Will it get a more powerful electric motor?

Introduced in 2010, the Nissan Leaf set many benchmarks in the electric car market and has become one of the most popular EVs out there. But, after seven years on the market, the Leaf got a bit long in the tooth, and with other companies having introduced more modern EVs in this niche, Nissan had no choice but to develop a second-generation model. Unveiled for the 2018 model year, the new Leaf is better in just about any department, but it’s still not as powerful and efficient as the recently unveiled Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3. This could change in 2018 when Nissan is reportedly planning to launch a Nismo version of its electric hatchback.

Although Nissan has yet to confirm that a Leaf Nismo is underway, the concept unveiled at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show pretty much confirms that the Japanese firm is working on one. What’s more, the brand already announced that a "higher power, longer range version at a higher price" variant of the Leaf is in the works for the 2019 model year. Specs are still a mystery at this point, but the Nismo concept provides a few valuable hints as to what we may get in dealerships soon. Find out what we already know about the upcoming Nismo Leaf in the speculative review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Nissan Leaf Nismo.

Previous Leaf Nismo Creations

2011 Nissan LEAF NISMO RC Exterior
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Although it has yet to launch a production Leaf Nismo as of 2017, Nissan has been toying with the idea since 2010

Although it has yet to launch a production Leaf Nismo as of 2017, Nissan has been toying with the idea since the first-generation Leaf arrived back in 2010. The first Nismo concept based on the Leaf, the Nismo RC, was actually a very radical interpretation. Showcased at the 2011 New York Auto Show, it had a race-inspired aerodynamic kit and a full carbon-fiber monocoque body which made it about 40-percent lighter than the standard model. The Nismo RC was designed to run for around 20 minutes under full racing conditions and testing revealed a 0-to-62 mph sprint of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. The drivetrain was identical to the production Leaf. Nissan reportedly built eight units, but none was sold to customers.

A second Nismo concept was launched at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, this time around in a more production-friendly format. Although not as aggressive as the Nismo RC, this concept has a revised aerodynamic kit inspired by the race car, new alloy wheels, and bespoke features inside the cabin. The drivetrain, on the other hand, was again identical to the standard Leaf’s. In early 2013, Nissan announced that the Leaf Nismo will be produced in small numbers for the Japanese market, but no production model was launched so far.

Exterior

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

The concept car sports a range of familiar Nismo upgrades, starting with a red-painted front splitter

With Nissan having already unveiled what appears to be a production-ready Leaf Nismo at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the sportier version of the company’s already familiar EV isn’t much of a mystery. However, while the concept car may look ready to go into production with the exact same body features, the Japanese firm may choose to change a thing or two. And this rendering by X-Tomi Design shows what we may get at dealerships.

The concept car sports a range of familiar Nismo upgrades, starting with a red-painted front splitter and slimmer LED daytime running lights integrated into black trim with a honeycomb structure. The center hood is finished in black for a sportier look. While these features are very plausible for a production model, Nissan may choose to give the EV a redesigned bumper with a larger grille, as well as bigger daytime running lights. The rendering also includes an actual honeycomb grille instead of the blue 3D mesh and I think this would be a really cool feature, despite the Leaf not needing an actual grille for cooling.

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

Onto the sides, the production model should look very similar to the concept and include more aggressive side skirts

Onto the sides, the production model should look very similar to the concept and include more aggressive side skirts with red detailing and matching mirror caps. A set of new, larger wheels is also on the table, but it remains to be seen whether the production model will get the concept’s two-tone rims. A slightly lower ride should add extra sportiness.

Around back, Nismo upgrades should include a revised roof spoiler in black to match the C-pillars, and a diffuser-like element. The concept car features a two-piece device with red accents and a Formula One style brake light in the middle and I think it’s very similar to what we should see on the production model.

All told, the Leaf Nismo will get the full Nismo treatment on the outside, which will make appealing to hot-hatch enthusiasts all over the world.

Interior

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept High Resolution Interior
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Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

Just like the concept car, the production Leaf Nismo will get sportier front seats

The interior should also have a few extra features, but don’t expect it to be radically different. Just like the concept car, the production Leaf Nismo will get only a handful of add-ons in the form of Nismo-specific trim and minor changes to the infotainment display. Look for red accents around the A/C vents and the start button, as well as red contrast stitching on the door panels and seats. The concept’s red stripe on the 12-o’clock position of the flat-bottom steering wheel should also find its way into the production model.

Arguably the biggest upgrade will be the sportier front seats. These will have heavier bolstering on the sides and a different upholstery layout. Some Nismo badge and logos could also adorn the headrests and the dashboard. Finally, we should find some Nismo goodness in the infotainment display. There should be a unique Nismo start-up screen and a few extra apps to monitor performance. Similar upgrades will be made to the digital instrument cluster too.

Drivetrain

2018 Nissan Leaf Drivetrain
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Note: Standard Nissan Leaf pictured here.

If previous Nismo models are any indication, there's a big chance that the Leaf won't get a power bump with the Nismo package

Here’s where things are a little unclear as Nissan didn’t say a thing about the Leaf Nismo’s concept electric motor. This could mean two things. Either the Leaf Nismo will get the same drivetrain as the standard model or Nissan hasn’t decided on how much extra power and torque the EV will get.

Unfortunately, given that Nissan has launched quite a few Nismo models that are only as powerful as their standard siblings in recent years — including the Sentra, Note, and Micra — there’s a big chance that the Leaf won’t get a power bump with the Nismo package. And this is a pretty big issues because although the new Leaf is more powerful and returns better range compared to its predecessor, it’s still significantly inferior to the competition.

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

The update will include a sport-tuned suspension and revised ECU for improved performance

Specifically, the new Leaf comes with 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet on tap. That’s 40 horses and 49 pound-feet more than the old Leaf, but 53 horsepower and 30 pound-feet below the Chevy Bolt. Output figures for the new Tesla Model 3 aren’t yet out, but it will most definitely have at least 200 horsepower in its entry-level version. The Leaf also comes behind when it comes to range, returning up to 150 miles on a single charge. The Chevy Bolt is good for up to 238 miles, while Tesla promises 220 miles in the least expensive model and up to 310 miles in the range-topping Model 3.

You can see why Nissan needs a Nismo version with a larger battery, more oomph, and better range.

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

Nissan is in dire need of a more powerful Leaf in order to remain relevant in this market

But while the Leaf Nismo concept uses the standard drivetrain, not all hope is lost. When it launched the new Leaf, Nissan promised that a "higher power, longer ranger version at a higher price" will be launched for the 2019 model year. This could very well be the Leaf Nismo or just a normal Leaf with increased power and range. In the latter scenario the Nismo could be just an equipment update, meaning we’ll get two models with different outputs.

Whatever the case, Nissan is in dire need of a more powerful Leaf in order to remain relevant in this market.

Nissan also mentioned something about a sport-tuned suspension and a "custom-tuned computer that delivers instant acceleration at all speeds" and it’s safe to assume that the production model will get something similar. Hopefully the revised computer will make the Nismo at least a tenth-second quicker to 60 mph, even with the same drivetrain as the standard model, while the revised suspension will make it a more exciting car. A set of higher performance tires are also on the table for this model.

Prices

As with all Nismo products, it’s safe to assume that the upcoming Leaf Nismo will cost more than the standard model. The second-gen Leaf retails from $29,990 in base guise, while the range-topping Leaf SL costs $36,200 before options. The Leaf Nismo will probably cost a bit more than the SL, so expect it to fetch close to $40,000. However, with incentives and all, pricing should drop below the $35,000 mark.

Competition

Chevrolet Bolt

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV High Resolution Exterior
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Chevrolet isn’t planning on doing a higher performance version of the Bolt anytime soon — although a Bolt RS would be a good idea — but the American EV is already more powerful than the Leaf and would be on par with a souped-up Leaf Nismo. Launched for the 2017 model year, the Bolt is Chevy’s first mass-produced EV and aimed at the already popular Leaf. It’s about as big as the Leaf and boasts a premium feel on the inside, as well as a comprehensive tech package. You get Bluetooth connectivity, personalized settings, MyChevrolet App, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, among other modern apps and features. Additionally, the Bolt is the better machine when it comes to performance, as the electric drivetrain cranks out a solid 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The range is estimated at up to 238 miles on paper and up to 210 miles in everyday driving conditions, so you get far more than in the 150-mile Leaf. Charging takes 9.5 hours, a bit longer than the Leaf, while pricing starts at $37,495 before incentives.

Read our full story on the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.

Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3 Exterior High Resolution
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Tesla’s latest and most affordable offering, the Model 3 is not yet in production and deliveries won’t commence until 2018, but once it arrives, it will be one of the best EVs on the market. While aimed at the Nissan Leaf, as Elon Musk himself pointed out a dew years ago, the Model 3 is actually slightly larger, being similar to the BMW 3 Series in size. It’s also more of a notchback rather than a classic hatchback. What’s more, it should be more powerful and quicker than the Leaf and Bolt, while providing more range than the Japanese EV. The range is estimated at 220 miles for the base model, but opt for the Long Range upgrade, and it goes up to a whopping 310 miles, double than what you get with the Leaf. Tesla’s Supercharger network also brings impressive charging time, with 30 minutes being enough for a 130-mile range in the base model. On the other hand, while the entry-level model comes in at $35,000, the Long Range upgrade and other options increase the sticker to more than $50,000. Not exactly competitive, even when compared to the Leaf Nismo.

Read our full review of the Tesla Model 3.

Conclusion

2019 Nissan Leaf Nismo
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Nissan Leaf Nismo by X-Tomi Design

The Leaf Nismo is a car that Nissan needs badly at this point, but only if this version brings increased output and better range. If Nissan chooses to sell it with the same drivetrain as the standard model, the Nismo won’t be more than a marketing scheme aimed at Millennials and EV enthusiasts who want a sportier looking vehicle. It had already been confirmed that Nissan will indeed offer a more powerful version of the Leaf, but it remains to be seen if it will be able to match the Bolt and Model 3. If this model will carry the Nismo nameplate, it will not only make a proper introduction of the badge to the electric car market, but it would also enable Nissan to stand out as the only mainstream carmaker that actually uses its high-performance division to create EVs.

  • Leave it
    • * Could use the standard Leaf drivetrain
    • * Stiff competition from Chevrolet and Tesla

References

Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept
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Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept.

2018 Nissan Leaf High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan Leaf.

2011 Nissan LEAF NISMO RC Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2011 Nissan LEAF NISMO RC Concept.

2012 Nissan Leaf Nismo High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2011 Nissan Leaf Nismo.

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