Coffee Talk #634: 2014 Nissan Leaf vs. Ford Focus Electric

After getting smitten by the 2014 Nissan Leaf, but having a mostly lousy shopping experience, I’ve decided to take a look at the 2014 Ford Focus Electric. In some ways, the Ford Focus Electric is a much better car than the Nissan Leaf. In other ways, it’s lacking. Let’s do a binary breakdown of the 2014 Ford Focus Electric vs. 2014 Nissan Leaf. These opinions are fresh off a test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. Since I wrote about the Nissan Leaf last column, I’ll be thinking through this one with the Ford Focus Electric in mind.

Good: The Ford Focus Electric handles better than the Nissan Leaf. The suspension is a little bit better and the steering is much, much better. With the Leaf, you’re able to steer nimbly, but you don’t really feel anything; it’s like controlling a really powerful golf cart. The Ford Focus Electric lets you feel more of the road and has more responsive steering. While I wouldn’t call it sporty by any means, it’s certainly a more compelling drive than what the Leaf offers.

Bad: My biggest issue with the Ford Focus Electric is the lack of a quick-charge port. While its “level 2” charging is faster than most (3.6 hours to fill), it’s odd that the car doesn’t have a quick-charge port. The Nissan Leaf has the option for a CHAdeMO port, which allows you to charge the battery to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. There are several CHAdeMO chargers in my area, including a few that let you charge for free. This is a nice option to have. While I can certainly get by with the Ford Focus Electric’s relatively fast charging, a quick-charge option would offer more freedom and flexibility. In some ways, a quick-charge port is the EV equivalent of a condom — I rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it. (Oops, that analogy was supposed to stay in my inner monologue.)

Good: Another advantage for the Ford Focus Electric is that it has a liquid-cooled battery (active), as opposed to the Leaf’s air-cooled battery (passive). Extreme heat can lower a battery’s range (cold temperatures can too, but I don’t have to worry about that in Los Angeles). The Ford Focus Electric’s active cooling scheme will help the battery last longer, both in the short term (my concern, since I’m looking for a three-year lease) and the longterm.

Bad: Nissan created an original design for the Leaf, so its battery packs are smartly distributed. The Ford Focus Electric uses an existing design, so compromises were made to jam the battery into it. The end result is a slightly smaller backseat than the ICE Focus and a much smaller trunk. I knew that the trunk was going to be small based off of photos, but seeing it in real life surprised me. You can fit a couple of bags of groceries in there…and that’s about it. You can forget about picking up friends with lots of luggage from the airport (though, “Sorry, my trunk is too small,” can be a great excuse). The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, has more room in the backseats and much more usable trunk space.

Good: The Ford Focus Electric is available in one trim and the options are very, very nice. It beats the pants off of the Nissan Leaf’s S and SV trims, while being competitive or better than the top-of-the-line Leaf SL. While the initial price of the Ford Focus Electric is higher, adding options to the Nissan Leaf SL makes it a tougher choice. The interior components of Focus are nicer than most of what the Leaf offers.

Judgement Call: Some people prefer the Ford Focus Electric because it looks normal. There are some consumers that hate the atypical looks of the Nissan Leaf. I totally understand both sides. If you want a inconspicuous and unassuming EV that blends in then the Ford Focus Electric is your car. Personally, I dig the Leaf’s nerdy-as-hell aesthetics because it’s nerdy-as-hell.

Ford Focus Electric 2014

The good news is that I had a great test drive of the Ford Focus Electric at Airport Marina Ford. The bad news is that when it came time to get pricing, the fleet manager was coy and wouldn’t let the salesman give me a price unless I was ready to buy on the spot. I also pulled a quote off of the Ford website with the lease terms I wanted, but the salesman said that the website quotes are inaccurate because they factor in discounts that I’m not eligible for. I left the dealership knowing that the monthly payments they’d charge me were higher than what I found on the Ford website, but lower than $300. That wasn’t exactly helpful.

The better news is that while I really like the Ford Focus Electric and would gladly snatch one up at the lease price listed on the Ford website, it’s more of a compromise than the Nissan Leaf. Yes, it drives better and has a much nicer interior, but I would get more use out of the Leaf’s trunk space and larger backseats. While the liquid-cooled battery is a great feature, the lack of a quick-charge port limits the Ford Focus Electric for me, since I live in an apartment.

The (hopefully) best news is that the salesman I’ve been working with at Alhambra Nissan found the exact model and color of the Nissan Leaf SV that I want. In my last column, I mentioned that I enjoyed working with this gentleman because he gave me honest and straightforward info over email, without pressuring me to come to the dealership. Now that he has the car that I want and I know what his prices are for more expensive models, I’m happy to drop by the dealership and see him. Whether I end up in a Nissan Leaf SV through him or a Ford Focus Electric through another Ford dealership, hopefully I’ll be in an EV by next week.

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, your Fourth of July plans, NBA free agency madness, or your favorite fireworks, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Author: RPadTV