Both the Leaf and the Volt can be charged at home via a conventional 120-Volt outlet, although a Volt will charge completely overnight on wall-socket power, while a Leaf will take 12 to as much as 22 hours. Using a specially installed 240-Volt Level 2 charging station, the Leaf takes 6 to to 9 hours. For 2013, Nissan shifted Leaf assembly to the U.S. and offers a standard 6.6-kilowatt charger on most models that will provide full charging in about 4 hours.The Detroit-built Volt will recharge in less than 3 hours using a Level 2 charging station, but roughly half of all Volt owners are content to use standard wall current and recharge their car each night.
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.
Inside, the Volt offers an array of different graphic treatments for door trim and dash inserts, while the Leaf offers only one style--and its light, almost white, upholstery (made of recycled materials) has already acquired a hard-to-keep-clean reputation.
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.
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 model of the Leaf now carries a base price of $28,800, 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.
The market has split between the two cars, with each one having passionate fans. The Volt handily outsold the Leaf in 2012, after the Leaf sold roughly one-third more units in 2011. But with U.S. assembly (the battery packs are also made here), the Leaf has now become much more competitive and we expect sales to rise substantially in 2013.
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.
|2013 Chevrolet Volt||2013 Nissan Leaf|
|If you can afford it, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt is one of only a handful of plug-in hybrids on the market, and among the best.||The 2013 is the greenest car you can buy--if you can live with between 70 and 100 miles of driving range on a full battery charge.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Chevrolet Volt isn't as iconic on the road as the Prius, but it gets noticed--and the interior is nicer than you'd expect||Read moreThe love-em-or-hate-em lines of the 2013 Nissan Line are distinctive, highly aerodynamic, and enclose a practical five-door hatchback.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Chevrolet Volt now has 38 miles of range to go with its surge of silent power.||Read moreThe 2013 Nissan Leaf accelerates smoothly, though its steering and handling feel somewhat remote and it's hardly sporty.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Chevrolet Volt is well-built, quiet, comfortable, and handles well--but it only holds four.||Read moreThe 2013 Nissan Leaf's interior has a smart design, and this year, the load bay is larger due to a relocated onboard charger.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Chevrolet Volt got high marks on NHTSA and IIHS crash tests.||Read moreThe 2013 Nissan Leaf has not only the full suite of safety equipment, but also excellent crash-test scores.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Chevrolet Volt's main feature is its electric powertrain, but paying extra for a good stereo in a $40,000 car seems wrong.||Read moreThe 2013 Nissan Leaf adds a few new top-end features, including leather upholstery, but it's still somewhat austere for the price.|
|Read moreThe 2013 Chevrolet Volt is slightly more efficient than last year's model, and gets 37 mpg when using its range-extended gasoline engine.||Read moreThe 2013 Nissan Leaf is a zero-emission vehicle and in most states has a much lower carbon footprint than even a Toyota Prius.|
|from $39,145||from $28,800|
|from $37,579||from $26,986|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|EPA MPG Equivalent - Combined|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
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