Pros and Cons of the Cheapest Electric Car
- The 2022 Nissan Leaf is the cheapest electric car in the US, and we tested it.
- It costs $27,400, or potentially around $20,000 after the federal EV tax credit of $7,500.
- It has an enticingly low price, but you’ll have to sacrifice some range and charging capability.
Electric cars are getting cheaper as they hit the mainstream, but by and large, they’re still much pricier than their gasoline counterparts. In February, the average price paid for a battery-powered model climbed past $60,000, according to Edmunds.
Still, there are options out there for anyone looking to go green on a budget. The Nissan Leaf, benefitting from a price reduction for the 2022 model, is now the cheapest long-range electric vehicle on the market.
We tested it out to see how much EV you get for $27,400. Here’s why the Leaf hatchback is a great buy — and some ways it falls short.
Pro: The lowest starting price of any electric car
For 2022, Nissan slashed the Leaf’s price across trims by up to $6,500, bringing the MSRP for a base model down to $27,400. If you apply the $7,500 tax credit for plug-in purchases and local incentives, you could walk away with a Leaf for under 20 grand.
While a few electric cars can be had for around $30,000 today, most cost $40,000 and up.
Con: Cheapest model has poor range
If you settle on the cheapest Leaf, don’t plan on traveling too far all at once. The base Leaf S gets 149 miles of range per charge, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates. While that may be plenty for some people, it’s underwhelming in an era when newcomers generally promise 250 miles and up.
Consider spending an extra $5,000 for the Leaf S Plus, which delivers a much healthier 226 miles of driving range.
Pro: Ample standard safety tech
All Leafs (Leaves?) come with a solid variety of safety features, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and reverse automatic braking.
ProPilot Assist, an advanced cruise-control feature that steers, accelerates, and brakes on the highway, is available on pricier trims, and I found it worked pretty well.
Con: Uses a less common fast-charging port
We need to get a bit in the weeds here for a moment, but it’ll be worth it.
DC fast chargers provide the quickest charging experience and are capable of replenishing an electric car’s battery in roughly 20 minutes to an hour. If you aren’t plugging in at home overnight or at work throughout the day, you’ll probably frequent these kinds of stations.
The Leaf can use DC fast chargers, but only with an aging type of connector called CHAdeMO, which is harder to come by at public stations than the newer CCS plug. The Leaf is also equipped with a more common J1772 port, but that’s only good for slower charging.
Pro: Spacious interior
The Leaf’s hatchback bodystyle may be a little dated for a time when most people crave SUVs. But hatchbacks like the Leaf can be just as practical as SUVs.
The Leaf’s cabin feels nice and spacious, and there’s plenty of headroom for rear passengers thanks to the hatchback’s tall, horizontal roofline. The Leaf affords 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats, more than the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, or Hyundai Kona Electric. But the Leaf’s rear seats don’t fold completely flat.
Pro: Nice to drive
The Leaf SL Plus we tested offers strong, instant acceleration that’s great for highway merges and executing quick moves in traffic. Most EVs have good acceleration, but expect to feel it more in Leaf models with the larger battery pack, denoted by a “Plus.”
The Leaf isn’t nearly as quick to 60 mph as higher-end electric cars, but buyers coming from some gas cars may appreciate its perkiness from a stop.