Electric cars are starting to have their moment. The Tesla Model 3 has begun deliveries, and its main rival, the Chevy Bolt, has been on the market since last October. The vehicles have base prices of $35,000 and about $37,000, respectively, but at the moment Tesla is only manufacturing a $44,000 Premium version.
Both cars are total newbies when compared to the Nissan Leaf, introduced in 2010 and the best-selling electric car of all time (300,000!). The Leaf originally had a range of under 100 miles on a single charge, but its base price was just $30,000 before federal tax credits, and it has gathered a bit of a cult following.
However, the design was never held in high esteem and with newer, longer-range EVs coming to market, Nissan had to update the Leaf. The car has been revamped for the 2018 model year, with 150 miles of range and improved styling (less Star Trek shuttlecraft, more contemporary five-door hatchback).
- Timothy Artman/Tesla
Like the Bolt, the Leaf aims for practicality over sex appeal. The Model 3, on the other hand, is a snazzy looking set of wheels. That said, the new Leaf was clearly influenced by Tesla’s example. A decade ago, the idea was that hybrids and EVs should advertise their virtues with a sort of anti-design (see the Toyota Prius). The Leaf was very much in that vein.
Tesla reversed that paradigm. Which was not as difficult for Elon Musk’s carmaker because Tesla went after the luxury market first, whereas Nissan aimed for a slice of the mass market that wanted to experiment with EVs.
That doesn’t mean we can’t make some aesthetic comparisons. How does sensible – and seasoned – stack up against sexy and futuristic?
Here’s an annotated take: