Electric Cars

Nissan Leaf Nismo EV packs custom tuning, more aggressive looks

A normally sedate electric car retuned for performance? Hell yes.

Nissan

If you've been looking for an excuse to move to Japan, the Nissan Leaf Nismo could very well be it.

Nissan unveiled the Leaf Nismo this week, a bit of a surprise since we never thought it make the leap from concept to reality. The automaker's EV hatchback has been retuned and tweaked in a variety of ways to make for a more exciting ride. Many packages like this are keen to leave it at aesthetics, with maybe a dash or two of handling improvements, but not the Leaf Nismo.

I can't imagine too many Leaf buyers in the US would have interest in a sporty model, so its limited market release makes sense, even if I don't like it.

Nissan

While the Leaf Nismo rocks the same electric motor as its more sedate sibling, Nissan did retune its computer for improved acceleration. The automaker didn't say how much quicker it was, but it's not like the regular Leaf is an outright slouch, reaching 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds.

Several chassis updates should boost the handling prowess to match that newfound horizontal gusto. There's a new set of shock absorbers and special 18-inch alloy wheels with Continental ContiSportContact 5 tires. Nissan also made adjustments to its braking system, traction control and anti-lock brake system. A nimble little Leaf, with its low center of gravity, should make for a pretty fun ride.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Nismo if it didn't look the part. To that end, Nissan adorned the Leaf Nismo's exterior with special LED headlights, new front and rear fasciae, new side sills and special side mirrors. Inside, there's an Alcantara suede steering wheel, a sportier gearshift, new seats with red and gray stitching, unique gauges and red dash trim pieces.

If you're wondering why you'd need to move to Japan for this, it's pretty simple. We won't get the Leaf Nismo in the US -- or in Europe, or anywhere but Japan, for that matter. So brush up on your Nihongo if you want a sporty EV that won't set you back as much as a Tesla. Sure, you could get a BMW i3s instead, but this looks a little cooler.