Is the Nissan Leaf Nismo an electric hot hatch, or does it just look like one?

The all-electric Nissan Leaf isn’t the model that typically comes to mind when the conversation turns to hot hatches. That could change later this month, however, when a new concept named Nissan Leaf Nismo breaks cover at the biennial Tokyo Auto Show.

The Nismo stands out from the garden-variety Leaf with a much sportier design; it’s like an electric car in track shoes. It receives a concept-specific body kit with red accents, a deeper front bumper that mimics air dams without incorporating them because they’re not needed, and a black stripe on the hood that matches the roof panel. Walk to the back of the car and you’ll find a roof-mounted spoiler, plus an air diffuser integrated into the rear bumper. Multi-spoke alloy wheels add a finishing touch to the design.

The visual upgrades continue inside, where Nissan has added sport seats for the front passengers, a flat-bottom steering wheel with a 12 o’clock mark, and more red accents for good measure.

It’s not all about looks, though; Nissan promises the Leaf Nismo is “truly exciting to drive.” The list of handling-enhancing modifications includes a sport-tuned suspension which lowers the ride height, high-performance tires, and a re-programmed ECU that helps the electric motor deliver instant acceleration at all speeds. More specific performance details haven’t been published, so we don’t know what else Nissan has up its sleeve, or what effect the body kit has on range.

The brand-new second-generation Leaf uses an electric motor rated at 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Those are generous increases of 40 horses and 49 pound-feet over the outgoing model, but there is still room for improvement — especially since the Leaf gained 100 pounds in its transition from a first- to a second-generation model. A car the size and weight of the Leaf would need at least 250 horsepower to be considered a true hot hatch. Let’s hope Nissan’s Nismo team hasn’t forgotten about that aspect of building a sports car. We’re a little bit skeptical; the Sentra Nismo didn’t receive a bump in power.

The Leaf Nismo won’t shine on its own at the Tokyo show. Nissan will also introduce a Nismo-tuned Serena, a tall, odd-looking minivan sold only in overseas markets, and an updated version of the Skyline. Show-goers who attend the big Tokyo gathering at the end of the month will get to check out no less than 13 Nissan vehicles.

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