This is the affordable EV we need in America!
With a starting price of just $27,400, the 2023 Nissan Leaf is the most affordable EV you can currently buy in America. That's still more expensive than a basic gasoline-powered car, and it only comes with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery yielding a 149-mile range. If the range is going to be so limited, the car needs to be much cheaper in order to make sense. That's why Nissan worked with its alliance partner Mitsubishi to create a new, more affordable electric kei car (mini-vehicle) for Japan.
Say an adorable hello to the Nissan Sakura, an electric minicar that goes on sale this summer. Fans of the Naruto anime/manga series may recognize the name Sakura, which means cherry blossoms (symbolic of new life and the fragility of life). Mitsubishi's name is far less pretty: eK X EV (pronounced E-K cross E-V).
This is a tiny car, so we weren't expecting Tesla-rivaling performance figures here. The Sakura and eK X EV produce just 63 horsepower and 143 lb-ft of torque, similar to most gas-powered kei cars. It packs a tiny 20 kWh battery, but since the vehicle measures less than 134 inches long, that's good enough to enable a 112-mile driving range on the WLTC Japan cycle. That would likely amount to around 100 miles on the EPA cycle.
That's around 50% less range than the Leaf, but the Sakura makes up for it by costing around half as much. Nissan will offer the base Sakura S grade starting at ¥2,333,100 (around $18,200), while the Mitsubishi version is a bit pricier at ¥2,398,000 ($18,700). Factoring in Japan's consumption tax and the clean energy vehicle subsidy, the Sakura starts at around ¥1.78 million ($13,900). For comparison, even a base Mitsubishi Mirage costs $14,645 in the US.
Nissan and Mitsubishi say the battery can charge up in around eight hours on a Level 1 charger, or around 40 minutes to 80% on a quick charger. The car can also be used as a mobile power source during emergencies, providing a day's worth of electricity for a home. Inside, the Sakura looks fairly simple, but not basic. A sizable 9-inch navigation touchscreen comes standard, as does a seven-inch Advanced Drive Assist Display. It even includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Nissan's ProPILOT driver assistance system.
The seats feature a comfortable sofa design with premium fabric, while copper trim elements give the cabin a more elegant feel. Buyers can choose from three interior colors: black, beige, and blue grey. Though the car is small, it fits four passengers comfortably with plenty of usable storage areas.
There's zero chance Nissan or Mitsubishi will bring their latest EVs to the US market, but wouldn't mind having such an affordable option.