2019 Nissan Leaf vs. 2019 Tesla Model 3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Leaf has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The Leaf SL has a standard Around View® Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Model 3 only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

To help make backing safer, the Leaf (except S)’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Leaf SL’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Leaf and the Model 3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems and blind spot warning systems.

Warranty

The Leaf’s corrosion warranty is 1 year and unlimited miles longer than the Model 3’s (5/unlimited vs. 4/50,000).

There are over 17 times as many Nissan dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Leaf’s warranty.

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Leaf’s reliability 20 points higher than the Model 3.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 13 places higher in reliability than Tesla.

Brakes and Stopping

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The Leaf has a standard brake assist system to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

Tires and Wheels

The Leaf has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Model 3 doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the Leaf S’ turning circle is 3.3 feet tighter than the Model 3’s (34.8 feet vs. 38.1 feet). The Leaf SV/SL’s turning circle is 2 feet tighter than the Model 3’s (36.1 feet vs. 38.1 feet).

Chassis

The Nissan Leaf may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 250 to 600 pounds less than the Tesla Model 3.

The Leaf is 8.4 inches shorter than the Model 3, making the Leaf easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The Leaf is 5.6 inches narrower than the Model 3, making the Leaf easier to handle and maneuver in traffic.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Leaf SV is quieter than the Model 3:

Leaf

Model 3

At idle

25 dB

41 dB

Full-Throttle

67 dB

73 dB

70 MPH Cruising

65 dB

69 dB

Cargo Capacity

The Leaf has a much larger trunk than the Model 3 (23.6 vs. 15 cubic feet).

Ergonomics

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Leaf has a standard rear wiper. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a rear wiper.

The Leaf’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Model 3’s power mirror controls are embedded in the infotainment system, seriously distracting drivers who have to adjust them while driving.

On extremely cold winter days, the Leaf’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Leaf is less expensive to operate than the Model 3 because it costs $36 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Leaf than the Model 3, including $222 less for a water pump, $24 less for front brake pads and $46 less for front struts.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model 3, based on reliability, safety and performance.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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