2013 Fiat 500e vs. 2013 Nissan Leaf

By Staff Contributor and edited by Christina Selter.

The world of electric cars is growing as more and more automakers are bringing emissions-free vehicles into their lineups. Once of the first mass-market machines that runs only on electrons was the Nissan Leaf. It was quickly joined by a small handful of others, but now the playing field is larger and even Italian automaker Fiat has introduced a plug-loving player into the mix.

The all-new 2013 Fiat 500e is a completely electric version of the popular gasoline-swilling 500. Its electric motor produces 111 horsepower and 149 pound-feet of torque, which is fed out to the front wheels by way of a single-speed automatic transmission. The lithium-ion battery pack is good for an EPA-rated 87 miles of combined city and highway driving. Fiat states that real world driving is actually well over 100 miles.

2013 Fiat 500 Sport

The 2013 Nissan Leaf has an electric four-door hatchback (compared to the two-doors of the Fiat) that is powered by a 107-horsepower motor. This mighty little mill also churns out 207 pound-feet of torque and helps propel the car for up to 73 miles in combined driving, per the EPA estimates. Nissan states that 100 miles is possible, but it seems the Fiat 500e is the EV that actually gets closer to or exceeds that figure.

In Nissan’s defense, however, their vehicle has much more room than the sub-compact 500e. There’s more space for both people and cargo. On top of that, Nissan offers the Leaf in one of three trims so that buyers can choose the Leaf that makes sense for them financially. After all, one of the barriers to entry for electric vehicles is initial cost. The main barrier is still range anxiety but more and more folks are realizing that the average EV now offers plenty of juice to carry them throughout an errand-filled day. The Nissan Leaf pure electric vehicle recently got awarded as “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

2013 Nissan Leaf

It’s the subject of cost that tips the scales in favor of the Fiat 500e. All electric vehicles are available for purchase at a price far below their posted MSRP thanks to a variety of federal, state, and municipal tax credits. Still, it’s the aggressive pricing strategy of the 500e that has our attention. Fiat is offering up the plucky little electron lover for lease, and you just need $999 to put down and then payments are $199 per month for 36 months. This is seriously aggressive and could see new customers jumping into the EV fold.

2013 Nissan Leaf

It’s not just the pricing though, because the 500e is actually fun to drive as well. While the Nissan Leaf feels a bit like a fancy golf cart, the 500e feels like the fun little car that it is. Fiat set out to provide the standard driving experience found with their gasoline-powered 500, and the idea that it’s electric is merely a bonus. Sure that’s a bit of marketing speak from Fiat… but we’re sold, because it’s exactly what the automaker has delivered.

The Fiat 500e bests the Nissan Leaf thanks to its combination of gas-like standard fun, good looks, and downright astounding price positioning.

2013 Fiat 500

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Fiat and Nissan.)