What's the best EV for secondhand buyers? | Top Gear
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What's the best EV for secondhand buyers?

The MkI Nissan Leaf is not so much the best cheap EV for secondhand buyers as the only one...

Published: 17 Aug 2022

That bit when a new technology first comes out is the easiest part for today’s tech company. There are people, you see, who will buy anything that’s new. They don’t even care too much whether it works or not, they just want people to see them holding it.

These people are called ‘early adopters’, and they are the people who made the Nissan Leaf electric hatchback a success back when it was launched way back in 2011. 

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These days we’re in now are actually the trickiest stage – not because of the myriad supply chain issues, export difficulties, global staff shortages due to illness or high levels of inflation caused by the conflict in eastern Europe, but rather because the early adopters have all bought their cars and the electric vehicle now needs to make the transition to the mainstream.

Will buyers who don’t really care about being seen in the latest technology also want to drive EVs, or will it be too troublesome for them? 

It’s an interesting issue, and one which is getting played out in sharp relief on the second hand car market. Used buyers don’t get financial incentives, company car deals or myriad tax breaks to run their electric car, they just get to wander up and down the lines of cars at their local used emporium and decide which one they fancy.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world, only the dogs don’t want to spend too much money. Which is difficult, because there are hardly any electric cars available on the secondhand market and the good value ones are all Nissan Leafs. 

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The Leaf looked ridiculous, was clunky inside, and had an outrageously tiny 24kWh battery that made for an outrageously tiny range of 109 miles on the notoriously forgiving NEDC cycle. You’d get 90 miles out of it if you were lucky, and much less in the depths of a relentlessly dreary British winter. 

There’s a strong case to be made for the car if you needed something to make the dash down to your garden office, post a letter up the street or store shoes in. It’s eminently recommendable for the driver who has a driveway and only makes journeys within walking distance. 

Sadly for anyone with more strenuous requirements than this the Leaf has a somewhat weaker case to make in its own favour. Secondhand buyers are being held hostage by the many and varied problems that have faced the new car market in the last three or four years – Brexit, COVID-19, semiconductors, economic woes, they’ve all conspired to depress new car sales to record lows.

So there are fewer new cars passing through to secondhand buyers. And in times of economic stress people hold on to their cars for longer, further reducing supply. All of which pushes up the prices of what is on the market up ever higher. What a nightmare, unless you're a used car salesman raking it in.

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We know that there are some great EVs available new, but it’ll take some time for them to trickle down through the market. Which gives you two options as a secondhand buyer – the first-ten Nissan Leaf, or that petrol convertible you’d much rather drive instead. 

Best EV for secondhand buyers – Nissan Leaf
Range: 109 miles
Engine: 107bhp e-motor
Battery: 28kWh
Top speed: 89mph
0–62mph: 11.1secs
Boot space: 370 litres 
Real-world range: The shops

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