The Leaf's more upright lines are polarizing; some consider it ugly, others futuristic. The Volt, with more steeply raked windshield and rear window, a high cowl, and a low roofline, is racier looking but still distinctive.
Both the Leaf and the Volt come with connectivity features that allow drivers to find nearby charging stations, or to access the charge level of their car's battery remotely--even by smartphone. Both also offer navigation features and audio systems integrated into the charging experience, but GM downgraded the Volt after the first model year in 2011, omitting the navigation system as standard equipment while dropping its base price to less than $40,000. Nissan added a rearview camera system to the Leaf's standard kit for 2014.
At the moment, the Volt and Leaf rely on tax and other incentives to attract buyers beyond hard-core early adopters. There's a federal tax credit of $7,500 available to first-time buyers of either car. On top of that, many states, regions, and companies offer other financial incentives and perks. In California, it's a purchase rebate of $2,500 on the Leaf, and single-person access to the High-Occupancy Vehicle lane for both cars.
A new, more basic 'S' model of the Leaf now carries a base price of $29,830, meaning that after all the incentives in California, it could run less than $20,000. In general, though, plug-ins remain pricier than gasoline cars of the same size and capacity. The hidden bonus is that running on electricity usually costs only one-fifth to one-third as much per mile as burning gasoline.
With either of these vehicles, there's much more to the story than price and performance alone. They're a perfect example of different strokes for different folks, and each is slowly finding its niche among the burgeoning array of plug-in vehicles.
|2014 Chevrolet Volt||2014 Nissan Leaf|
|The 2014 Chevrolet Volt is one of the best plug-in vehicles on the market, and it costs $5,000 less than it did last year.||The 2014 Nissan Leaf is the world's most popular battery electric car, and the greenest--but it can take time to get used to real-world ranges of 60 to 90 miles.|
|Read moreThe 2014 Chevy Volt is distinctive, but somewhat slab-sided and blocky; its inside is nicer than you'd expect.||Read moreThe shape of the 2014 Nissan Leaf is polarizing, but the aerodynamic compact hatchback is definitely distinctive--and practical.|
|Read moreBehind the wheel of a 2014 Chevy Volt, first-timers marvel at its smooth, quiet, electric torque.||Read moreThe 2014 Nissan Leaf has perfectly adequate acceleration, steering, and handling, but it's all rather appliance-like.|
|Read moreThe 2014 Chevy Volt handles well, rides smoothly, and is quiet inside--but it's limited to four occupants.||Read moreThe 2014 Nissan Leaf has plenty of room inside for four, a useful load bay, and a remarkable lack of noise on the road.|
|Read moreThe 2014 Chevy Volt scores well on IIHS and NHTSA crash tests, though it now lacks some of the latest electronic safety gadgets.||Read moreThe 2014 Nissan Leaf has many of the latest safety features, but good crash-test scores are marred by the lowest rating on a new test.|
|Read moreThe $35K price of a 2014 Chevy Volt reflects its range-extended electric powertrain, but options quickly boost the price.||Read moreThe 2014 Nissan Leaf ranges from a very basic model up through a semi-luxury trim, but its features aren't on par with its price.|
|Read moreTwo-thirds of all Volt mileage is covered using grid electricity, and its 37 mpg on gasoline is still high.||Read moreThe 2014 Nissan Leaf is a zero-emission vehicle, running entirely on electricity, and that makes it as green as you can get.|
|from $34,185||from $28,980|
|from $32,817||from $27,154|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|EPA MPG Equivalent - Combined|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
Read Full Specs
Read Full Specs