2013 Nissan Leaf SL
Fourth place: Field of Dreams.
2016 Nissan Leaf Nissan Leaf 2016 2.0 1.0 5.0
The only car here sold exclusively as an electric should ace this test, right? Nissan s expensive and risky clean-sheet approach should give it no excuses for falling short of outright total domination. And indeed, the Leaf does a lot of things very well.
Push the blue button on the steering wheel and the nav display handily shows your range in concentric circles on the map, the larger one a one-way trip, the smaller for a round trip. Push it again to be shown the nearest charging stations. The center screen also can show you current energy consumption by both the drive motor and the car s auxiliary systems (the Fit and Spark also have a version of this), plus a full menu of energy data, from your consumption history to your recharge times based on several levels of charging power.
No question, the Leaf s creators fretted over its EV-centric details, even if the baggy styling could use a little work. The real problem for us is that the Leaf isn t as composed as the Focus and the Fit, and it isn t much fun to drive.
The Smart s last-place finish isn t the result of some grudge against tiny vehicles, even ones that look like Willy Wonka s car if Willy Wonka ran a Ukrainian cathouse. We totally buy the concept of the Smart, even applaud the former DaimlerChrysler for first putting it into production way back in 1998. We just don t buy its execution. In striving so earnestly to be different, Smart forgot to make a good car.
The handling is just bizarre. The steering is epically slow, and it s nearly impossible to take a clean line through a corner as the front and rear ends quibble over which way to go. From overhead, your path would look octagonal. Heading straight down a highway, your senses are prodded to confusion by strange side forces as the car stumbles over bumps and suddenly gets the wiggles for no obvious reason. The floor-mounted brake pedal is abrupt. Even if you never leave the city, where the Smart is designed to thrive, you ll still live in fear of hard stops, hard rights, and curved on-ramps.