2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus: Which one should you get?

Battery-electric vehicles are starting to look more and more approachable thanks to generous range estimates, faster charging times, and looks that aren’t too outlandish. The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 and 2021 Nissan Leaf are two vehicles that blend futuristic cues with familiar ones, giving you attractive cars with lots of cool gadgets. Which one should you get though?

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs. 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus exterior

Obviously, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is the larger vehicle since it’s a compact crossover. It sports the latest design cues similar to those from the European market ID.3 hatchback. That gives the ID.4 a recognizable face that’s grille-free, rounded headlight clusters, and a short nose. The ID4’s upright greenhouse gives it a more conventional appearance but its low roofline creates a side profile that’s more carlike. In the rear, you find full-width LED taillights and a rear window that’s not as raked as competitors like the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The 2021 Nissan Leaf looks like a conventional compact hatchback with some futuristic touches. You get cool headlights with cube-shaped projectors in each cluster, blue highlights behind the Nissan back on the panel where a grille would be, and blue stripes on the lower front fascia. From the side, the Leaf continues with the familiar hatchback look and features a floating roof motif thanks to the blacked-out C-pillar. The angular taillights give the back a distinct look, especially when combined with the blue stripe on the rear diffuser.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs. 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus interior

Being the larger vehicle, the Volkswagen ID.4 has more space for your gear and/or four passengers. Even with the available glass roof, you get generous headroom. There are also lots of cool storage cubbies like the reconfigurable center console and the removable cupholders. As with all EVs, the ID.4 has a flat floor to maximize foot space. Good sound insulation keeps the cabin quiet even on the highway. The build quality is also a high point thanks to lots of soft-touch materials and padding on touchpoints.

Even though it’s a smaller car, the Nissan Leaf is also roomy and easily fits four average-sized adults. Taller passengers may find headroom tight because of the raised floor. Higher trims have less cargo capacity because the Bose audio system’s subwoofer lives just behind the rear seats. You also don’t get a flat load floor like in the ID.4 because the cargo area isn’t flush with the 60/40 split-folding second-row when they’re down. On the highway, the Leaf’s cabin also lets in more wind noise, meaning you’ll hear a decent amount of buffeting coming from around the A-pillars. The Leaf’s interior also has more hard plastics than the ID.4. Although you get padded and soft-touch surfaces in most touchpoints, there are certain areas you interact with that are made of chintzy materials.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs. 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus tech features

If you’re looking for a user-friendly infotainment system, the Nissan Leaf has your name on it. It uses a responsive 8.0-inch touch and physical shortcut buttons and knobs, meaning you’ll be able to figure out how to use it quickly. The menu layouts on the display are logical, too, further adding to its ease of use. The graphics are clear but they’re not as crisp as the ones found on the ID.4; however, its simplicity and lack of a learning curve more than make up for it. The available seven-speaker Bose audio system sounds good, too, and does a great job covering the cabin.

Volkswagen’s latest infotainment system requires some getting used to. Between the extensive use of haptic feedback buttons and certain controls being placed where they’re usually not found, there’s a significant learning curve. Most functions are also buried under submenus within the main 10- or 12.0-inch touch screen. That means you’ll need to take your eyes off the road to hit the right icon on the dash to access what you need, especially if you don’t like talking to the car and using the “Hello ID” command to call up the virtual assistant. At least the main display is snappy and there’s a button to get back to the home menu in case you dig yourself too deep. The ID.4’s standard seven-speaker audio system is also clear but doesn’t cover the cabin in music as well as the Leaf’s optional Bose unit.

Both the Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan Leaf get a full suite of driver assistance features standard. However, the latter requires you to go up to at least the SV trim to get ProPilot Assist. Each one has active safety features that work without getting too obtrusive; however, the Nissan’s lane-keeping assist doesn’t bring you back into your lane as proactively as the Volkswagen’s unless you have ProPilot Assist on. ProPilot Assist adds additional steering assist and works together with adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, and lane centering. In operation, ProPilot Assist works seamlessly and will let you know when certain components are inactive because of road markings not being clear. Volkswagen’s Travel Assist operates similarly but adds more steering input when you start taking curves and tracks cars around you more closely. Both cars can also react to someone cutting you off, and will smoothly slow down to preserve your set distance.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs. 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus driving impressions

If you prioritize a smooth, comfortable driving experience, the Volkswagen ID.4 has your name on it. Thanks to its well-tuned suspension, the ID.4 does a great job soaking up bumps and other road imperfections. You also get stable handling and good body control because the car never gets floaty nor does it wobble around. The steering, on the other hand, is accurate but not so much so that you’ll mistake the ID.4 for a sporty crossover. In single-motor flavor, the ID.4 moves fine even when you point it up a hill. Between the near-4,700-pound curb weight and throttle response tuned for smooth driving, the electric motor’s 201 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque don’t exactly get your heart pumping.

The Nissan Leaf offers slightly more power at 215 hp and 250 lb-ft. Although it’s not that much more than the ID.4, the Leaf’s smaller size and lighter weight allow it to move more assertively and enable you to dart through the city with ease. While it’s not sporty, its compact footprint, low center of gravity, give it respectable handling. However, the torsion beam rear suspension can be a little bouncy over poorly maintained surfaces with lots of ruts, potholes, and expansion joints. It can also get a little floaty, especially after a big speed bump or dip. Like the ID.4, the Leaf’s steering is accurate but more akin to a daily driver, not a hot hatch.

Where the Leaf takes a lead over the ID.4 is in braking and one-pedal driving. Although both manage transitions from regenerative to friction braking quite well, the Leaf is even more seamless thanks to its e-Pedal feature. This allows the driver to essentially slow the car down all the way to a complete stop by easing off the brake pedal. As a result, you don’t have to use the brake pedal as much. The ID.4’s B mode gets you extra recuperation but not to the same level as the Leaf with e-Pedal active.

The ID.4’s peak DC charging speed is 125 kW while the Leaf tops out at 100 kW. That allows them to charge to 80 percent in around 40 to 45 minutes using a level 3 DC charger that can output 150 kW. However, that will be harder to find in the Leaf since it uses the old CHAdeMO plug instead of the more common CCS combo one. The ID.4 is also quicker to charge using a level 2 AC charger thanks to an onboard 11 kW charger. In comparison, the Leaf’s onboard charger is only good for 6.6 kW.

In terms of range, the ID.4’s 82-kW battery allows it to travel between 240 to 260 miles per charge depending on the motor configuration and trim level. The Leaf Plus, on the other hand, is rated at 215- to 226 miles depending on the trim.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs. 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus pricing

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 starts at $41,190 in RWD guise or $44,875 in dual-motor AWD flavor. A loaded Pro S example with every package cost between $46,000 to $50,000 depending on your motor configuration and whether you get the Gradient package or not.

A base 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus starts at $39,200. The range-topping SL grade checks in at just under $45,000. The Leaf is also FWD only, meaning its appeal will be limited in parts of the country that get four seasons. Both the ID.4 and Leaf are eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit plus local incentives.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 vs. 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus summary

Despite its age, the 2021 Nissan Leaf still has a strong proposition thanks to its user-friendliness and a driving experience more akin to your average compact hatchback. The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4, on the other hand, puts comfort and practicality first, making it a great choice for families wanting an electric compact crossover with a generous range. However, Volkswagen needs to make its infotainment controls easier to use. Nissan, on the other hand, lags in the charging department because of age. Regardless of which one you get; you’ll find that going electric isn’t as daunting as it seems.

Get the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 For:

  • A comfortable ride
  • Roomy, well-packaged interior
  • Faster charging

Get the 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus for:

  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Easy one-pedal driving
  • City-friendly exterior footprint
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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