Scaled-down looks are beginning to grow roots. The second-generation Nissan LEAF arrived in 2018 with a far more conventional look than its funky first-gen model. It still stood out relative to other hatchbacks with its hard body lines, black accents, and lack of engine noise, but it was far from the eyesore it once was.

Other than a few feature tweaks since 2018, the LEAF has remained mostly the same, and the 2021 LEAF is entirely unchanged. Find out below if the 2021 Nissan LEAF still has what it takes to continue thriving in the fast-changing affordable-EV space.

Surprisingly timid looks. After spending its first generation battling ugly-duckling syndrome, the Nissan LEAF blossomed into a relative swan in its second generation. While some models, like the bolt and Kona Electric, still battle tell-tale EV design issues, the LEAF looks about as close to a traditional hatchback as you can get.

That said, the Nissan LEAF is far from a pageant winner. That designation goes to the sleek and stylish Ford Mustang Mach-E. While its use of the Mustang name is blasphemous to Mustang traditionalists, there’s no denying the Mustang Mach-E is a stunner.

Price leader. The 2021 Nissan LEAF is a leader in EV pricing, as its S trim with the standard 40-kWh battery runs just $32,620 (destination fees included) before any credits. This beats its closest rival, the Bolt EV by nearly $5,000, but its 149-mile range is a turn-off to commuters.

You can bump to the 62-kWh battery in the LEAF Plus, which offers up to a 226-mile range, but it starts from $39,220, which is more than the Bolt EV, Model 3, and Kona Electric. Plus, these cheaper competitors all deliver more range: Bolt EV offers 259 miles, Kona Electric offers 258 miles, and the Model 3 Standard Range Plus goes 250 miles on a charge.

Nissan LEAF

Lacks top-end performance. The 2021 Nissan LEAF joins the Chevy Bolt EV in the “perky” department with a sub-seven-second 0-60 time. This is thanks to its 214-horsepower electric motor that also delivers 250 pound-feet of instantly available torque.

Though it feels peppy off the line, don’t mistake the LEAF for a hot hatch, as it’s not overly refined in the corners.

While this straight-line zip is nice at its price point, it’s a far cry from what some competitors offer. The Model 3 delivers a respectable 5.3-second 0-60 time from its base model, but the real fun comes from its 3.5-second Dual Motor Performance trim.

The Mustang Mach-E is also more performance-oriented, with its standard model delivering a 6.1-second 0-60 time. In its range-topping GT trim, the Mustang Mach-E hits 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Nissan LEAF is a wonderful option for buyers seeking a family-friendly EV on a tight budget, as its base model rings in about $5,000 less than the nearest competitor. That said, this base EV has a far shorter range than any other EV on the market, so choose this option with care.

Buyers seeing a longer range are better suited in the Bolt EV, Model 3, or Kona Electric, as they all offer more range at a lower price than the extended-range LEAF Plus.

Buyers craving more style can opt for the sleek Mustang Mach-E, but its base price is significantly higher, and its EV range is similar to the LEAF Plus.

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