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01 Oct 2022

First Drive: The Nissan Ariya is a sleek, premium and high-quality electric SUV

First Drive: The Nissan Ariya is a sleek, premium and high-quality electric SUV

What is it?


If there are two areas where Nissan has more experience than most, it’s building electric cars and crossovers. Launching the Qashqai as the first true ‘crossover’ in 2007 and the Leaf as the first mass-market EV in 2010, both have proven very lucrative.

So it’s almost strange that Nissan has taken so long to combine the two and create an electric SUV. But the moment has finally come with the Ariya, which will shortly be reaching dealers – a full two years after it was first revealed. We’ve been to Stockholm to try it out and see if has been worth the wait.

What’s new?


When it was first shown, the Ariya had little in the way of competition, but two years is a long time in the EV segment, and this Nissan now has a fight on its hands next to rivals like the VW ID.4 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Nissan has done plenty to the Ariya to make it stand out, though, building it around a new EV-only platform, giving it a more premium look inside and out and kitting out with a range of new powertrains – virtually nothing is shared with the Leaf.

What’s under the bonnet?


There are three powertrains on offer with the Ariya – a smaller battery car, big battery model and a powerful four-wheel-drive version.

Our test car is the cheapest of the bunch, pairing a 63kWh battery with an electric motor producing 215bhp and 300Nm of torque. Accelerating from 0-60mph takes 7.3 seconds, with a 100mph top speed. It also offers a 250-mile electric range, while 130kW rapid charging capability means it can be charged in around 30 minutes from 20 to 80 per cent.

An 87kWh battery model satisfies those wanting a longer range and can manage a claimed 329 miles from a charge – on par with the best in this segment. If you want more power, take a look at the wheel-drive ‘e-4orce’ model, which gets a second electric motor, pushing power up to 302bhp and doubling torque to 600Nm. Accelerating to 60mph takes just 5.5 seconds with that variant.

What’s it like to drive?

Nissan’s years of EV expertise are immediately noticeable here. In true EV fashion, the power delivery is smooth and linear. However, there’s an occasional hesitation if you pull away from a standstill quickly, which is a bit odd for an EV. It also doesn’t have that immediate ’wow’ factor about it as you put your foot down like other electric cars, but it’s more than quick enough.

On the move, it’s comfortable and largely refined, though there’s quite a bit of road noise, which is more noticeable due to the silence of the powertrain. It handles keenly too for a relatively heavy electric SUV, feeling agile, and the ride is largely composed as well. Nineteen-inch alloys are fitted as standard, and we suspect you’re best keeping these, rather than the optional 20s, at least where comfort is concerned.

How does it look?


Design is key in the increasingly crowded electric SUV segment, and the Ariya stands out for all the right reasons. Looks will be subjective, but we reckon it’s currently Nissan’s best-looking car, with its coupe-like roofline giving it a stunning profile, enhanced further by the silver window line that actually makes the roof look lower than it is.

Large L-shaped LED running lights at the front and a full-width LED light bar add further presence too. We would, however, say it is quite spec-dependent. Our dark green test car, for example, hid some of the Ariya’s best details, such as the contrasting gloss black trim around the arches. The funky gold colour pictured gives the Ariya a much more appealing look in our opinion.

What’s it like inside?


Nissan says it’s aiming upmarket with the Ariya, and nowhere is this better observed than its interior. It really is superb, with a range of high-end materials coming together to create a very premium cabin. It makes Volkswagen’s ID.4 look slightly lower-rent, that’s for sure.

There are some really great touches too, such as the electric sliding console and haptic feedback buttons that are actually integrated into the wood in the dashboard. Thanks to the use of the EV-only platform, it adds to the feeling of spaciousness, with a completely flat floor in the front and rear, and loads of room in the back, even for adults. One downside is that the boot is quite shallow underneath the parcel shelf if the floor is kept in its usual position.

What’s the spec like?


Nissan has simplified the Ariya, with just two trim levels available across the full range – Advance and Evolve.

The level of equipment is very generous from the offset, with a 360-degree camera system, electric boot and full suite of semi-autonomous driving features included. The smart twin-screen interior layout is also included, comprising a 12.3-inch digital dial display for the display instruments and one of the same size as the touchscreen. Though the digital dials worked excellently, we found the main touchscreen quite laggy and hesitant to use.

Upgrade the Evolve and it brings a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker sound system and synthetic leather and ultrasuede seats.

As for pricing, the Ariya starts from £43,845 and rises to £56,290 for the top-spec ‘e-4orce’ model. Unless you need that 80 miles of extra range that comes from the bigger battery, we reckon the entry-level car will deliver more than enough to most buyers.

Verdict

Nissan’s second electric car and a follow-up to the Leaf has been a long time coming, but the Ariya feels like it’s worth the wait. The firm says it’s already got several thousand pre-orders, and we suspect that will increase quickly as soon as customers get behind the wheel.

The stand-out feature is undoubtedly its interior; it’s a real cut above anything we’ve ever seen from Nissan. Though the Ariya might not be the game-changer the Leaf or Qashqai were, it’s a very welcome addition to the electric SUV segment and does more than enough to stand out in a field where competition is particularly fierce.

  • Model: Nissan Ariya
  • Price: £43,845
  • Model as tested: Nissan Ariya 160kW Evolve 63kWh
  • Price as tested: £47,840
  • Engine: Single electric motor
  • Power: 215bhp
  • Torque: 300Nm
  • 0-60mph: 7.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 100mph
  • Economy: N/A
  • Emissions: N/A
  • Range: 250 miles

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