Nissan To Fiat: Our Leaf Is Ugly? Look In The Mirror, Buddy!

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2013 Fiat 500e live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show

2013 Fiat 500e live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

If you've always wanted to see two large car companies having a good, old-fashioned hair-pulling, nails-out, purse-swinging fight, then you're in luck.

Following comments from Fiat at the Los Angeles auto show, hinting that the Nissan Leaf was a form of "visual pollution", Nissan has hit back, criticizing Fiat's own electric car, the 500e.

"Let's be honest, ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution," said Matt Davis, head of Fiat product marketing, to Bloomberg News in L.A. "The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car."

Automotive News reports that Nissan has taken a swipe at Fiat in return.

"Let's face it, Fiat has not shied away from controversial styling themselves," responded Simon Sproule, Nissan head of global marketing communications.

"Many would describe many of their products as visual pollution. Take a long, hard look at the Fiat Doblo."

[The Doblo is a cargo van-turned passenger vehicle--Fiat's equivalent of the Ford Transit Connect--sold in Europe. Its looks haven't been universally popular...]

2013 Nissan Leaf (Japanese trim)

2013 Nissan Leaf (Japanese trim)

Enlarge Photo
He went on, "They chose the smallest vehicle in their range with the least amount of passenger functionality... I don't think they have the credibility or the hardware to stand behind these kind of statements."

Fiat has declined to comment on Nissan's rebuttal. Even Fiat itself hasn't been universally supportive of its product, with company chief Sergio Marchionne admitting it doesn't really want to produce the car--the company stands to lose $10,000 on every one it sells.

The Leaf, in contrast, is a project which Nissan fully stands behind. That includes its love-or-hate-it styling.

"You've got enough uniqueness and visual clues to tell its something different," explained Sproule, "but it's still very recognizable as a five-seat hatchback, fully functioning, absolutely competitive with the packaging of the Golf or any other mainstream vehicle."

Still, we'd prefer to let our readers decide: Whose vehicle has suffered the heaviest beating with the ugly stick? Or are both absolute paragons of beauty? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Comments (19)
  1. I like the Leaf over the 500e, the Leaf has a high tech look to it whereas the Fiat looks like a toy pedal car. The Leaf also wins in practicality and availability.

  2. It is very unfortunate the Nissan LEAF's looks are (being polite here) divisive. If any other car is unattractive, who cares, you buy something else.

    But there is no real direct competitor to the LEAF (national roll-out, company firmly behind it, etc), so people may choose to skip the LEAF because of its looks and delay the coming of EVs. That is most unfortunate.

    Personally, I would go for the looks of the Focus EV with the support of a company like Nissan. Unfortunately this combination is not available. Yet

  3. We actually own a leaf and lease a Ford Focus electric. I have to say, leaf is roomier, taller, and MUCH more fun to drive. The battery level indicator in Ford is better, though. I find it to be more accurate than Nissan's. When it comes to look, well, I really never have cared about looks. Efficiency is my primarily criteria when choosing a car.

  4. "Personally, I would go for the looks of the Focus EV with the support of a company like Nissan."

    Focus is not much better looking, either. For some reason, there appears to be a pervasive trend for designers to go out of their way to make electric vehicles look particularly ugly and undesirable, although Tesla is a rare and shining exception to this unfortunate trend.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you in that this is most unfortunate and that it is severely affecting electric vehicles' image and adoption rates; there is no reason why electric vehicles should be ugly. If anything, they should have premium styling to help them penetrate the market more effectively.

  5. I like the way the LEAF looks. Has anyone seen Fiat Multipla lately? Please look it up but definitely NSFW... And finally, when it comes to reliability Fiat == POS.

  6. "its love-or-hate-it styling" have never really impacted the Prius sales. I am sure some people don't buy it for that reason. But Majority of the buyers don't mind it.

    I think "distinct" look of the Prius actually helped the sales since some of the buyers want to make a "statement" that they drive a "green" car.

    The same applies to the Leaf. As "controversy" as it is, Leaf is still a distinct design. I can pick it out of crowde of cars miles away. That might be something that many buyers want. They want to make the "EV statement".

    A "leveraged" design such as Focus EV or the Fiat 500e don't get nearly as much "distinction" from their ICE version. Only the "fans" or "trained eyes" can pick them out of the crowd...

  7. "I think "distinct" look of the Prius actually helped the sales since some of the buyers want to make a "statement" that they drive a "green" car."

    Unfortunately, the unly statement they have managed to make with the Prius is that they do not understand much (if anything) about automechanics, styling, economy and practicality. The attempt has backfired on those wanting to be "hip" and make a statment.

  8. s/unly/only/g

  9. I think Nissan should avoid discussions about car design with Fiat at all cost. Ever since the Z240 they seem to have a bit of an unlucky streak in the styling department and unfortunately the Leaf is hardly the exception. The Leaf is a surprisingly unappealing design and a rather half hearted conversion of an ICE platform underneath for a car that Nissan officially had such high hopes for. Maybe they can learn from Tesla about proper EV setup and take some styling cues from Fiat.

  10. Being a Tesla fan, Telsa S is just about perfect (except for price). It is beautiful, but I certainly do NOT think it is "distinct" or "shockingly" standout...

    If it glides by most people, they will just think it is anther "luxury European Sports sedan" until they realize that it is so smooth and quiet and they didn't "hear" it coming or going. Its styling doesn't "shock" you...

    I have seen 4 of them (different colors) in real life. I managed to pick it out of crowds of cars.. But it doesn't draw attentions like exotic Italian Sports cars. Leaf is at least distinct enough that people clearly know that it is an EV... (like it or not is another matter).

  11. The Leaf is not an pontiac Aztec or anything. In 20 years you will see my 2011 Leaf pass you by and go Wow, still on the road. What a historic classic car!

    seriously, I would rather have a car universally judged as attractive but tyhe Leaf is beautiful for what it does and being distinctive is more important than being beautiful but not noticed. If it blended in then the message would not get out as fast. The Leaf's looks say, "Love it or not, the electric car is finally here." It's a great car regardless of how it looks.

  12. I certainly believe that Leaf will EASILY last 20 years and we will see many of them running decades from now. However, I wonder how many of those Leaf original batteries will continue to work after about 10 years.

    I am thinking it would be fun to pick up one of those used Leaf or off-lease Leaf for some do-it-yourself improvement once the battery becomes "useless".

    The powertrain should last a long term. But things such as door seals, gaskets, plastic hardwares might NOT last as long in a 20 yr old car...

  13. @Xiaolong: After 10 years, the battery in the average Leaf won't be "useless". It will have, by Nissan's estimation, about 70% of its original capacity. It depends, of course, on mileage, speed, temperature, usgae, etc. But if it covers the predicted 12,500 miles a year or less in a temperate climate, it won't be "useless".

  14. @ John Voelcker,

    Note that I used " " around the word "useless". Sure, Nissan might say something. But for the worst case (Heat accelerated degradation), if the battery lose even 50% of its range after 10 years, it becomes a 35 miles EV. At that point, the car will ONLY be good enough for short commute without even using the heat...

    "Useless" is a relative term. I would also assume that in 10 years, the technology would hopefully push the battery range easily into the 250-500 miles range. At that rate, the 35 miles range EV is really "useless" in the eyes of latest EV owners.

    Also, Nissan claims something that they aren't willing to back it up with warranty. In the engineering world, we call it "marketing talks" with no substance.

  15. "The Leaf is not an pontiac Aztec or anything. In 20 years you will see my 2011 Leaf pass you by and go Wow, still on the road. What a historic classic car!"

    No I will not; if anything I will think "there is another person with no taste". Of course, the old Romans did say de gustibus non est disputandum...

  16. Well, I don't like the looks of either one. I know that many people think the retro styling of the Fiat is cute. I think it just looks old and out dated. I can't imagine anyone thinking the Fiat is beautiful or the LEAF for that matter. In terms of value, I think you get far more features and space with the LEAF for about the same money. But I am also sure there are enough Californians who think the Fiat EV is cute to meet their minimum sales mandate.

  17. I personally find the Leaf hideous. The Fiat and Prius are both OK, as is the Volt. Just my 2c.

  18. The only thing I don't like are the silly headlights; otherwise the Leaf looks great to me. Considering I see many more Jukes and Cubes on the road around here than Leafs, I'd say people really don't have much taste anyway. The sales numbers are all about range, the look can be adjusted.

  19. "Following comments from Fiat at the Los Angeles auto show, hinting that the Nissan Leaf was a form of "visual pollution", Nissan has hit back, criticizing Fiat's own electric car, the 500e."

    He is correct - Nissan Leaf is one of the ugliest vehicles ever designed. It is surprising that Carlos Ghosn is not ashamed of it. It is a blight on an already struggling Nissan.

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