2019 Nissan Leaf Nismo: Electric Kanjozoku
Does your Tesla have an Alcantara-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel? Didn’t think so.
Year, Make, Model: Only available in Japan, the 2019 Nissan Leaf Nismo is what happens when you really want a GT-R but your side gig as an Uber driver calls for four doors, seating for five, and something that gets more than 18 miles per gallon.
What's New: No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. Nissan has gone and given its Leaf electric compact the Nismo treatment, proving that you don't have to be in the entertainment biz to jump a shark. The company was vague on how much faster the Leaf Nismo would be over vanilla Leafs—Nissan merely says the car gets a "custom tuning computer" for "strong acceleration." However, the sportier Leaf gets a handful of additions that make it look faster and perhaps feel a smidge more athletic in the twisties.
As with other Nismo products, the Leaf gets sportier bumpers and side skirts complete with the brand's signature red trim.
On the inside, more red trim, Nismo badging, and faux carbon on the dash are paired with an Alcantara-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel. Previously reserved for full-bore, track-ready sports and supercars, the Leaf Nismo's wheel even gets one of those red stripes at 12 o'clock meant to help keen drivers gauge steering input. We're not saying Leaf owners can't be keen drivers but something tells us the center marker on this Nissan will more often be used to gauge whether the car is due for an alignment instead.
Speaking of wheel-related things, the Nismo Leaf gets 18-inch, low air-resistance, aluminum wheels wrapped in a set of Continental ContiSportContact 5 tires. Nissan says it's tweaked the car's speed-sensing electric power steering, suspension, and Electric Driven Intelligent Brakes but didn't get any more specific than that.
Quotable: Per the automaker's press release, "The Nissan Leaf Nismo will go on sale July 31 in Japan—combining, for the first time, the excitement and advanced technologies of the world's best-selling electric car with the sporty image and performance of the Nismo road car series."
What You Need to Know: Produced as a Japanese alternative to EVs like the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3, the regular Nissan Leaf features a 40-kilowatt-hour battery and boasts an EPA-rated range of 150 miles, less range than the Chevy or the Tesla. According to recent reports, the uncompetitive battery life should be rectified with an upcoming, 200-horsepower Leaf E-Plus.
Range-measuring contests aside, it looks like the Leaf is the car to get if you'd like your EV to bear an extremely passing resemblance to a Nissan GT3 racer...given you live in Japan, that is.