City Car Challenge: 2018 Nissan Leaf vs. Nissan Kicks – Why the MSRP Doesn’t Matter

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Nissan offers two fantastic city-focused vehicles. One has an MSRP about twice the other, but the actual cost is the same. Here’s why.  

One of the auto industry’s newest trends is compact, upright hatchback vehicles marketed specifically toward urban drivers. Nissan is a leader in this segment with two state-of-the-art models that we have tested and loved. Both are outstanding choices for drivers whose primary, possibly only, driving will be centered in and around urban areas. The first is the Nissan Leaf battery electric vehicle. The Leaf has a lofty manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) on its window sticker. Its base model starts at about $31K and the top trim we tested has a “price” of about $39K. Before we go any further let us assure you, no sane shopper is going to pay anywhere near these prices for a Leaf. We will explain that in a bit.

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The all-new 2018 Nissan Kicks.

The second vehicle is the new conventionally-powered (by gasoline) Nissan Kicks. Nissan developed the Kicks as a “global” urban car and first launched in it South America. We feel the Kicks represents well what modern entry-level vehicles are becoming. More upright, more roomy, four-doors plus a hatchback for ease of use, and packed with features that only luxury cars had not long ago. The Kicks is fun to drive, feels like it is made well, and has an MSRP including destination charges of about $19K to about $22K. At first blush, it seems nutty to be comparing these two cars with apparently different price points, but in fact, they have identical price points.

The Leaf is an electric vehicle and everyone involved in the car’s production from the government to your local state, your Nissan dealer, and Nissan itself wants you to get one. Badly. So they are throwing handfuls of Benjamins at the car and at you to make it almost ridiculously affordable. Luckily, we don’t have to estimate how much a buyer might pay because states with an EV focus like Massachusetts are now publishing the discounted prices of green cars on websites in conjunction with the Manufacturer’s dealers. After all the discounts and incentives are considered, new Nissan Leafs sold to a resident in Massachusetts or Rhode Island costs between $17K and $25K.

The Kicks is a great car all around. However, the Leaf is in a different class. The Leaf is more solid, feels much faster, more refined, more fun to drive, and simply of a higher quality than the Kicks. With its instant EV-torque the Leaf is a very quick car around town. The Leaf also has many more available options like in-dash navigation, leather and microfiber suede-trimmed seats, and Nissan’s Pro Pilot adaptive cruise control. Both cars offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on some trims and both have all of the available safety systems that you will want in a small car like forward collision prevention.  Drive the two on back to back weeks like we did and you will like both but the Leaf is worlds better. If not for the crazy quilt of discounting the Leaf would, and should, cost twice what the Kicks does.

 

The discounting starts with Nissan and its dealers simply cutting the price. As our chart above shows with a blue arrow, the discounts can be as high as $6,500 off the list price. These discounts alone give the Leaf an attractive starting price point of about $27K. However, the dollars flying in the faces of shoppers just begin there. Next up is the federal tax credit. That is worth $7,500 to anyone who has enough tax liability in that given year to take advantage of the credit. If your family brings in more than about $50K per year, you should be more than safe, but check with your tax pro just to be sure. Finally, a state rebate everyone (in MA and RI) gets of $2,500. Tally up all of these discounts and as the chart shows, the Leaf can be a car that costs its owner as little as $16,465. The fully-loaded ones (below in red) cost just $23K to $25K.  Even a discounted Kicks will fall within this price range.

 

The new 2018 Leaf has a range of about 151 miles, so you need to have a lifestyle that allows for recharging at home. You will also have to budget for a home charger that is simple or elaborate, but you will spend less on fuel and possibly a little less on maintenance with the Leaf vs. the Kicks. Let’s assume that those costs will cancel one another out. For many, the Leaf’s zero emissions has a value as well and driving green is a trend that is not slowing down.

Urban drivers looking for a great compact vehicle in the $20K range have many excellent choices today. Nissan has two of the best and we hope our story has helped highlight the importance of looking past the MSRP when creating a list of options.

Read the full Nissan Leaf review here.

Read the full Nissan Kicks review here.

Click here to jump to the EV discounting website referred to above. 

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John Goreham

John Goreham

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