My oldest is starting college and needs a car. Since se will be commuting locally I thought it would be a good idea to get another electric car for her commute. She won't need it for another month, so I can review the new car in the meanwhile.
As you may know, I already have a Ford Focus Electric. I love the car. The exterior and interior are well designed and beautiful. The Ford Sync system has been great and other than some consternation with voice commands its lived up to expectations. That given I should just get another one, but I would not learn much from that, and given the FFE is significantly more expensive than the Nissan Leaf, I thought I would get the cheapest electric car I could lease and see just how cost-effective I could make this.
I went to the dealer and after using information from our companies electric car alias to get the best deal I ended up with a Nissan Leaf SV with fast charging and LED headlights. The SV has a navigation system included, so it will make for a great comparison with the Ford Focus, which only has one trim level... everything included.
The Focus wins here. The body is the same as the regular Focus, and I think the design is great and the World agrees. The Focus is the best selling car on Earth. The Nissan Leaf looks like a 1990 futurists ideal about what a futuristic electric car wood look like. Its stunning, but not in a good way. Both my wife and I hate the looks of it, but when you sit in the car you can't see it.
Generally the Focus has a better looking and more functional interior than the Leaf has more room all around.
The Leaf has a much roomier interior than the Focus. Just getting in the drivers door at 6'1" I can instantly tell the difference. Its not the leg room, but the headroom here. The rake on the Focus windows is so aggressive that you don't have much entry clearance for tall folks like me. The rear seats also have and extra 4 or so inches that make all the difference in the world for leg room when the driver is talk. The Focus is ok if you have a short person driving or a short rear seat passenger, but two tall folks will have to scrunch to make it.
The Leaf has a huge expansive trunk, with the 60/40 fold down seats you can get a bunch of gear into it. The Focus has the battery charging station and batteries taking a good portion of the trunk and space between the rear seats and the trunk. The 60/40 Folding seats are a vestige of the fact that it rolls off the same line as the internal combustion Focus.
The Dash, Gauges and Electronics
While the Leaf has a bunch of gizmos and graphics, its not well done. It looks cheap and instead of functional full color Dynamic displays around a standard speedo like the Focus has, the Leaf has a cheep 1 bit black and white dot matric LCD combined with fixed function LCD panels with colored lighting. The MPH is displaying digital instead of with an analog dial like the focus. The Focus takes the glass for the dash. The Steering wheel is much better designed and implemented on the focus as well. The d-pads give you selectable control over all the cards functions with two separate LCD panels to the left and right of the speedo, so you can have two separate controls going at once rather than having to switch. Combine that with the main Navigation screen and you have 3 displays all connected and working well together. The Microsoft Sync is a much slicker than the Nissan system, but the Nissan still has similar capabilities, but without the refinement, and two extra screens that the Sync system in the focus has.
On The Web
Both cars can do remote unlock and scheduled charging. Again the FFE seems better integrated and more refined, but the Nissan can do quite a bit with the Car Wings feature.
I have not had to have the Nissan serviced, but I am totally unimpressed, in fact ticked off with Ford's service. They keep offering to change the oil every time we talk to them. They don't seem to know how to service the unique aspects of the Electric car, and as I write this my Focus has been in the shop three days for what was supposed to be a quick 30 minute software update, and I have no ETA on when I get it back. Ford gets a worse than zero at the service level from my experience. Other folks have not had the same bad luck I have had, but still get oil change offers. So you know what they are thinking. The Nissan sells many more Leafs than Ford sells FFEs so I bet they will have more service experience.
Well I have to say I can't pick a winner yet until I know more. The room in the Leaf, is offset by its cheap execution. The beauty of the Focus, is offset by the fact that Ford seems to not know how to service it. If I had to do it again right now, I am leaning to the Leaf because I would rather have and Ugly well-services car, than a Beautiful car sitting in a dealers garage, when my Ford Focus Electric still is... after 3 days..
I will post updates as I go along..