2017 Chevrolet Volt
With exactly half the electric range of the Leaf, the Volt's 53 miles may sound minimal. But based on data from the previous Volt, Chevy projects that nine out of every 10 trips in the new Volt can be conducted entirely on electricity--at a cost half that of gasoline, or less. Since 78 percent of U.S. drivers don't exceed 40 miles a day, overnight recharges for a Volt mean it could effectively run months at a time as a purely electric car--never switching on its gasoline engine, for gas mileage close to infinity.
Leaf drivers still have to think about how they drive and how they use their electric car. The new, longer-range battery gives the Leaf an effective driving range of somewhere between 70 and 110 miles. It'll be higher if drivers accelerate slowly and smoothly, do more miles at local speeds and less on the highway, and don't use the Leaf in very hot or very cold weather.
A majority of Volt owners recharge their car overnight on plain old 120-Volt power. But an overnight charge for the Leaf requires the use of a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station. The Volt's onboard charger is 3.6 kilowatts, while that of the Leaf is 6.6 kW. In practice, that means that a full recharge for each car will take about five hours at 240 Volts.
The base Nissan Leaf S model stickers for around $33,000; the Volt is about $1,000 more. Fully loaded models of each car can add another $10,000. Each qualifies for a Federal income-tax credit of $7,500. On top of that, California gives a purchase rebate of $2,500 on the Leaf and $1,500 on the Volt, and other markets like Colorado offer even more. At the time of publication, however, a new Leaf gets single-person access to the state's High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes, while the supply of stickers for plug-in hybrids like the Volt is now exhausted. Many other states, regions, and companies offer other financial incentives and perks too.
Choosing between the Volt and the Leaf means thinking about how you plan to use the car. With either vehicle, there's more to the story than price and performance alone. A Leaf with 107 miles of range (that magic three-figure number) is not only a great commuter car, but can now handle side trips and unexpected errands with less range anxiety. It's got five plausible seats and more cargo space.
The Volt, on the other hand, is better to drive and simply eliminates any range anxiety--while providing most of its miles on grid power anyway. In the rare cases in which its engine turns on, it gets 42 mpg--better than any non-hybrid on the market--and our test drives have indicated that its looks win wide approval. The Volt is the best of both worlds for drivers who cover more miles or have less predictable trip patterns. For those reasons, it comes out ahead on points.