taking the transmission out of the equation, the Skoda Citigo is fun to drive, eager, spacious, well-equipped and safe. Gone are the days when a small car felt unsafe and you’d only venture beyond the city limits on special occasions. Skoda always performs well in satisfaction and reliability surveys, so your time spent with the Citigo should be stress-free. Have some fun with the options list and regardless of what you spend, you won’t feel short-changed.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: pub fact

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The Citigo is the first Skoda to be offered with three or five doors. We also reckon it features one of the smallest and nicest rev counters since the Citroen AX GT. What a shame it’s so redundant when mated to the semi-automatic transmission. Did we mention how much we dislike this system?

Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: 2015 first drive

Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: 2015 first drive

Are you quick to dismiss electric cars due to their limited range? The Nissan Leaf can now go further on one charge and could be good enough to catapult electric cars into the mainstream.

Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: 2015 first drive

Definition of range anxiety [noun] informal: “Worry on the part of a person driving an electric car that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached: range anxiety is often cited as the most important reason why many are reluctant to buy electric cars.

The Oxford English Dictionary has unintentionally hit the nail on the head. Ask anyone why they wouldn’t buy an electric car and they’ll make mutterings about their limited range, limited charging points, and the worry about being left stranded.

So Nissan’s bods have been working very hard to work out how they can extract a longer range from its electric Leaf. The result is a 30kWh battery and a claimed range of 155 miles. It’s a simple upgrade for 2016: exactly £0 has been spent making the Leaf look more attractive (unless you count a snazzy new bronze colour and a new aerial), it’s all about making the Leaf go further on a single charge. Oh, and the addition of the latest NissanConnect EV infotainment system.

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: On the road

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: On the road

If you’ve never driven an electric car before, the Nissan Leaf is likely to be a very pleasant surprise. Particularly if most of your driving is done in urban areas. It’s such a relaxing experience – with none of the noise you associate with the typical combustion engine. A small amount of road noise does transfer into the cabin, but that’s unavoidable and largely well disguised.

The heavy batteries make for a slightly harsh ride (the 30kWh Leaf is 21kg heavier than the standard 24kWh version) – but considerably better than the Leaf of a few years ago. And, positioned below the floor, they create a low centre of gravity which translates into controlled (if not particularly exciting) handling.

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: On the road

We drove the revised Nissan Leaf on the Col de Turini – one of Europe’s best roads, with 34 hairpin bends and steep slopes. There’s no denying that the Leaf is slightly out of its depth if you try to make progress, but its instant torque delivery and near-silent operation makes for a relaxing experience if you’re not in a hurry.

It’s equally relaxing on the motorway, but the motor does start to feel a bit strained if you attempt to zip along like you would in a typical Focus-sized turbodiesel. Bimble at 60mph, though, and there’s nothing more than a bit of wind noise and the declining range to trouble you.

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: On the inside

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: On the inside

On first impressions, you may be surprised by how spacious the Leaf is. It’s almost like a people carrier in its headroom, and rear legroom is equally impressive. The light, airy feel makes for a pleasant environment as you bimble around in silence.

But don’t expect it to be premium. Despite a price tag starting at £24,490 for the 30kWh version, Nissan has unashamedly spent the money on the Leaf’s technology – not in chasing premium aspirations. There are a few more buttons on the dash than we’d like, and some are weirdly positioned. The foot-operated handbrake feels archaic and takes some getting used to (but you will) and the seats are little more than adequate.

One thing that does grate is the inability to adjust the steering wheel for reach. This makes it difficult to get a comfortable driving position – you end up sitting both slightly higher and slightly closer to the pedals than you’d really like. It’s something you’ll probably get used to, but do take a test drive before committing.

The infotainment system – now with features such as DAB radio as standard, is easy to use. Nissan claims its been influenced by a smart phone – pinch the touchscreen to zoom in the sat-nav display, for example. Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s intuitive and works well.

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: Running costs

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: Running costs

In terms of cash saved at the petrol pump, the Leaf offers 100% savings. But many will be concerned about how much the Leaf will cost in other ways – how reliable will the battery be, for example, and how much does it cost to charge up?

Most owners will charge their Leaf overnight at home. This takes about four hours to charge up to 100% – and should only cost a couple of quid, depending on your electricity provider.

With a realistic range of, say, 120 miles, that will be plenty for driving to work and back for most of us. But what if you’re wanting to travel further afield?

There are more than 9,000 public electric car charging points across the UK – many of which are free to use, and all of which will cost pittance compared to filling up with a tank of unleaded. Around 500 of these are fast chargers, which will charge your Leaf up to 80% in just 30 minutes. Stopping for a half an hour coffee break on a longer journey seems a small price to pay for not having to have your wallet drained at a petrol station.

However, it’s a fact that batteries lose life over time. Anyone who’s had a shiny new iPhone will testify for its impressive battery life, but a year or two into its life and it holds it charge considerably less. Many buyers will be worried that the Leaf’s range will diminish rapidly a few years’ into its life, and could result in a costly battery change. But Nissan provides a eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty for its battery. That doesn’t mean that it’ll be as good as new after eight years – Nissan says it’ll still have 75% of its capacity after that time.

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: Verdict

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: Verdict

A Nissan marketing expert told us that they’d seen a soaring rise in the amount of interest in the Leaf in recent weeks – from Google searches to test drive requests. There’s been a building resentment towards diesel vehicles over the last year or two and, Nissan would hope, Dieselgate might be the tipping point that results in electric vehicles finally being taken seriously.

As an introduction to electric cars, the Nissan Leaf is an excellent choice. It’s the UK’s favourite electric vehicle and the new 30kWh version fully deserves to strengthen its sales. The increased range will make it more appealing to more people. In real life conditions, it’ll be closer to 120 miles. This doesn’t sound a lot compared to a petrol or diesel-powered car, but when was the last time you drove for more than 120 miles without stopping? Sure, some of us will, but most of us do much shorter journeys.

It’s refreshing that Nissan is continuing to develop the Leaf’s tech with little chintz. There’s no superficial facelift – it’s not really needed, in our eyes – just increased range. Which is exactly what prospective customers want.

Is the Nissan Leaf likely to get a longer range in the future? Not in the foreseeable, say the experts from Nissan. They’ve packed as much capacity into the battery as possible, and the Leaf just isn’t able to accommodate a bigger unit. But who knows what another few years of innovation will bring?

2015 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review: Specifications

Price: £24,490 (including £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant)

Power: 109hp

Torque: 187lb ft

0-62mph: 11.5 seconds

Top speed: 87mph

Fuel economy: n/a

CO2 emissions: 0g/km