The Nissan Leaf Plus and Chevrolet Bolt are among the two original electric vehicles in the market today. The Leaf is in its second generation and is now equipped with a larger battery while the Bolt has slowly seen small improvements over the years. So how do these EVs stack up against each other?
Motor – Starting with the 2020 Nissan Leaf, this Plus variant has a larger 160 kW motor that is capable of producing 215 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 100 km/h takes 7 seconds in the Leaf Plus and has a 160 km/h top speed. The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt has a 150 kW motor that produces 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque which gets the Bolt to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 150 km/h. Between the two, it’s hard to differentiate as to which one feels faster behind the steering wheel. Both of them can give you the feeling of being pinned to the back of the seat. Electric motors provide 100% torque the moment you stomp on the accelerator pedal whether it’s from a dead stop or while moving. For being “economy EVs”, both of these cars feel fast from behind the steering wheel.
Battery & Charging – The base Leaf has a 40 kWh battery while this Plus variant gets a larger 62 kWh battery. By comparison, the Chevy Bolt is only available with a 66 kWh battery. However, the Bolt’s electric range is longer than the Leaf’s. Chevrolet claims a range of up to 417 km while Nissan only rates the Leaf Plus’ range at 363 km. But both cars can actually go further than the claimed ranges depending on your driving style, how often you use regen braking, whether you use climate controls, and so on. During my time with the cars, the Bolt’s trip computer estimated a range of 455 km when the battery was fully charged while the Leaf Plus said that it could go 374 km on a full charge.
When it comes to charging, both are available with level 1, 2, and 3 charging options. Both cars take an eternity to charge from a 120-Volt power outlet which is why both companies recommend you to install a 240-Volt level 2 charger at home. From a level 2 charger the Nissan Leaf Plus can be charged in 11.5 hours while the Chevrolet Bolt can be charged in about 10.5 hours. From a level 3 DC fast charging station, the Nissan Leaf Plus can be charged to 80% in one hour. The Chevrolet Bolt can be charged to the same battery percentage in 69 minutes.
Braking – As these are electric vehicles, both of them have regenerative braking, as in, recharging the batteries while slowing down. In the Nissan, this can be done with the normal brake pedal or with the e-pedal. With a toggle of a switch next to the drive selector, it changes the characteristics of the accelerator pedal so that when you lift off of it, it will provide so much regen braking that it will bring the car to a stop. You can modulate the accelerator pedal to slow down at different speeds, or accelerate at different speeds, without ever touching the brake pedal (unless it’s an emergency situation). This is called one pedal driving and the Chevrolet Bolt has it too.
However in the Bolt, it’s not called an e-pedal. All that you have to do is move the drive selector to the L position to engage this one pedal drive mode. But the Bolt also has another way of slowing down if you don’t want to use the one pedal technique but still want maximum regen braking. There is a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that provides maximum regen braking. However, it’s an on/off switch so you cannot modulate how much regen braking you get. Hold on to the paddle too long and you slow down long before the stop line. This is why I personally preferred the one pedal driving technique for both cars.
Handling – These being efficient electric vehicles, they don’t do very well around corners. They’ll turn just fine but it’s not particularly engaging. The steering feel is numb and is very light for both of them. The Bolt does feel a bit more nimble around corners though. However, both cars can be somewhat more exciting if you decide to behave like a hooligan because they both have low grip, low rolling resistance tires and the torque from the electric motor induces torque steer. So both the Leaf Plus and Bolt EV can feel very lively if you plant your foot down when exiting a corner.
Ride Comfort – The 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus edges over the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV as the Leaf provides a slightly better ride over rough roads. The Bolt’s ride feels a little bit stiffer over poorly maintained city streets. The Leaf Plus on the other hand doesn’t glide over the bumps but the suspension doesn’t translate as much of the shunt into the cabin as the Bolt’s suspension does.
Interior Space – The Nissan Leaf Plus offers more front headroom than the Bolt EV. But the Bolt punches back by offering more headroom in the back seats. It’s the same story in terms of legroom. The Leaf offers more front legroom but the Bolt has more rear legroom. I guess the moral of the story is that if you are going to be sitting in the back, sit in the Bolt not the Leaf.
The cars continue to trade punches in the trunk as well. The Chevy Bolt offers 479 L (16.9 cu-ft) of cargo with the rear seats up while the Nissan Leaf offers 668 L (23.6 cu-ft) of cargo with the seats up. But the Bolt has a huge advantage when you fold those rear seats with 1,603 L (56.6 cu-ft) of cargo volume. The Nissan Leaf’s cargo volume only increases to 849 L (30 cu-ft) of space. Also, the Leaf’s rear seats don’t fold flat like the Bolt’s rear seats.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – As both cars are electric and don’t have an internal combustion engine, the cabins are quieter than their ICE counterparts. But there is still a difference between the two cars. The Chevrolet Bolt rides on specially designed self-sealing tires which are designed for low rolling resistance to improve efficiency. But the drawback is that they are very noisy on a highway. The Nissan Leaf on the other hand also has low rolling resistance tires but they are not as noisy. Wind noise is more prominent on the Leaf Plus but the cabin is quieter overall than that of the Bolt EV.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus comes out swinging by offering a full suite of advanced safety & driver aids as standard. The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt does not offer any driver or safety aids as standard but they are available as part of the Driver Confidence Packages. Other than that difference, both cars are available with pretty much the same features. Surround view cameras, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto compatibility, and leather seating surfaces to name a few. The Bolt though does have a couple of advantages over the Leaf. It is available with a rear camera mirror, the infotainment touchscreen is a 10.2-inch display rather than an 8-inch unit, and the surround view cameras are HD whereas in the Leaf, they are not. But The Nissan Leaf is available with a native navigation system; something that the Chevy Bolt does not have.
Interior Design – The Chevy Bolt EV feels like a stereotypical electric car. It has quirky designs such as the white trim pieces across the dashboard and doors. As well as the asymmetrical patterns on the seats. It does utilize small item storage better than the Leaf with a large pass through between the front seats for a purse. As well in the back seats, there is a flat floor and the top Premier trim receives USB ports.
The interior of the Leaf Plus does not feel as quirky as the Bolt’s interior. It feels more like a normal car and for me, that looks more appealing. The materials also feel a bit more premium than those in the Bolt EV. The only quirky design feature in the Leaf is the drive selector.
Exterior Design – Both of these electric cars are taller versions of normal hatchbacks. On the inside they offer plenty of space but on the outside, they look more like small crossovers. They don’t look bad per se, it’s just that you can easily tell that these cars are different from other cars on the roads. They both have unique design cues like the Bolt’s lightning bolt shaped LED tail lights or the Leaf’s 3D optical illusion pattern where the grille would be. You’ve heard the saying before “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and for me, the Nissan Leaf looks a bit better than the Chevy Bolt.
In the end, I personally like the 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus more than the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Leaf feels more like a normal car on the inside and is quieter on a highway. But the Chevrolet Bolt is a better overall electric vehicle. The Bolt’s starting price of $44,998 CAD ($37,495 USD) is a bit more expensive than the Leaf SV’s starting price of $44,298 CAD ($31,600 USD) (the Leaf Plus starts at $46,898 CAD / $38,200 USD), however, you’re getting a lot more range and power with the Bolt EV. At the other end of the spectrum, a fully loaded Chevy Bolt is actually less expensive than a fully loaded Nissan Leaf Plus. $51,900 CAD ($42,110 USD) for the Bolt Premier vs $52,900 CAD ($43,900 USD) for the Leaf SL Plus. So on that basis, the Chevrolet Bolt is a better overall electric vehicle but I still like the Nissan Leaf more for it’s comfort & car-like interior.