Two solid choices with one big difference.
The 2018 Nissan LEAF and 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric are natural competitors. Both are all-electric compact four-door sedans with a hatch access to the back. Both are priced just below $30,000.
***UPDATE: Some additional information from Hyundai has been added at the bottom of the post.
As similar as they are, they also have a number of differences, mostly minor ones, and the video above runs through them. There is, as we mentioned, though, one big difference (not in the video) which we'll get to in a moment. First, here are some of the smaller ones.
More insight into these models
Size-wise, the two share the exact same wheelbase: 106.3 inches. Some other slight differences, though, are interesting to note because they affect the interior space. The Hyundai is slightly wider, leading to a bit more shoulder room for both front and back seat occupants. The Nissan is 4.3 inches taller and boasts more headroom for front seat occupants. The Ioniq Electric pulls ahead when it comes to legroom. In front, it's just a smidge better, but rear passengers may enjoy the 2.2-inch edge.
When it comes to storage space, the tale of the tape gets pretty interesting. With the back seat in its normal upright position, the LEAF is the hands down winner here. The floor of the cargo area looks quite deep and its roof lacks the degree of slope the sportier-looking Ioniq Electric has. The result is a whopping 435 liters (15.36 cubic feet) of space, an 85-liter (3-cu ft) advantage. Fold the seats down, however, and the trophy gets handed back, with the Korean car somehow holding a massive 620-liter (21.9-cu ft) edge with 1,410 liters (49.79 cu ft) of space all told.
For electric vehicle aficionados, efficiency and range are key metrics. In this arena, one seems to affect the other. The Nissan Leaf has a bigger battery and thus, more range: 151 EPA-rated miles to the Ioniq Electric's 124 miles. This gain becomes a loss, though, when looking at efficiency. The LEAF weighs 269 more pounds and since it's paired with a more powerful motor, which also gives it a performance edge up to its 89 mph top speed, its overall efficiency falls short of the numbers its competitor can produce. Here, the Ioniq enjoys a rating of 136 MPGe (combined City and Highway), 24 points better than the Japanese hatch.
The one big disparity between the two will also certainly make the difference when it comes to putting down cash, and that's availability. Even if your heart is set on the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, it is only sold in California. Produced in limited quantities, even there it can be hard to find. Looking at the InsideEVs Sales Scorecard we can see it sold 32 copies in the U.S. in May 2018, making a measly 583 total units sold since its release in March of 2017. On the other hand, the Nissan LEAF seems quite available, selling 1,576 examples in May.
The 2019 model year may bring some improvements to the Ioniq Electric, both in terms of features and availability, but so too will the Nissan LEAF, as it will then ship with an optional larger, liquid-cooled battery. Combined with a number of other models coming to the market in 2019, the future electric landscape is looking more and more interesting — and competitive!
UPDATE – We had reached out to Hyundai earlier about availability and they've now responded.
Its communications team informs us that although it is only sold in California, there is still Ioniq Electric inventory available. (We suggest inquiring through a dealer.) Also, the 2019 model will be going into production quite soon.