In a world where electric vehicles are rapidly entering the norm, Nissan is catching up to the pack with the Ariya crossover. Nissan is setting their sights on impressing the newcomer to the market, and I think they will.
Although the car came out some time ago, we’re spending a proper week with the Ariya. It’s safe to say that Nissan has made a decent electric competitor, and for the city-bound crossover, the Ariya is a compelling offer. Alone, it’s not enough to convince me that Nissan is ahead in the EV race, but they are still in the game.
As par for the course, Nissan sent us the highest trim level, the Platinum+ e-4ORCE to see their grand vision. MSRP for the high end trim starts at $60,190. Be sure to check out the gallery and walk-around photos below the article.
A class above in interior quality
Let’s start with the interior, since that’s what stood out as the best feature; what truly sets the Ariya apart is the attention to detail in its interior design. The velvety dashboard material, adorned with a uniform stitch pattern that seamlessly flows from the front doors to the rear passengers, faux wood accents add a touch of sophistication, and the copper-colored lines and accents inject a pinch of classy color into the mix. Delicate accent lights, inspired by Japanese Edo period lanterns, add depth and warmth to the interior ambiance, creating an atmosphere that’s both inviting and calming. The plush seats are comfortable and functional, having both heated and ventilated features for the front, and heat up for the rear passengers. The Ariya’s interior is a visual delight, creating an environment that could easily be mistaken for a luxury vehicle.
With one omission (covered later) the Ariya does have some practicality to flaunt. The center console offers creative adjustability, accommodating the needs of both the driver and the passenger. The center console itself has a motorized slider that will shift from forward to back at the press of a button. This is the only car that I know of where the shifter, or drive selector, can be moved. A clever storage compartment that extends from the middle of the dashboard keeps clutter out of sight, making for a clean and organized cabin. Furthermore, the absence of a transmission tunnel enhances the spaciousness of the rear seats, making it comfortable even for the dreaded middle seat occupant. USB access, and a panoramic sunroof complete the package, make long journeys an absolute pleasure.
When it comes to the driving experience, the Ariya is a unique performer. Its four-wheel-drive system, known as e-4ORCE, doesn’t aim to tackle off-road challenges but instead focuses on delivering a smooth and secure on-road experience. The Ariya’s acceleration and deceleration curves are tuned for a relaxing and controlled ride, with a goal of mitigating the lurching feeling when coming to a stop.
Does it work? Kind of? Nissan initially showed off this tech with seemingly magical marketing, showing a tiny car deliver ramen bowls without spilling a drop. I tried to replicate this experience last year driving a test mule with e-4ORCE, and I can’t say I was impressed. I brought my own bowl of water, and indeed spilled the contents while carefully using e-4ORCE.
Fast forward to today, and the Ariya feels incredibly smooth, but it’s hard to pinpoint the reason why. It very well could be from the e-4ORCE being properly applied to a finished vehicle, but maybe it’s just the total package that is swaying my opinion. In either case, the e-4ORCE is more subtle, until it’s used in wet terrain. It was clear skies here in Utah, but on that test last year, it was great.
The Ariya’s slightly narrow wheelbase, moderately high stance, and wide shoulders give it a noticeably nimble and agile feeling, despite the luxury feel inside. While it may not match the sportiness of a Mustang Mach-E, it offers a tighter driving experience than the Ioniq 5 or the ID.4. The true strength of the Ariya shines in urban settings and on open highways.
Nissan ProPILOT 2.0
Using Nissan’s ADAS system (called ProPILOT) wasn’t life changing. The system is more on the side of cruise control than autonomous driving. It can follow a lead car, stop behind a lead car, maintain a lane, change a lane, and maintain speed. On designated roadways, and using a pre-defined route, Nissan says that ProPILOT 2.0 can change from one freeway to another, though my shallow attempts at testing this feature didn’t produce much. Nissan says the strength of ProPILOT is single lane freeway cruising, with hands off the wheel.
Nissan offers the Ariya with two battery options – 63 kWh and 87 kWh. Range estimates between 216 and 305 miles are split between the many trim levels, largely effected by the 4WD option or FWD. This is a good amount of range for the segment it’s in, and there are no caveats.
The Ariya is stated for a max charge rate of 150kw, however, an independent test online shows the Ariya charges at a stable rate of 130kw until 50%, then tapering down to 70kw at 90%. While this might seem like a let-down, this is actually good news. Other EV makers out there state only the highest possible charge, failing to mention how the rate plummets through the cycle. The Mustang Mach-E charges at 150kw, but only between 2-5%; after that, it’s down to 100kw, then down to 75kw for awhile, then the usual trickle for the end of the pack.
The takeaway is that Nissan may be overstating their peak charge rate, but not lying about it. With the right source, the Ariya will charge at a usable rate, and there are no surprises.
There are other irksome charging issues out there. The Toyota BZ4X can only fast charge 2x a day, and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 supposedly charges at 350kw, but I’ve never got that feature to work.
Not without its flaws
As impressive as the Ariya is, it’s not without its drawbacks. Some may find the exterior design a tad bland, with wide empty spaces on the grille, doors, and trunk. The infotainment system, with its somewhat distracting menu images, might require a learning curve.
While it has introductory off-road capabilities (higher ground clearance than a car, taller tires, 4WD) the Ariya is more tailored for staying on the beaten path. For those who want to embark on distant adventures, and pack in all the gear, the Ariya isn’t the right crossover for you.
The biggest drawback that I saw was the lack of storage space. The sliding center console houses so many other components, that the storage capacity is completely minimal; only enough for two cup holders and two phones. As a result, backpacks or purses will have to go in the back. The Ariya has no frunk, and the trunk storage is on par with many other crossovers, which isn’t stellar.
I really like the Nissan Ariya, and if it came out just a year earlier, I probably would have bought one. The amazing interior is a joy to spend time in, the road tailored e-4ORCE is inspiring and comfortable, and there are no glaring omissions or problems. It’s a solid EV crossover that is in step with the competition.
I actually really like the bland exterior of the Nissan Ariya. Not all EVs have to be weird looking, like the Nissan LEAF, and they certainly don’t need to be eye-grabbing like the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The Nissan Ariya is like Clark Kent having super powers thinly veiled by glasses and a tie. Well… Superman might be a bit much. Maybe it’s more like Hawkeye.
I think the Ariya is a safe choice for those looking to go electric for the first time. Indeed, Nissan has made a safe bet in designing this crossover, and put some great attention where it can make an impact. Audi E-Tron or Jaguar I-Pace owners won’t be trading in anytime soon, but Nissan LEAF owners with 30 miles of range left on their pre-maturely degraded battery packs really should.
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