Any Takers? Nissan Toys With Leaf NISMO Performance Variant

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
any takers nissan toys with leaf nismo performance variant

Nissan appears to be considering adorning the Leaf with a NISMO nameplate and appearance. Unveiled on Monday at Nissan’s Futures 3.0 event, the stock 2018 model provides improved performance, range, and less nerdy looks. However, Nissan wants further improve the Leaf’s image with a NISMO-trimmed variant.

Oh goodie.

While we get that economy models can morph into fun-to-drive little darlings, we also scrunched our noses at Toyota’s performance-enhanced GR Prius last month. Not every car can be the next GTI and, if automakers would like to build something that could be, they’ll have to provide us with more than a bodykit and a set of custom wheels.

However, that’s what Nissan is likely to give us with the NISMO Leaf. Like the Prius GR Sport, Nissan is going to equip the model with tough-looking bumpers, red-bordered side skirts, and some unique wheels. According to Autocar, brand design chief Alfonso Albaisa said a NISMO variant would help fix the Leaf’s reserved image.

“The previous Leaf’s design wasn’t popular with the majority of people,
so its look couldn’t contribute to sales,”
 he said. “The new car
 is lower, wider and sportier, with the point
 of this design being to
 get greater accessibility of the market.”

Nissan already has a track version of the little EV called the Nismo Leaf RC. However, the performance prototype has little in common with the production vehicle. Depleted of its rear doors, back seat, audio system, carpeting, and practically every other creature comfort one might expect on a passenger car, the RC is Nissan’s attempt and showcasing the possibility of an environmentally friendly track car.

Its carbon fiber monocoque design is about as impractical for daily use as it gets. The windows don’t even roll down and its electric motors push the rear wheels instead of the front. Nissan claims the car can reach 62 mph in roughly 6.8 seconds and has a top speed of 93 mph — not exactly what you might expect from a race vehicle. It also has a battery life of around 20 minutes under racing conditions.

With battery life tapered to a length shorter than an episode of Family Matters, one wonders how long a road-going NISMO Leaf would last while being given “the beans.” While the RC prototype uses the old Leaf’s tech, the new model has improved output and range. Still, it might not be enough keep any would-be racer from immediately draining the power pack.

An improved performance model of the next-generation Leaf will arrive in 2019, however. The “Leaf E-Plus” will come equipped with a higher-capacity battery pack and a stiffer overall structure. Presumably, any performance upgrades the Leaf might see through NISMO will come through that version of the little EV.

Albaisa said it would be “easy” to develop NISMO parts for the Leaf. However, the prospect of any of those affecting its powertrain are dubious. We expect to see a performance-badged electric with some different bodywork, upgraded tires, and maybe some stiffer springs. And, when that model arrives, we’ll probably still be scratching our heads as to why Nissan thought it was a good idea.

Nissan says the prototype will be on display at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month, along with a cadre of other Nismo variants representative of the brand’s planned global expansion.

[Images: Nissan]

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3 of 18 comments
  • Scott25 Scott25 on Oct 03, 2017

    This is a companion to the NISMO Note, which has been sold in Japan for years. I highly highly doubt it’ll be sold beyond the JDM.

  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Oct 03, 2017

    How they gonna do better (regenerative,) brakes? Recaro chairs can limit next owner appeal. Not everybody wants butt-painful side bolsters getting in and out. Will Leaf Nismo have two motors and awd?

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Oct 04, 2017

      My 12 Leaf had excellent brakes, with 2-piston calipers up front. It stopped quite well, but then again it was a small car that weighed 3400 lbs due to the battery. Interestingly, my 13 Optima Hybrid weighs the same as that Leaf, but its brakes are only adequate (single-piston calipers). Both cars have regen, but of course that means nothing in a panic stop.