Volkswagen ID 3 vs Nissan Leaf: Battle for the EV top spot

The advantage is still to the ID 3, but I can’t help feeling it hasn’t put a huge gap between itself and the Leaf.

And so to how they drive. Which is? In a largely refined manner. Who would have thought it? No engine, not a lot of noise and, although the propulsive silence serves to amplify road and wind noise, both of these are quiet cars.

Both also have similar accelerative response. The Leaf is more powerful, at 214bhp versus 201bhp, and has a faster official 0-62mph time, at 6.9sec to the ID 3’s 7.3sec. It’s also lighter, weighing 1634kg while its rival is 1714kg – a curiously big difference. But the Volkswagen never feels like the slower car, partly because its rear wheels are driven, so it gives them a harder time less often, and because its throttle response seems more linear.

Perhaps the Leaf ekes out its 251lb ft of torque more gently from rest for fear of lighting up its front tyres and Volkswagen needs to worry less that the 229lb ft will overwhelm the ID 3’s rears. But the ID 3 feels a more responsive car from step-off.

Where the Leaf retains an advantage is in its throttle operation when you want greater retardation during throttle lift-off. Both cars have a standard setting that’s fairly easy – it feels not unlike lifting off and gently decelerating in an ICE car, but while a flick of the gearlever only gradually increases this in the ID 3, a flick of a dashboard switch in the Leaf puts the throttle pedal into a much more responsive braking mode, so that you can come to a complete halt under steady braking without using the brake pedal at all.

Around town or at lower speeds, this one-pedal driving style quickly becomes incredibly intuitive, to the extent that you wonder why all EVs don’t offer it.

To the credit of both cars, though (and this is a real pleasure of electric driving), you can swap from reverse to drive and vice versa at low speeds, making for brilliantly simple turning and parking manoeuvres.

The ID 3 also gives great visibility and, with no front-wheel drivetrain to worry about, a 9.9-metre-between-kerbs turning circle (the Leaf needs a still-sound 11.0m), which would make it a terrific city car were its width not more than two metres.

This ID 3 wears 19in alloys shod with 215/40 tyres, which look rather cooler than the 17in wheels and 215/50 rubber on the Leaf, but I do wonder if they affect the rolling comfort. The Leaf rides reasonably well, albeit with a spot of underlying thump and bump and with a slightly unsophisticated feel. Over ripples and rough edges, you can catch sight of the rear-view mirror shimmying in your eyeline, like in a convertible, or feel the steering wheel kick back over bigger surface imperfections.

It also feels low-slung, though, and although the front wheels do all of the heavy lifting, the overall weight distribution is likely pretty even, thanks to the battery cells in the middle, so it turns willingly (for a 1630kg hatchback) and hangs on gamely. You can detect a spot of torque steer on the way out of a bend and there isn’t the poise, agility or fun of, say, an ordinary Ford Focus or Kia Ceed, but it’s not unwilling.

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