MotorTrend Gives Ford Focus Electric Edge Over LEAF


The Nissan LEAF might be the only affordable, all-electric car on the block for now. But not for much longer. Competition will pick up quickly for the LEAF in the U.S., and around the world.

One of its primary competitors, at least early on, is shaping up to be the Ford Focus Electric, due out in the U.S. in late 2011. And, if a recent comparative review of the Focus Electric and the LEAF by MotorTrend is on the mark, it’s looking like the LEAF faces a stiff challenger in the Focus Electric.

MotorTrend gives the Focus Electric a slight edge over the LEAF. Of course, there are some big unknowns in terms of the Focus Electric, the biggest being, of course, price. Ford has not announced a specific price for the Focus Electric while the LEAF is selling for $32,780 with Federal and state tax incentives likely to bring the cost down for many, but not necessarily all, buyers.

Here’s a brief overview of the MotorTrend review:

Power: Advantage, Nissan. What it lacks in horsepower, the Leaf makes up in torque and top speed, says MotorTrend.

Battery/Charge Time: Advantage, Ford. The holy grail of EVs is a charging time as short as filling a gas tank. Ford’s looks like it will be closer, says MotorTrend.

Weight: Advantage, Nissan. Weight is the enemy of range and the Focus Electric, which is 300 pounds heavier than the LEAF, is, says MotorTrend,  “a portly compact”.

Handling: Advantage, Ford. It’s a narrow margin, but MotorTrend says it  expects a better suspension and tires over the center of gravity to boost the Focus, although, the magazine notes, “We’ll have to drive it to know for sure.”

Range: Tie, or, really, unknown — although MotorTrend speculates that the Focus might have a shorter range due to its heavier weight and less sophisticated aerodynamics.

Price: Advantage, Nissan. MotorTrend speculates that the Focus Electric will cost more than the LEAF, primarily because it will offer a liquid thermal management for its battery pack, something the LEAF lacks.

Gadgets: Advantage, Ford. The Focus Electric’s got more of these, so it’s a pretty clear win for the FE, says MotorTrend.

Space: Unknown. Like “range”, it’s unclear which car has better space at this point, says MotorTrend, which is still waiting to test the Focus Electric.

Looks: Advantage, Ford. MotorTrend puts it pretty simply: “We just like the way it looks better.”

In the end, according to MotorTrend’s book of comparative categories, the Focus Electric beats the LEAF, 4-3.

MotorTrend also claims that the LEAF has a pretty big advantage over the Focus Electric because it’s already on the U.S. market and will have been available for about a year by the time Ford starts delivering its FE’s in 19 select U.S. markets. We’re not so sure. Seems to us the biggest issue in terms of Nissan’s alleged competitive advantage for being on the U.S. market longer than the Focus Electric will be geography. Yes, the LEAF will have been out in some U.S. markets long before the Focus Electric. However, in countless others, it will barely beat the Focus Electric to market. In fact, it’s certainly possible the Focus Electric will be available to consumers in some U.S. markets before the LEAF is.

For the full MotorTrend review, go to:

11 Responses

  1. PaulM says:

    Nissan better smarten up and figure out how increase production and get the Leafs in customer hands ASAP!

    Although I think this comparison is quite premature. They should wait until the Focus EV is out cause there are still too many unknowns.


  2. ziv says:

    I am a big supporter of domestic car makers, normally, but Ford has some big shoes to fill if the Focus BEV is going to take on the Leaf. The photos of the Focus seem to show just about no boot space at all, the rear seats are behind the C column with only a foot or so of space, and the floor is lifted leaving even less space. The Leaf boot is a bit longer, maybe 18″ but it is a lot deeper, with at least a foot more depth than the Ford.
    There is little doubt that the Focus is better looking and probably has better aerodynamics, but that only helps the hwy AER, not the city range. But it really comes down to price. If the Focus is in the neighborhood on AER it will be a star if the price is below $35,000. If it is above that mark it will have a couple quarters of excellent sales and then the bulk of BEV buyers will shop elsewhere.


  3. Sasparilla says:

    Regarding the delays, on another Leaf blog a commenter said the following:

    “So regarding scaling — I was told by a Nissan employee in Oct, at a ride and drive, that that the Nissan / NEC battery joint venture, Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC), was having difficulty scaling battery production. ”

    Since this was before we knew about delays and it totally matches what we’re seeing here (absolutely miniscule production and delivery numbers in the US and Japan) I’d lend it some credence (best guess I’ve heard so far that matches what we’re seeing). It’s also the last thing Nissan wants to be having production issues with (the key technical component of the car).

    I agree PaulM, at this point the Focus EV is just an advertisement without a price tag (although I like it). But it sure is nice to be in a world where MotorTrend can write something like this comparison up – thank goodness we’ve gotten here (thought it was gone for sure 10 years ago – big thanks to GM and Nissan for making it happen).


  4. Independent of the relative merits of the two cars, I have to give Nissan huge kudos for opening the market. Before Nissan came along with an initial commitment to mid-six-figure-per-year production numbers and the pricing that can bring, pure electrics were about to remain beyond the reach of the mainstream public — the iMiEV, for example, was then selling for nearly double the LEAF’s price. Like Toyota, who established the market for hybrids, Nissan is buying the price down for the first couple of years, with the knowledge that with the production they’ve committed to, they can get the costs down, too. All others, including Ford, must now price competitively to play. Thank you, Nissan.

    That said, Ford’s liquid battery thermal management is something I would vote for with my consumer $$. On the other hand, I recently rented an almost-new Focus; to me, it drove like a raucous cheap car, so I hope they do much better with the EV. Compared to the exceptional driving experience of my Volt (I have a LEAF on order, too), Ford has a mountain to climb in this department. Has Ford lost its collective mind in advertising that the Focus EV will drive “as well as” the gasoline version?

    Since Nissan has promised a 6.6 kW charger by the time the Focus EV comes out, charging times will be a wash, but only if Ford also offers a (possibly optional) fast charge port.


  5. Bill says:

    Advantage, Ford. It’s a narrow margin, but MotorTrend says it expects a better suspension and tires over the center of gravity to boost the Focus, although, the magazine notes, “We’ll have to drive it to know for sure.”

    Come On Folks. Motortrend Shame on You! Fords Mars rocket will probably have an edge on the Nissan Mars rocket… but we better make sure we see the blueprints before commiting fully to our statements… Who listens to this drivel..


  6. KeiJidosha says:

    It seems premature to compare the LEAF that is, with the Focus EV that isn’t. The only things missing for a fair comparison are the price, warranty, performance, handling, HVN feel, fit, finish, availability, production, delivery, and test drive. Otherwise, a fair comparison.


  7. Stan Stein says:

    Shame on motor trend. How can they compare the Focus to anything. When there is not even 1 production Focus. How can they give the edge to Focus for “handling”. There is a lot of weight in the rear where the battery sits. I agree that Focus is a better looking car but is it a better EV? In my book it is a convertion of an ICE with probably a great deal of drawbacks because of this.

    Come on Nissan you can own this market if you change the charger to 6.6, and get the Leafs in the hands of customers in large numbers before Ford distributes the Focus Ev. Nissan is killing its advantage with the miniscule roll out of the Leaf, even in launch States


  8. Roy H says:

    MT is clearly pro-Ford and anti-Nissan in this “review”. I like the looks of the Ford Focus better but technically it comes a distant second. They state that the Focus will be heavier, has a larger motor to compensate so performance will be similar, has a smaller battery (same LG Chem type as Volt, and GM only uses 85% for long life) vs LEAFs battery which is different chemistry and they use up to 95%. (Before you get all twisted in a knot about this, the LEAF battery is heavier so performance/weight is still in LG Chem’s favor.) Anyhow this smaller battery of which they should use only a smaller portion, according to MT will deliver longer range! How do they come to that conclusion? They state that the Focus rear seats are moved a whopping 10″ forward to make more room behind for the huge battery box that leaves almost no storage space and calls it a draw for rear seat passenger space and luggage space??? And to top it off they suggest that the Focus will have better handling because the battery is mounted over the rear wheels instead of lower down in the center of the car! Anybody that has a clue about auto dynamics knows that mass concentrated low in the center gives the best handling.


  9. Van says:

    Similar to saying the Prius PHV is superior to the Volt, comparing a car that isn’t to a car that is, is basically an exercise of bias. Comparing the promise of prototypes with the performance of production vehicles is a waste. What we pretty much know is the Leaf needs a second generation battery and a bigger on board charger. The rest is blowing in the wind.


  10. EV-FREAK says:

    I don’t know if looks will go in favor of the Focus, look at the Prius its “beauty” was one of the selling points. People could show that they were driving electric by the look alone. The Focus seems to look like any other Focus but at almost twice the price.

    Also I agree with Ron, its doubtful if the Focus will win on handling either, the Leaf’s batteries are as low and as close to the center of mass as possible. It was designed around the batteries not an after thought like the Focus appears to be.

    Sure looks like space will go in favor of the Leaf also.

    I think they got this review wrong. My review… Leaf 6 Focus 2.

    And Ford does not even have much if any of an edge when it come to being American mad, the bulk of Leafs along with their batteries will be built in Tennessee.


  11. says:

    WILL SEE …


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