As one of the oldest mainstream electric cars still on the road today, the Nissan Leaf has been a familiar site in Nissan showrooms for years. In fact, all the way from 2010 to 2019, the Nissan Leaf was the best-selling plug-in electric car until early 2020 when it was surpassed by none other than the Tesla Model 3.
Fast forward to today and comparing these two cars might seem like an easy win for Tesla, but counting the Nissan out would be a definite mistake. With plenty of time to listen to consumer feedback, Nissan has introduced changes to help overhaul the look and feel of the car.
Similarly, Tesla heard from its customers and introduced a less expensive sedan in the Tesla Model 3 to help attract customers that didn’t want Tesla Model S pricing.
Let’s take a look and see how both the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 compare on paper and see which one might be right for you.
Nissan Leaf vs. Tesla Model 3: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Nissan Leaf||Tesla Model 3|
|Date of Release||December 2010||July 2017|
|Range||149-212 miles||272-358 miles|
|0-60 Speed||6.8 seconds||3.1 seconds (model dependent)|
|Charging Speed||10-80% in 40 minutes, 7.5 hours on a 240V charger||10-80% in 18 minutes, under 7 hours on 240V charger|
|Number of Seats||5||5|
|Cargo Space||23.6 cubic feet||22.9 cubic feet|
|Self-Driving||ProPILOT Assist||Enhanced Autopilot, Full Self-Driving Capability|
5-year 60,000-mile powertrain
|4-year 50,000-mile bumper to bumper|
8-year 100,000-mile battery warranty
Nissan Leaf vs. Tesla Model 3: What’s the Difference?
There’s really no question about how these two electric vehicles stack up when it comes to price as the Nissan is significantly less expensive. The entry-level model, the Nissan Leaf S starts off at $28,040 with a 40 kWh battery, which makes it one of the least expensive EV options on the market today. Even if you jump to the Nissan Leaf SV Plus and its 60 kWh battery, at $36,040, it’s still one of the least expensive options. Beyond the base price, there are some additional pricing options for different exterior colors as well as a variety of accessories like cargo mats, floor liners, and more.
For anyone looking to buy a Tesla Model 3, the pricing structure is just as simplified as the Nissan Leaf. Cost begins with the Rear-Wheel Drive trim level which starts at $43,490 though the price can go up if you opt for a premium exterior paint color, white interior, or the larger sport wheels. The Model 3 Performance trim starts at $53,990 and offers a similar set of upgrades including the exterior paint color and white interior.
The only other available option for Tesla Model 3 buyers is whether they opt for Enhanced Autopilot for $6,000 or Full Self-Driving Capability for $15,000 at the time of the vehicle purchase. They can be purchased later on as software updates but cost more.
While the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 arrive as very different electric vehicles in many different ways, nowhere is that more present than in range. Nissan continues to buck the trend of giving its customers more range in favor of keeping costs down and therefore providing a more limited range.
Because of that, any Nissan Leaf S trim level buyers will only receive 149 miles of range with its 40 kWh battery. The more premium trim level with the SV Plus jumps up in range to 212 miles with its 60 kWh battery but it’s clear that no matter which trim level you choose, the range numbers don’t match those of Tesla.
The Tesla Model 3 has long been a range champion and even as competition increases in the EV space, it can still hold its own. The Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3 offers a range of 272 miles on a single charge although that number drops down to 267 miles if you opt for the more premium sports tire option. The Performance model offers a nice jump in range by allowing up to 315 miles of range on a single charge. The most impressive Tesla Model 3 is the one expected to return in 2023 as the Long Range trim level is expected to offer up to 358 miles on a single charge.
For anyone looking to pick up the Nissan Leaf, it helps to have a good expectation of what you see as far as interior technology goes as compared to many other EV models today. For better or worse, the Nissan Leaf has held fast to the idea of a traditional button-heavy interior design with an in-dashboard display and digital cluster gauge over the steering wheel. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this design per se, but it’s definitely antiquated compared to the more impressive touchscreens of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and even the Volkswagen ID.4.
The standard eight-inch display supports information about the vehicle’s charging, battery status, as well as support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Still, you can’t hide the reality that in the world of EV infotainment, Nissan is falling behind the times.
With the Model 3, Tesla has been at the forefront of eliminating buttons, gauges, and switches, and transferring most vehicle functions to the large 15-inch touchscreen. Aside from window controls, scroll buttons on the steering wheel and shifting gears, there are almost no buttons on the Model 3. All other car functions are controlled from the touch screen which very well might position the Model 3 as a glimpse into the future of EVs. Better yet, the Model 3 touch-screen focus may be the future of the auto industry in general as manufacturers are already showing signs of copying Tesla’s approach and successfully doing so.
There’s no question that the Tesla Model 3 is not just more advanced technology-wise, but it’s also a lot more fun.
The Nissan Leaf may not offer the extensive autonomous options as Tesla but that’s not to say the car is not equipped with some helpful driver assistance technology. Most of the available driver assistance features are standard on the SV Plus model with only some of the features available on the S trim. More specifically, on the SV Plus you receive the Nissan Leaf ProPILOT Assist package which includes features like being able to help maintain a set distance between vehicles ahead of you as well as adjusting speed based on the flow of traffic.
Lane Keep Assist on the Leaf ensures you stay in the center of your lane including gentle curves as well as lane departure warnings should you change lanes in the event you don’t activate a turn signal. Blind spot detection is present as is rear automatic braking to help detect unseen objects or people behind you.
When it comes to driver assistance, Tesla has long been at the forefront of this space with both its Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability. In the case of the former, you receive autopilot navigation with automatic lane changes, auto park, and smart summon which brings your car back to you from a parking space. The more expensive Full Self-Driving option includes all features of Enhanced Autopilot but raises the bar by including traffic light and stop sign control. Tesla has also committed to auto-steering on city streets in the future.
Nissan has long had an opportunity to improve charging times on its vehicles but the Nissan Leaf still falls toward the bottom of the pack as far as overall recharging. Using a 240V Level 2 charger at home results in a charge time of 7.5 hours for the S model. This number jumps to 11 hours on the SV Plus 60 kWh battery to achieve its full charge of 212 miles.
If you opt for one of the more than 6,000 available DC quick charging stations around the country, the Nissan Leaf can charge up to 80% in 40 minutes on the 40 kWh battery or up to 80% in 45 minutes on the 60 kWh battery. However, if you happen to be at a charging station that uses the lower 50 kW quick charge technology, that number jumps to 60 minutes on the 60 kWh battery for the SV Plus.
The Tesla Model 3 hasn’t really had to do much as far as charging time since the car’s release. Using a Level 2 240V charger at home will result in a fully charged Model 3 in around 6.5 hours which is perfect for overnight charging.
If you find yourself at one of Tesla’s 1,400 Supercharger stations in the U.S., the Tesla Model 3 can achieve 200 miles of additional range in 15 minutes which is at the very top of the EV charging scale.
Nissan Leaf vs. Tesla Model 3: 5 Must-Know Facts
- The Nissan Leaf is one of the oldest electric vehicle models still on the road today in the United States after being released in 2010.
- Global total sales of the Nissan Leaf were 577,000 as of February 2022, a number Tesla passed with the Model 3 in less than one-third of the time.
- The Tesla Model 3 offers access to Tesla’s Supercharger network which can power the car up for an additional 200 miles of range in 15 minutes.
- The Nissan Leaf is an inexpensive entry level EV model with a starting price of $28,040 compared to the Tesla Model 3’s $43,990 starting price.
- The Nissan Leaf has opted to maintain a more standard interior full of buttons and knobs while Tesla has gone minimal with the Model 3 and its giant 15-inch touch screen.
Nissan Leaf vs. Tesla Model 3: Which One is Better?
As attractive as the price point is for the Nissan Leaf, there really isn’t a compelling reason to buy the car unless the price is the sole factor. The Leaf offers significantly less range, an outdated interior, fewer standard safety features, and lacks the cool factor of the Model 3.
If there is one area both cars compete in, that’s overall reliability as Consumer Reports named both the Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf as the second and third most reliable EV vehicles as of December 2022.
Still, it’s hard to ignore all of the advantages Tesla offers which help make the Model 3 the better option.
Breaking EV News
June 8, 2023 — Following a similar announcement by Ford on May 25, 2023, General Motors’ (GM) CEO Mary Barra announced with Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk on Twitter Spaces that GM EV’s will soon acquire access to 12,000 Superchargers.
Starting in 2024, GM and Ford EV owners will be able use adaptors to charge at Superchargers. In 2025, both companies’ EVs will feature Tesla’s North American Charging Standard connector. In an interview, Barra indicated that this collaboration “…could help move the industry toward a single North American charging standard.”
Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3: Technology Updates
Recently, both the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 have witnessed noteworthy technological updates. A few notable examples include:
- ProPilot Assist 2.0: The Nissan Leaf now comes standard with ProPilot Assist 2.0, an advanced driver assistance system designed to facilitate highway steering, acceleration, and braking.
- Enhanced Battery: Nissan has unveiled plans for a 100 kWh battery pack for the Leaf, elevating its range to over 300 miles.
Tesla Model 3:
- Full Self-Driving Beta: Tesla has initiated the rollout of its Full Self-Driving Beta software to a select group of Model 3 owners, enabling autonomous driving on city streets and highways within specific parameters.
- Extended Range Battery: There are speculations about Tesla developing a new battery pack for the Model 3, anticipated to deliver an extended driving range.
Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3: What’s Next
Anticipated future technology updates for Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3:
- Over-the-Air Updates: Nissan is poised to introduce over-the-air updates for the Leaf, streamlining software enhancements without requiring dealership visits.
- Enhanced Battery Technology: Nissan’s ongoing efforts involve advancing battery technology to potentially extend the Leaf’s driving range.
Tesla Model 3:
- Full Self-Driving Advancements: Tesla is continuously refining its Full Self-Driving software, potentially enabling the Model 3 to achieve autonomous driving capabilities.
- Extended Range Battery: Tesla is rumored to be developing an upgraded battery pack for the Model 3, aimed at delivering an extended driving range.