Category Archives: Reviews

2012 Nissan Leaf Review

The world’s first mass-produced fully electric family car is now ready for sale at £25,990, which includes a £5,000 government incentive.

My first impressions when I saw the Leaf was a slightly longer wheel based version of a Micra to increase the length to house the centrally placed batteries, this is not the case as the car is designed from scratch to be a fully electric car with a range of around 100 miles.

Also the fact that I could stop off at any of the Rapid Charge stations and get a charge from 0% all the way to 80% in 30 minutes this almost convinced me of the viability of the solution.

At least with the Leaf you buy the car with the battery not like the Renault Twizy where you rent the batteries at a whopping £45 a month .

The only specification you really choose from is the colour of your Leaf, the only other option is a £250 solar powered charger on the boot lid which charges the instrumentation devices and the Sound System. The cabin is large and fresh, with leg and headroom for all 5 averagely sized passengers , and a large boot.

When you push the throttle the 551lb, 24kWh lithium-ion battery pulses its current into the 80kW AC brushless electric motor with a rated output of 107bhp, which drives the front wheels to an expected 0-60 time of 12 seconds this sounds slow but the 0-50 in around 7 seconds which is acceptable at the traffic lights and junctions.

The electronics which control the drive motor sits under the hood right where you would expect to find an engine and it looks rather like a combustion engine under the hood albeit the high power warning labels.

So what is it like to drive, it is agile, rides very well, and has reasonably direct steering with the usual lack of feel suffered by most Japanese road cars.

I went throwing it in to tight turns and the chassis control is impressive, handling most corners on par with many petrol/diesel powered alternatives.

Missing was the sound of the engine and this point made me realise I could hear the most discrete whisper from my children sat in the back as well as getting out of the car twice and forgetting to turn the engine off due to it having no noise to prompt me it was still running and being keyless start facility.

Now how about range well I was driving exceptionaly well and economically and this was backed up by the “ECO Tree” which was awarding me three tree’s, I managed to get 53.8 miles with another 26 miles to go which is slightly more than 20 miles less than the declared range.

This is probably explained by the 2 stretches of road where i was going 50-60mph where you can visibly see the power being consumed, so the range is only really good for round town start and stop journeys where you dont exceed 40mph.

This is where the infrastructure of “is Lancashire ready for electric power” is up for question, Well in my area it is a waste of time owning such a vehicle at the moment as there is no access to the charging point in preston 24/7 as it is only open in office hours, which is unfortunately not advertised on the inbuilt GPS “charging Locations”, which left me in some disarray where to charge my car so I utilised the GPS directory which pointed me in the direction of Sainsburys in Westhoughton on arrival I was informed that they had lost the key to the charging point making it also inaccessable

This is where the great people at Nissan Emergency Call Centre sent out an oil burning recovery truck to rescue the electric car.

If you have got good access to charging points and you live in London this car is probably a must have as it is exempt to the congestion charge and can benefit from some 100% free charging points which are dotted around the country.

Verdict: Battery motoring was never easier and now does not come with a career of being a milkman, but the limited range and poor recharging infrastructure means a frustrating time for early adopters.

Pistonspy Says:- Out of 5
If the charging infrastructure was widely rolled out this would likely rise to Score 3.

Brought to you by: Autoblog Canada

Driven – Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nurburgring Edition

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nurburgring Edition. 34 letters. 5 words. Quite the mouthful. PistonSpy were recently invited up to Vauxhall’s Head Office in Luton to drive this car, and we jumped at the chance. It’s a car we previously snapped pictures of  testing back in 2010 – here. This is what we thought of it.

The Nurburgring Edition certainly looks the part. I thought it might look a little ‘after market’, but in the metal it actually looks great – really mean and purposeful. The squat stance is 20mm lower at the front and 15mm lower at the back than before and the 18” lightweight forged aluminum wheels really fill out the flared arches. To mark this model out as the Nurburgring Edition, there are Nurburgring logos on the B-pillars and door sills. At the back of the car, there are two massive (and real!), stainless steel exhaust pipes. You can buy the car in two new colours, Red Henna, and the colour I drove, Apple Green Grasshopper. This isn’t a subtle car, so if I was buying one, I’d definitely have the stand out green paint to match.

Inside, the car is a nice enough place to be. The great looking leather Recaro seats are undoubtedly the highlight. They are comfortable, and provide loads of lateral support. They also have the Nurburgring logo embossed on the headrest, which is a lovely, high end touch. The piano black plastic inserts on the wheel and across the dash however, look and feel a little cheap, which is a shame on a car of this price. Worst though, is the gear stick. It’s far too big, a very unusual shape, with an enormous trigger style button to open the gate to reverse. The gear changes themselves are also a letdown. It feels more luck than judgement when changing gear quickly.

But what is it like to drive? In short; brilliant. The turbo charged 1.6 litre engine develops 202bhp and 250NM of torque. This gets the car to 60mph in 6.5 seconds. That 0-60 time will certainly prove useful at your next Formula Traffic-Lights event, but this isn’t where the car really excels. This car’s real party piece is tearing down good old fashioned British B-roads.

On B-roads, the car was outstanding. Vauxhall commissioned German suspension gurus Bilstein to develop a bespoke spring and damper set-up, specifically for the Nurburgring Edition Corsa. Over the bumps and wobbles of the country roads around Luton, this Bilstein set-up meant I always felt in total control of the car. It gave a feeling of supreme confidence, allowing me to exploit that 202bhp engine to its fullest.

The most impressive upgrade on the Nurburgring Edition is the limited slip differential. It’s a proper mechanical, multi-plate system built by Drexler and has transformed the car. Throw the little Corsa into a corner, any corner, and apply a boot-full of power – rather than wildly spinning its wheels and just washing out wide, the limited slip diff actually tightens up your line, and pulls you towards the apex. The car is an absolute riot to drive.

Does it deserve that Nurburgring name? I think so. In fact I would absolutely love to drive this car on the Nurburgring. The car has such a sweet setup which really inspired confidence. The car loves corners, which the Nurburgring certainly has plenty of! Power-wise, I think the 202bhp engine is about perfect for a front-wheel-drive hot hatch at the ‘Ring. It’s powerful enough to have lots of fun, and thanks to that limited slip diff, feels totally useable all the time. Equally though, it’s not so powerful that it’s going to be getting you into serious trouble. A great balance.

Vauxhall are only bringing 250 a year to the UK. Each are individually numbered and prices start at £22,295. That’s a serious amount of money for a Corsa. There’s no doubt it’s a brilliant car, but you could get a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup for £17,135 and save over £5,000. Or, if you’re really into Nurburgringy-ness, you could save up a few more pounds, and buy the current record holder for fastest FWD car, the RenaultSport Megane 265 Cup, for £24,840. You get a lot more car for the extra £2,500. Physically the Megane is a bigger car, but it’s also 30 seconds per lap quicker at the ‘Ring.

Neither the Clio or Megane look or stand out quite like the Corsa though. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, well, that’s totally up to you.

Pistonspy Says:- Out of 5