Nissan European EV boss Gareth Dunsmore hinted at something brewing, saying that the low-slung Leaf NISMO RC Concept "shows where the [Leaf's] spirit could go." Car thinks that means something like a sporty new mode – think Ludicrous Mode on a Tesla – rather than a wholesale rethink of the Leaf's shape and chassis. That could mean a larger, more powerful electric motor; a way to get power to the Leaf's 107-hp motor more quickly; or just a different powertrain calibration.
"If you jumped into a Nissan Leaf and you'd never driven an electric vehicle before, I would challenge anyone to get out and say the car doesn't have a sporty feel to it," Dunsmore told Car. "The second you touch the accelerator, the instant torque and smoothness of acceleration, that is exciting, and well-suited to link up with things like NISMO."
But if Nissan is trying to build an electrified hot hatchback out of a Leaf, it needs to do more than just bump the output. Sure, the Leaf feels sporty...until you attempt to turn the wheel. That's when you're reminded it's a tall, heavy, softly sprung hatchback with comfort-oriented steering. The handling needs an upgrade, which could include lowering the car, tightening the suspension, and putting sportier rubber on wider wheels, along with a NISMO body. Dunsmore claims Nissan wants to "challenge perceptions" about what EVs can be, using stuff like the BladeGlider. But if that's really the goal, the company needs to take a comprehensive approach to building a hotter Leaf.