Plug-in to the New Year: 2017 Nissan Leaf vs. 2017 Prius Prime

Our new comparison chart pitting the 2017 Nissan Leaf against the 2017 Prius Prime reveals many similarities between these two emissions-reducing cars, but we see some vast differences. We've created this chart with Olathe Toyota Parts Center to highlight the features and specs of the New Year's plug-in vehicles.

Here's the chart and a summary below of the Leaf's many advantages over Toyota's newest Prius plugin.

Leaf vs prime ig

Top-Notch Torque

Let's compare output. The Leaf’s new 80kW AC Synchronous Motor brings 107 horses with 187 lb-feet of torque. According to Nissan, almost all of that torque is available as soon as you start the car. In EV mode, the 2017 Prius Prime only offers 95 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. The Leaf's superior torque makes it more responsive in day to day driving.

Also, while we're on the topic of powertrains; because the Prius Prime relies on hybrid gasoline-electric propulsion technology, there's the switch-over between ICE mode and EV only mode. The mode switch makes the Prime drive and sound differently. With the Leaf, it's smooth sailing all the time.

Passenger and Cargo Space

Leaf 640

Both the 2017 Leaf and Prius Prime offer backseat legroom and shoulder room, but the Prime loses a seat in the back because Toyota couldn't find anywhere else to place the Prime's battery pack. While the Prime's center seat is replaced with console - and that seat isn't always utilized by sedan owners anyways - it's nice to have the option.

The Leaf, on the other hand, has the capacity for five average-sized adults. And, even if you don't use that center seat in the back of your Leaf, it makes for more hip room for rear passengers.

As for cargo, the Prime's battery pack eats into the usable space in the back of the car. While the total cargo volume of the Prius Prime and Nissan Leaf is pretty close, the Leaf's flat rear seat and lower cargo deck make it easier to utilize the cargo area.

The Hidden Costs of Gas-Electric Hybrids

At first blush, the Prius Prime looks like a better "deal" than the Nissan Leaf. However, hidden in the roughly $10,000 MSRP to MSRP price difference is the long-term cost of maintaining a gasoline engine.

Let's say, for example, that you buy and drive a Prius Prime for 150k miles. Let's say that fully half of those miles are EV miles (a generous assumption, considering the Prime's puny 25 mile EV range). At 54mpg, the Prius will burn about 1,400 gallons of gas over 150k miles (and assuming 50% EV mode use). At $2.50 a gallon, that's nearly $3,500 in fuel.

But, that's not the only cost. In addition to buying gasoline, Prius Prime owners will need to buy:

  1. Oil changes and oil filters every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, at a cost of $60 to $100 a pop (the Prime's engine uses full synthetic oil, which is twice as expensive as conventional motor oil)
  2. Engine air filters every 30-50k miles, at $20 apiece
  3. Fuel filters every 60-90k miles, at a cost of $150 or so (installed)
  4. At least one set of spark plugs, at a cost of $150-$250 (installed)
  5. An engine tuneup at some point, which may include coolant replacement. The cost for this type of service ranges into the hundreds of dollars (only, to be fair, it often includes things like fuel filters, engine air filters, etc.)

Basically, when you add it all up, the Prius Prime has thousands of dollars in ongoing maintenance and fuel expenses. The Leaf? $0 for gasoline. No oil changes. No engine air filters. No replacing oxygen sensors, no worrying about busted fuel pumps, etc. etc. The Leaf also qualifies for larger tax credits, further reducing the cost premium.

No Tailpipe Emissions. No Compromise. No Pretenders.

Nissan zero

Although both autos plug in, the Leaf is all-electric while the new Prius is still just a hybrid. In normal driving mode, the Prime will engage and disengage the gasoline engine as needed, meaning that driving a Prius Prime the normal way means burning gas. For drivers who are mindful of their carbon footprint, the Nissan Leaf is the only way to go.

The 2017 Leaf's 107 mile driving range (via the 30 kWh battery pack) is plenty for commuting, and longer trips are possible with planning. Since most of the driving that car owners do is commuting, the extra range of the Prius Prime isn't terribly important anyways.

Finally, there's this: a zero emissions lifestyle is a difficult challenge. Becoming a true steward of the environment is partially about changing your perspective. Buying a plugin hybrid car with a token amount of electric driving range isn't exactly "green." Anyone can buy a gas hybrid, plug it in occasionally, and claim to be environmentally conscious.

For all these reasons, we think the Leaf is the hands-down winner in the comparison.