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2018 Nissan Leaf vs. 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by James Riswick May 2018

The 2018 Nissan Leaf represents a complete redesign for one of the first widely available and successful electric cars. It largely follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, but adds electric range and extra tech, while dialing back a bit on the first generation's weirdness.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric, on the other hand, is an all-new model. Its body style is different than the Leaf's -- more like a Prius than a traditional hatchback -- which grants it certain advantages, but on the eco front, is pretty darn comparable. Let's take a look at both of these new electric cars to see which might be better for you.

2018 Nissan Leaf

The Leaf was completely redesigned for 2018, but is largely an evolution of its predecessor. Styling inside and out is less funky, driving range has been increased by about 45 miles, the electric motor is more powerful and advanced safety tech features have been added.

Read all about our long-term Leaf test.

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

This is an all-new model, joining its equally new hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings. The Electric has a slightly different interior.

Read more in our full Hyundai Ioniq new car review.

Reliability

Both of these are too new to fairly comment about their potential reliability. The previous-generation seems to have been reasonably trouble-free, however, and electric vehicles have fewer moving parts to go wrong.

One thing of note, however: Hyundai's warranty includes 5-year/60,000-mile basic, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and lifetime battery failure coverage. Nissan's consists of 3-year/60,000-mile basic, 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain and 8-year/100,000 battery coverage. Admittedly something to worry about when purchasing rather than leasing.

Fuel Economy

There are two things to consider here: electric range and energy consumption.

The 2018 Leaf achieves superior range, as the Environmental Protection Agency indicates it can go 151 miles on a charge. By contrast, the Ioniq Electric is rated at 124 miles. Both are pretty strong among electric cars.

In terms of energy consumption, however, the Ioniq will take less of a toll on your monthly power bill. It uses only 25 kWh of electricity over the course of 100 miles, versus the Leaf's 30 kWh. According to the EPA, that could save you $100 annually. So, unless that extra 25 miles is more important to you, the Ioniq is ultimately the more eco-friendly choice.

Driving Experience

One of the reasons the Leaf uses more electricity is because it has a more powerful electric motor (the equivalent of 147 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque) than the Ioniq (an equivalent of 118 horsepower and 215 lb-ft). Frankly, it's a bit hard to tell, as both demonstrate the appealing, tell-tale attributes of an EV: Ultra-smooth, quiet and push-you-into-your-seat low-end torque. Around town, they'll both feel pleasantly gutsy. Charging onto the highway's a bit different, but neither is wanting for power.

Apart from their powertrains, expect the Ioniq to be the more rewarding and engaging car to drive. Its steering is surprisingly quick, well-weighted and communicative, while its ably tuned chassis benefits from having all that battery weight located down low just forward of the rear axle. To our great surprise, it can actually be fun to drive. The Leaf, on the other hand, is more of a transportation appliance, which should be just fine for most.

And in that vein, let's talk about getting stuck in traffic. The Leaf's new "e-Pedal" engages aggressive regenerative braking that allows you to pretty much drive with the accelerator most of the time (letting off automatically slows the car, though you still must use the brakes when more aggressive stopping is needed). Without e-Pedal engaged, the Leaf pretty much operates like a normal car. The Ioniq, on the other hand, provides four different levels of regenerative braking, with one equal to the Leaf in regular mode and four being perhaps just a little less severe than e-Pedal. The two levels in between provide a choice to drivers not offered by Nissan, and as such, credit goes to the Ioniq here (we also like that you engage these levels by pulling steering wheel paddles).

Safety

Both the Leaf and Ioniq come with antilock brakes, stability control, front-side and full-length side curtain airbags and backup cameras. The Ioniq comes with a driver knee airbag and driver-side blind-spot mirror.

Blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning systems, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist are available on both. The Leaf is also available with a driver inattention warning system and an advanced adaptive cruise control system that provides steering assistance as well as the usual ACC tasks of operating the accelerator and brakes for you. That's all that the Ioniq's available ACC can do, but is nevertheless quite capable at it.

Neither car has been crash tested by a third party, but the largely identical Ioniq Hybrid received a Top Safety Pick award from the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Technology

Besides the advanced safety tech described above, each is available with the latest infotainment tech. The base Leaf comes standard with a 5-inch touchscreen, one USB port, Bluetooth and a 4-speaker sound system, but stepping up to the SV or SL trims are recommended, as they add a 7-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and remote vehicle functions and reporting via a smartphone app.

The Ioniq basically comes standard with the Leaf's optional equipment. However, you can go further with the Ioniq Limited trim, which adds an 8-in touchscreen and wireless smartphone charging.

Value

The Leaf and Ioniq are priced similarly, but Hyundai provides more equipment for the money, a longer warranty and should use less electricity. Having said that, the Leaf has a richer, more premium cabin in terms of appearance and materials quality. The plastics in the Ioniq may be eco-friendly, but they nevertheless look and feel cheap. The Limited trim level's leather upholstery also does a fine imitation of vinyl. On the other hand, the Ioniq's clever center console design and cargo area are more functional than the Leaf's.

Autotrader's Advice

The value proposition should make the Ioniq the better bet for most, but it's not like these two are terribly far apart. The fact that their designs, body styles and driving experiences are considerably different provide opportunities for personal preference to emerge. Really, whichever you prefer will still be a good EV choice.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Nissan Leaf vs. 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric: Which Is Better? - Autotrader