2015 Nissan Leaf. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Michael Bettencourt
Some cars, like people real and fictional, have natural archenemies. Camaro versus Mustang. Superman versus Lex Luthor. Civic versus Corolla. Lamborghini anything versus Ferrari. And in the past four years, Leaf versus Volt.
The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are the cars that ushered in the mainstream plug-in revolution – that is, if less than a single percent of new vehicle sales qualifies as a revolution. Nissan’s all-electric Leaf may be the best-selling plug-in car in the world, but it has been a neck-and-neck race in North America between the two since they were introduced in 2010 (2011 in Canada). So far this year, the Leaf has been leading the Volt in U.S. sales all year long – but that’s never been the case in Canada. Here, no other plug-in currently comes close to matching the sales of the four-seat Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range plug-in hybrid that makes the minuscule battery in the plug-in version of the Toyota Prius whimper in fear.
Even Tesla’s sexy but pricey 80 to 130-ish grand Model S EV managed to sell more vehicles in Canada last year than the Leaf, thanks to the limited supply of Leafs between the changeover from Japan-based ’12 and prior models, to ’13 and above Tennessee-sourced Leafs that somehow stretched into 2014. With those production issues seemingly smoothed over, the 2015 model year Leafs will now have the supply that Nissan hopes will allow the pure battery-electric hatchback to take an increasingly larger bite out of the Volt’s plug-in sales lead.
Going electric becoming more mainstream, Nissan hopes
Our family actually dived into the plug-in future with a Leaf purchase of our own back in late 2011, and we’ve been fairly happy with the car. For what was to become her commuter car, my wife made two things very clear: she didn’t want to be stranded at the side of the road with a dead battery, and she didn’t want to be cold driving it.
2015 Nissan Leaf driver’s seat & centre stack. Click image to enlarge
Thankfully for me, neither of those have come to pass, though we have had a few close calls with the range. It is true that there is less of the Leaf’s 135 km real-world range in the wintertime, especially if you blast the heater instead of using just the heated seats and available heated steering wheel. But it’s easy to just use the heated accessories inside, since the Leaf offers a climate control timer that can warm the car nicely using grid power in the morning – so when she climbs into the car at her regular time it’s nice and toasty. If you’re not plugged in anywhere, there’s an app that can turn on the heat or air conditioning from your Apple, Android, and newer Blackberry Z10 and Z30 smartphones, plus tell you how much juice is left in your battery – and unlike gas-wasting remote starters, you can be far from the car and know for sure that it’s working.