We had the chance to test the 2018 Nissan Leaf this week in winter weather and found that it is just as capable in snow, ice and cold as any other front-wheel drive vehicle. It may seem silly to even ask if an electric vehicle can tackle winter, but even GM's CEO, Mary Barra, a true advocate of EVs, seems to think that they aren't up to the task. If you have any doubts, check out the last few minutes of the video below.
Front-wheel drive cars are nobody's choice for the best winter vehicles. Let's face it, the all-wheel-drive crossover with a bit more ground clearance is superior in every measurable way. However, budgets, preference and practicality sometimes dictate that a family, person, or couple have just one compact car. In these circumstances, we would recommend an EV to anyone for whom the EV range and charging situation works. That isn't everybody, but as range increases more and more people can say yes to electrics.
Our 2018 Nissan Leaf SL tester rang in at just over $38K. Consider $10K in incentives and the fully-loaded leaf with premium leather heated seats and heated steering wheel is as good as any gasoline-powered FWD compact we have tested in snow. In fact, since the heater does not require that the engine be warm, the car was more quickly comfortable on cold mornings. Plus, plan ahead and you can pre-condition the cabin.
The Leaf uses "normal" tires as well. They are the same size and shape as most ICE vehicle tires and worked great on winter-rutted roads. We found the car handled as expected in snow.
Those who want an affordable green car with true winter chops can find it in the AWD Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, or Highlander Hybrid. Those with no budget limitations can find two premium electric choices with AWD at Tesla showrooms.
The method of propulsion has no impact on a vehicle's performance in winter and automakers have abundant choices now for those who want to drive green, but be able to deal with the worst winter has to offer.