To maximize occupant safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Leaf have pretensioners to eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Fiat 500e doesn’t offer pretensioners.
For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Leaf are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Fiat 500e doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.
The Leaf SV/SL offers an optional Around View® Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The 500e only offers rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.
Both the Leaf and the 500e have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.
There are over 5 times as many Nissan dealers as there are Fiat dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Leaf’s warranty.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2016 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are better in initial quality than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 73 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 31st, below the industry average.
The Leaf’s electric motor produces 40 lbs.-ft. more torque (187 vs. 147) than the 500e’s electric motor.
On the EPA test cycle the Leaf gets better fuel mileage than the 500e (124 city/101 hwy vs. 121 city/103 hwy MPGe).
The Leaf’s maximum EPA estimated driving range is 107 miles on a full charge, 23% further than the 500e’s 87-mile range.
The Leaf’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the 500e are solid, not vented.
For better traction, the Leaf has larger standard tires than the 500e (205/55R16 vs. 185/55R15). The Leaf SV/SL’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 500e (215/50R17 vs. 185/55R15).
The Leaf SV/SL’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 500e’s 55 series tires.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Leaf S has standard 16-inch wheels. Only 15-inch wheels are available on the 500e. The Leaf SV/SL has standard 17-inch wheels.
The Nissan Leaf’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Fiat 500e only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.
The Leaf has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The 500e doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.
The Leaf has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Leaf flat and controlled during cornering. The 500e’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Leaf’s wheelbase is 15.7 inches longer than on the 500e (106.3 inches vs. 90.6 inches).
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Leaf is 5.2 inches wider in the front and 5.4 inches wider in the rear than on the 500e.
The Leaf SL handles at .80 G’s, while the 500e pulls only .77 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.
The design of the Nissan Leaf amounts to more than styling. The Leaf has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .28 Cd. That is significantly lower than the 500e (.311) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Leaf get better fuel mileage.
Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the Leaf is rated a Mid-size car by the EPA, while the 500e is rated a Minicompact.
The Leaf has standard seating for 5 passengers; the 500e can only carry 4.
The Leaf has 20.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 500e (92.4 vs. 71.6).
The Leaf has 2.3 inches more front headroom, 1.4 inches more front legroom, 3.9 inches more front hip room, 4.9 inches more front shoulder room, 1.8 inches more rear headroom, 5.7 inches more rear legroom, 7.4 inches more rear hip room and 6.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the 500e.
The Leaf has a much larger cargo area with its rear seat up than the 500e (23.6 vs. 7 cubic feet).
The Leaf SV/SL has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 500e doesn’t offer a remote starting system.
The Leaf’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children from operating them. Fiat does not offer a locking feature on the 500e’s standard power windows.
The Leaf’s driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths. The 500e’s power windows’ switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully.
The Leaf’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 500e’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.
The Intelligent Key standard on the Leaf allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Fiat 500e doesn’t offer an advanced key system.
To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Leaf has a standard rear fixed intermittent wiper with a full on position. The rear wiper standard on the 500e only has an intermittent setting, so in a hard rain visibility isn’t as good.
The Leaf SL has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The 500e doesn’t offer automatic headlights.
To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Leaf has standard extendable sun visors. The 500e doesn’t offer extendable visors.
Both the Leaf and the 500e have standard heated front seats. The Leaf SL also has standard heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the 500e.
On extremely cold Winter days, the Leaf SV/SL’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The 500e doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.
For greater rear passenger comfort, the Leaf has standard rear heat vents to keep rear occupants more comfortable. The 500e doesn’t offer rear vents.
Car and Driver performed a comparison test in its March 2014 issue and they ranked the Nissan Leaf SL higher than the Fiat 500e.