Llewellyn Plugs In: The Teenager Test

Over the years, many middle-aged men with dubious haircuts and worrying politics have reviewed cars. They are often very knowledgeable, always highly opinionated and sometimes even entertaining.

By Robert Llewellyn on April 21, 2011 3:19 PM

However, I’m never that bothered about what they say, I suppose because although I quite enjoy driving I’ve never believed that cars say something about you. If I see a middle-aged man in low-slung jeans and a T-shirt with a rock band’s logo on it, I admit I start to judge him. I make assumptions. I create an instant picture of his life. But if I saw the same man get in a car and drive away, I doubt I’d remember what the car was.

I’ve noticed my teenage children aren’t the same. When I had a Tesla Roadster for a week, that was ‘cool’. When we had a Mitsubishi i-MiEV for a year, my wife and I loved it, the children thought it was ‘tragic’, ‘lame’ and ‘drop me off here, I don’t want anyone to see me in this thing.’

The other morning a Nissan LEAF was delivered to our house. I have it on an extended loan from Nissan and I’m very chuffed to be in such an exalted position.

My daughter was present when it arrived; as soon as she saw it, she said, “Don’t like the colour.”

It’s a hard sell. I drove her to pick up my Mrs from her yoga class. Yes, we’re that middle class.

On climbing in my daughter continued, “New-car smell… don’t like a new-car smell.” I remember that when my dad got a new Vauxhall Victor, I loved the new-car smell. Hey ho. Kids today.

“Nice satnav,” she said as we glided along. She is so used to electric cars now that she didn’t ask any questions about battery life, range anxiety or torque. I told her to turn on her Bluetooth. She fiddled with her phone and within moments Taylor Swift was blasting out of the stereo (my daughter is 14).

“That is boom ting,” she admitted, which apparently is a good thing.

I quite like Taylor Swift too, so we sang along as we drove at a steady 57 miles an hour, using the cruise control. I glanced at the remaining range every now and then. This is based on your average driving style and as the car had been driven by many heavy-footed motoring journalists before I got it, when I set out the range said 57 miles. After driving 15 miles it said 71 miles.

The onboard computer works out how far the car will go based on the current driving style: the gentler you drive it, the further you can go. Obvious really, but quite confusing to see the range increase as you travel further.

The Mrs was very excited to see the LEAF and said, “I love the colour.” She has been an incredible sales rep for electric cars. She isn’t in the least bit interested in how they work; all she knows is that they are much cheaper to drive than old-fashioned cars. Our use of electric vehicles has had a very big impact on our local community, mainly because of her. She got in the driver’s seat and said, “This is where I belong, behind the wheel of an electric car.”

The final teenage test will come from my son. A darkly cynical but very funny 17-year-old, he’s usually busy skateboarding with his friends (I didn’t say ‘posse’, I said ‘friends’, OK). If he thinks this car is even mildly less ‘tragic’ than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV then Nissan are onto a winner.

So far the Nissan LEAF has been a big success. It’s a roomy, quiet, well-equipped, five-door hatchback. The visibility is excellent, the very low centre of gravity is noticeable on corners and it’s a nippy little thing if you push it.

I’m doing some longer trips in the coming few days, complete with zero-carbon recharges, but more on that soon.

I will endeavour to keep accurate records of the range, the cost of re-charging and the time I wait to recharge when I’m not at home. I’m going to keep notes like a proper automotive journalist. I’m even thinking of investing in driving gloves and comfortable grey shoes. OK, maybe not the gloves and shoes.

REVIEW: Want to know what we thought of the Nissan LEAF, voted 2011 World Car of the Year? Click here