Nissan LEAF vs VW e-Golf + Other EVs (Owner Review)

Editor’s Note: Neil Blanchard is a longtime reader and top commenter on EV Obsession and CleanTechnica. He’s very detail oriented — as in, he pays close attention to details and has what I’d call a scientific mind. He seems to know EVs like the back of his hand (though, I’m not sure if he would approve of such a phrase, as it’s not a great analogy). I was very happy yesterday when Neil dropped me a comment offering to repost a comparison article between the Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen e-Golf, and a couple of other EVs. I was especially happy not just because I admire Neil’s in-depth technical knowledge, but also because he and his wife own a Nissan LEAF and a Volkswagen e-Golf — owner reviews offer so much more insight.

The detailed comparison between the Nissan LEAF vs VW e-Golf is quite interesting, and then Neil throws in thoughts on the BMW i3 REx (which his brother has) and Mitsubishi i-MiEV (which is mother and another family member have). And what makes these reviews extra interesting is that Neil’s whole family is tall (really — his mom’s ~6′ tall, and his brother and son are each 6’6″). His brother’s take on the i3’s space is particularly interesting, since I’m a little more than 6′ and was surprised by how spacious the driver’s seat of the i3 felt… but was also wondering if I was crazy and being too generous.

But I think that’s enough of an intro. Here’s Neil’s full piece, reposted from his blog:

By Neil Blanchard

We own both an e-Golf and a Leaf, and I have a little experience with the i3, as well, as my brother owns one.

In a nutshell: the e-Golf is a better car than the Leaf in most respects, and the coasting and regen steps are the best. But the Leaf has better EV aspects; like the location of the charging port, and CHAdeMO is available, while CCS is not (where I am in Massachusetts, anyway).

My family of four is tall, and we are much more comfortable in the e-Golf. The downside is it sits lower and the getting in and out is a bit more effort. The rear legroom in the e-Golf in particular is better, because the foot wells are deeper than the Leaf, which has some battery cells below the rear floor.

The two features that the e-Golf have that is better than any EV on the market are the free wheel coasting, and the 4 levels of regen available by “shifting” — and the direct heating windshield defroster. The former is what every EV should have, in my opinion. The latter is a great concept, but as implemented in the e-Golf is a bit anemic for ice and freezing rain, and is only good for moisture in a cold rain. The idea is that direct heating is MUCH more efficient, but the e-Golf’s version needs more oomph.

The Leaf has the best location for the charging port, and it has a light on the inside to see it in the dark. It has an optional lock to keep anyone from disconnecting you until it is charged. The e-Golf stays locked all the time, and only when you unlock the car, can you release it — so it is NOT easy to use on public EVSE’s unless you stay with it. The Leaf also has the three blue lights in the center of the dash at the base of the windshield so that the state of charging can be seen from a distance.

Being able to use the CHAdeMO quick charging is great — we have not used it a lot, yet, but we can use it. The total lack of CCS stations is a major lack, for both the e-Golf and the i3.

Driving the e-Golf is far better than the Leaf — handling and steering is great. The e-Golf chassis is more solid feeling and the fit and finish is better. The Leaf has stronger acceleration, even though the motor is slightly less powerful — it must have lower gearing. The Leaf brakes are strong, but the body rolls a bit more, and occasionally the stability control kicks in by dragging a rear wheel brake — this is a bit too heavy handed, in my opinion. The e-Golf has a tilt and telescope steering wheel, while the Leaf only tilts.

The Leaf S we have came with 16″ Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 and these are excellent low rolling resistance tires, and so far I have been able to get lower energy consumption in the Leaf. My best average for a charge is just under 205Wh/mile (measuring the charge at the wall and using a corrected odometer reading). I “shift” into neutral and the Leaf simply flies along on the gentlest down slopes.

The e-Golf has a better claimed Cd, and I tend to concur, but this advantage is undone by the unremarkable stock Continental tires. My best consumption in the e-Golf is 212Wh/mile. I hope to be able to try some low rolling resistance tires at some point, to see what the e-Golf is capable of.

I have driven the e-Golf five times above 100 miles on one charge (best at 110 miles), and I have driven the Leaf three times farther than 100 miles (best 111 miles). My 90 day average (not every charge) on the e-Golf is 138.8MPGe, and for the Leaf it is 139.8MPGe.

The stereo in the e-Golf is much better, though that is top-of-the-line vs base model. On the other hand, the Leaf has a USB input that works with any MP3 player, and the e-Golf requires a proprietary cable. (In theory it comes with two style iPod cables, but ours only came with the older 30 pin version.) The e-Golf has an SD slot so you can put your MP3’s on a big SD card, and use that; but it requires 400×400 JPG’s for the cover art.

A couple of niggles with the e-Golf: the HVAC always resets to 72F; no matter where you left it. Grrrr … This is annoying. It only has the two front seats heated. When you unlock the car to release the charging cord, it resets the charger’s display that showed the kWh for the previous charge. Having to unlock the car to be able to pull the connector is quite annoying, and makes proper etiquette at public stations very difficult.

The Leaf has all five seats heated, and the steering wheel is heated — my spouse is a HUGE fan of the heated steering wheel. Our Leaf S has a resistance heater, which sucks some serious wattage in the winter. Our worst total range was ~60 miles last winter; which was cold and very snowy.

The e-Golf has adaptive creep. If you stop, and then release the brake — nothing happens. If you accelerate very lightly after coming to a stop, it continues forward after you release the accelerator pedal. I like this feature. The Leaf has “normal” creep, which is sometimes annoying. Both have a certain amount of hill hold, which is great — no drifting backward on hill starts.


I have only driven my brother’s i3 REx briefly, and it’s strong regen on the accelerator is totally counter to how I have learned to ecodrive, over the last 7+ years. My brother is a bit over 6′-6″ and he has a 38″ inseam — and the i3 has more front legroom than any other vehicle he has ever driven. He has put a light-duty hitch on it, to carry a bicycle rack, and he carries lots of carpentry tools; though the largest (a portable wet saw) won’t fit in through the hatch, and has to be angled in through the passenger side doors. He has driven it ~89.5 miles on a single charge, and then he got ~40MPG on the REx, on a ~140 mile trip.

We have ~9,200 miles on our 2015 Leaf S, and we have had it since October ’14. We have ~5,400 miles on our 2015 e-Golf and we have had it since February ’15.


There are two i MiEV’s in our family, and I just got to drive my Mom’s for pretty good drive. It also has great legroom and headroom in the front (though not as cavernous as the i3) and the backseat is also pretty good. My son (6′-6″+) sat along side me in the front, and my Mom (who is ~6′ tall) sat in the backseat.

It is a much more basic car than the Leaf and the e-Golf, and it has the smallest motor at 49kW. Still pretty peppy from a stop, and the steering is very nimble. With a great big hatch, and the rear seats folded flat, it is a workhorse. The dash is anything but modern, and it needs a dedicated range remaining gauge.

Nothing fancy on the shifter, but it works like the Leaf — easy to “shift” into neutral and into B mode for more regen. The front tires were “low” at ~36PSI and ~38PSI, so I didn’t get to see how it really could coast. I pumped them up to 45PSI, and my Mom likes how it rolls.

The Eco mode is only when you’re desperate — it knocks the power down to ~17kW (if I recall correctly) so it is a snail, and only useful in stop and go traffic when you need to stretch your range. The front seats are heated, but that’s it for winter amenities. The heater is resistance, and apparently gets a big help if you insulate it.

The i MiEV has unusual tire sizes (narrow on the front, and normal on the back. There are 2 or 3 brands / models to choose from for all seasons, and 1 brand / model for winter tires, that are sold in the US, anyway.

It is a basic electric car — seats four, and is easy to drive, and is very practical. If you are very tall, and you want an electric car, and cannot quite step up to the i3’s price, then give the i MiEV a look.

2 thoughts on “Nissan LEAF vs VW e-Golf + Other EVs (Owner Review)

  1. It’s unfortunate there aren’t CCS around to test DCFC. Since eGolf and Leaf are only two DCFC capable EV without active battery cooling, I suspect eGolf would be slow like Leaf.

    It would’ve been interesting to see DCFC comparison; I suspect the little iMiev would charge faster than either eGolf or Leaf, especially during milder weather. i3 would be much faster, though probably not as fast as SparkEV.

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