Small cars can be cool. That seems to be a new mantra in the auto industry as it seeks to market downsized and lighter cars that are not only more fuel efficient, but also snappy and fun to drive. Nissan has taken this to heart with its high-profile LEAF electric car as well, showing that small electric cars can also offer a cool factor with a few styling tweaks.
True, the electric Nissan LEAF looks different right out of the box. But that didn’t stop Nissan Motorsports International Co. racing division (Nismo), which focuses largely on the automaker’s motorsports activities, from showing how a LEAF fashion update and attention to detail could take things to the next level.
The Nismo Concept features a stylish full body kit with an aero front bumper sporting integrated LED lighting, extended side sills, and rear diffuser. The LEAF’s standard 16-inch wheels and tires have been replaced with more aggressive 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped by low-profile tires.
Designers at Nismo built on the ‘smart fluidity’ design language of the LEAF’s flowing exterior, aiming to enhance the car’s low stance and center of gravity while making a more powerful visual statement. Subtle, but mission accomplished. The secondary mission that presumably speaks to functionality with the aero modifications creating more downforce to enhance handling and grip at higher speeds is, well…sort of questionable. How fast is a factory-stock electric LEAF likely to go? Still, we like it.
Other eco-champions have blazed the fashion trail before, most notably specially-equipped Toyota Prius GT and Prius land speed record cars with eye-catching styling treatments. Both cars also incorporated performance modifications because of their specific missions, although this is not the norm for stylized eco-cars that focus on efficiency. Obviously, speed has its needs.
Toyota’s Prius Aerius embraced the same straightforward stylistic approach as Nismo’s LEAF Concept by creating a smooth and pleasing look with a custom aerodynamic body styling kit, custom waterborne paint, tinted windows, and 19-inch alloy wheels with low rolling resistance Yokohama orange oil tires. The Aerius also received attention in its interior with eco fabrics and plastics plus electronics upgrades.
Those who want to customize their own eco-rides have that opportunity with gear available from companies like JuicedHybrid.com, which offers aftermarket accessories for various hybrids with special emphasis on the Prius. We especially like their complete Prius aero styling kits from 5 Axis, Modellista, and West Coast Customs that definitely add that desired cool factor.
Eco-centric cars needn’t require sacrifice on the part of auto enthusiasts. With the right touches even the most mainstream cars can take on whole new personalities that can evoke a smile from passers-by and, importantly, from behind the wheel.