You could say that Nissan knows a thing or two about building electric vehicles. After all, they've been doing that for over a decade. Their first vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, was revolutionary in its time and at one point was the best-selling electric vehicle in the world.
Finally, after delays with this next-generation electric vehicle—the Nissan Ariya—they're really showing what they can do. Packed with advanced features and cutting–edge technology, the Ariya represents a significant improvement over the Leaf and a compelling option for anyone looking to go electric with the brand.
Electric vehicles of all types need very little cooling compared to their internal-combustion counterparts, meaning that the front end doesn't need a massive grill opening like you traditionally see. This gives manufacturers a lot of freedom and flexibility when it comes to design and styling, to make the front end of the vehicle attractive and unique, while also functional and aerodynamically efficient.
What Nissan has done is place a patterned design element into the front of the vehicle underneath a clear plastic that gives depth and a dynamic aesthetic to the grill. The design is intended to mimic the style of a Japanese lantern and is repeated a few times throughout the vehicle. One other notable design feature of the front is the placement of large LED daytime running lights that accent the edges of the grill area.
One of the most important features of the front end is functional, not aesthetic. On the very edges of the bumper, there are small vertical openings that collect air coming off the front of the vehicle and direct it to create an "air curtain" around the front wheels and tires. This improves aerodynamic efficiency.
The Ariya's shoulder line is mostly flat from front to the rear where it intersects with the sloping roof line. It has a sporty, but not aggressive, look to it that grows on you the more you look at it. The Ariya's design is authentic and refreshing, not trying to be something it's not, and its design touches compliment the SUV styling and sets it apart from other types of vehicles, electric or otherwise.
Nissan says the Ariya styling represents "Timeless Japanese Futurism," which is characterized by a distinctive approach conveyed in a simple, yet powerfully modern way. The Ariya's interior features a minimalist design with high-quality materials and finishes throughout. The spacious cabin offers ample legroom and headroom for both front and rear passengers, making it a comfortable ride for longer journeys. The layout of the cabin is intuitive and user-friendly, with controls that are easy to use and within easy reach. I appreciate that there are physical buttons to control HVAC settings. This is something that I'm starting to see go away in some modern vehicles with controls transferring to screens.
A standout interior feature of the Ariya is the panoramic moon roof, which not only floods the cabin with natural light, but can also be opened for fresh air. This is a rare feature on vehicles that have a large glass panoramic roof, and adds to an overall enjoyable experience.
One unique feature of the Ariya's interior is a sliding center console, which can be moved forward and back to adjust to the preference of the passengers. Additionally, located at the center of the dashboard there is a second "hidden" glove-box storage compartment in the center of the vehicle under the screen that opens up and doubles as a tray table. These thoughtful design touches add to the overall functionality and convenience of the Ariya's interior.
The Japanese lantern pattern we saw on the front grill is seen again inside the Ariya at the foot of the dashboard, in the center of the vehicle, and is back lit at night.
The Ariya's rear cargo room is spacious and practical, with plenty of room for luggage or groceries. The rear seats fold down easily, providing even more room for larger items. There is also a hidden compartment beneath the cargo floor, providing additional storage space. Unfortunately, due to the placement of the vehicle's drive components, there is no front trunk in the Ariya. However, the vehicle's cargo room everywhere else is well-designed and spacious, making it a practical choice for those who have a need to carry a lot of cargo with them.
What sets the Nissan Ariya apart most from the competition is its cutting-edge technology. Even on the lower trim levels, the Ariya is packed with tech features that make it a truly remarkable vehicle. The Empower+ trim that I tested was well equipped with many features that made driving easier, safer, and more comfortable. I quickly adapted to using the head-up display, and found it to be one of the most useful features that, before testing the Ariya, I wasn't expecting. Speed, navigational instructions, and especially alerts and information about the ProPILOT system were visible directly on the windshield. I found it easy to read, even in full daylight, and this allowed me to keep my eyes on the road without missing important information.
Speaking of ProPILOT, I found the system has advanced significantly over the past few years. In 2020, I had my first test of ProPILOT in a Nissan Leaf, and I wasn't very impressed. Everything has improved over the past 3 years. The system holds the lane well with minimal adjustments, automatically slows down for sharp curves, and even had a hands-free mode.
I experimented with Nissan's ProPILOT Park assist feature which, after positioning the Ariya in front of an open parking space, parked the SUV without any input or intervention at all. Compared to "auto park" systems in other vehicles I found that the Ariya handled this task exceptionally. The ProPILOT Park assist can be used to park in both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.
The Ariya's electric powertrain provides a smooth and quiet driving experience, with plenty of torque for relatively quick acceleration compared to gas-powered vehicles. The low center of gravity and front-wheel drive system provide excellent handling and stability on the road, and encourage driver confidence.
The Ariya has a maximum power output of 238 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, allowing for moderately reasonable acceleration and passing maneuvers. In our performance testing, the front-wheel drive model was able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 8.36 seconds, and complete the quarter mile in around 16.28 seconds at 87.76 mph. While these numbers may seem modest compared to performance-oriented vehicles, the Ariya is conservative with it's power and is designed to be well-rounded rather than for raw speed.
Tests by other media outlets have returned better times of 15.8 seconds at 92.9 mph for the quarter mile. Our test times were noticeably slower, but it's worth noting that the Ariya's performance can vary depending on driving conditions and individual driving styles.
During our hot lap testing, we were disappointed to find that the Ariya's power output was reduced after only two short laps due to the electric vehicle system overheating. This was indicated by a warning message displayed on the dashboard, which read "EV System Hot, power reduced. Drive slowly."
Sure, the Ariya is not a performance vehicle, but it would be nice if maybe Nissan wasn't so conservative with the tuning... I wanted more. The official EV Resource "Hot Lap" time came in at slower 1:58, putting the Ariya in line with the 2016 Chevy Spark EV on stock tires.
That being said, it was a LOT of fun to drive and most people would probably be happy with it the way it is. Not everybody is a speed demon like I am. Overall, the Ariya's performance is modest, returning a smooth driving experience, reasonable handling and stability, and adequate acceleration for most daily driving needs.
Range, Battery Size, Efficiency, and Charging
I'm really struggling to talk about the range of the Ariya. Not because of anything related to the vehicle in any way, but because I'm starting to really question why we talk about range with EVs at all. Granted, I wrote all about that in the last magazine issue so I won't get into it now. So let's talk about the Ariya's range.
The test vehicle I was provided had an EPA range of 289 miles. My 70 mph highway range test returned a result of 237.2 miles from displayed battery state of charge 100% to 0% (and a little bit further). The battery pack is a big one at 91 kWh (87 kWh usable) which would have an effect primarily at lower speeds (under 45 mph) due to its weight. During the range test I was averaging 2.8 miles/kWh, which isn't the greatest, but it also isn't the worst.
So far, in my review, I've been highlighting most of the features I liked and enjoyed about the Ariya. However, if I'm going to be completely unbiased and retain my journalistic responsibility to you, I have to adjourn from my glowing praises to talk about charging.
The Ariya comes equipped with a 7.2 kW onboard AC charger (level 2) that can be used with a standard portable dual voltage (120V/240V) EVSE or with a wall-mounted unit. But I couldn't use either for my tests because the Ariya charges at a fixed 30 amps at 240V or 15 amps at 120V. It is not adjustable. This was a problem for my particular situation because I usually charge either on a 30 amp, 240V circuit, or a 15 amp 120V circuit. For safety reasons, the maximum amperage I can pull on these circuits is 24 amps and 12 amps respectively. When I plugged the Ariya in to charge, the plug quickly became hot as the circuit was maxed out.
As it is, I would recommend anyone that charges the Nissan Ariya at home, to have a 50 amp 240V circuit available for charging, and the issue I ran into won't be an issue at all. So maybe it was just me, but I really would prefer that the Ariya came with the ability to reduce the charge current to be more flexible for situations like this. Additionally, there was very little information displayed about the charging rate so I didn't find out until I looked it up online, and that could have turned into a problem. When it comes to fast charging at a public DC charger, the Ariya has a maximum charge rate of 130 kW. This is an okay charge rate, but it could be (and should be) higher.
That being said, I found the charge curve to be healthy and consistent. Nissan says the Ariya should take 40 minutes for a 20%-80% charge. In my experience it charged slower than that, but there are a ton of factors that can influence charging, especially when using a DC Fast charger, so without extensive testing it really would be impossible to blame the car. Here, I found the Ariya to be okay, but not great... it certainly left plenty of room for improvement.
So what does this mean? Well, the Ariya is not a vehicle I would take on a road trip. The mediocre efficiency, combined with the lackluster charging would add a significant amount of time to any long-distance trip compared to other electric vehicles in it's price range. BUT, for most people, this really wouldn't matter at all. I believe that the Nissan Ariya is a great choice for people who want to charge at home overnight and commute to and from work, and for local, lets even say, regional use. And that's perfectly acceptable!
One thing for sure, the Ariya is a massive improvement over the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf, while revolutionary in its time, quickly aged and fell technologically behind compared to other available EV options. With the Ariya, Nissan ditched their attachment to the CHAdeMO charging plug which was not widely adopted for the North American market, and also made the very important choice to cool the battery with liquid cooling rather than rely on air cooling. The Ariya has a greater range (ugh, I know, I keep mentioning it), and charges more quickly than the Leaf.
Pricing and Trim Levels
As tested, the Ariya in Empower+ trim has a MSRP of $53,690, putting it right in the middle of the electric SUV segment. However, many of the other EVs at a similar price point are significantly lacking the tech that is included.
The base trim for the Ariya, the Engage starts at a MSRP of $43,190, but I wouldn't expect that to sell very well because it has a smaller 63 kWh (usable) battery pack that is rated at only 216 miles. Without all the technology of the upper trim levels, it just doesn't compare to other EVs at this price point. The top of the line Platinum+ has the greatest amount of technology including a motion-activated rear liftgate, cooled front seats, and a BOSE premium audio system with 10 speakers. That trim starts at $60,190 but also comes standard with Nissan's e–4ORCE dual motor AWD powertrain that puts out 389 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.
If I were pressed to chose an Ariya to buy and live with, I think I'd want the Empower+ trim that I tested but with the e–4ORCE powertrain. There's just one problem though... Nissan doesn't make that configuration. To get all of the tech and features that I want AND have all the power of the e–4ORCE powertrain, my only option would be to go with the Platinum+ trim level. Otherwise, I could ditch the ProPILOT driver assistance feature suite and drop down a trim level to the Evolve+ trim with e–4ORCE. Which, now that I think about it, is probably what I'd go with. I'd miss the awesomeness of ProPILOT, but I'd gain the power and performance I'd be looking to enjoy every day.
The Nissan Ariya is a great vehicle. It comes packed with many standard features and enough technology to make most people happy. It's one of the best Nissan vehicles I've ever driven (if not the best) and there is no question that it is a much better electric vehicle than it's dying sibling the Leaf. Nissan significantly improved their EV offering. But, even with that improvement, it's just an okay electric vehicle. I didn't get the impression that Nissan put a lot of thought into all of the parts of the car that make it an EV. It charges slower than I'd like, it doesn't have enough flexibility when it comes to level 2 AC charging, and it really isn't as efficient as I'd want it to be.
But you know what? I loved driving the Ariya and I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of one again... and I suppose that's what really matters. We don't buy vehicles based on only what we need, we buy vehicles based on what we want and, maybe most importantly, how they make us feel. And with the Ariya, it's sure to make you feel amazing.
Many Thanks To...
I want to express my gratitude to Hart Nissan of Mechanicsville, VA for providing me with the Nissan Ariya for testing and review. Their willingness to loan me the vehicle for an extended period of time allowed me to thoroughly test its features and capabilities, and write a comprehensive review that I hope will be helpful to others who are considering the Ariya as their next electric vehicle. I appreciate their hospitality and professionalism, and would recommend Hart Nissan to anyone in the Mechanicsville area who is in the market for a new vehicle.