Nissan Ariya review: The new electric SUV king? - MrLiambi's blog


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Friday, 1 July 2022

Nissan Ariya review: The new electric SUV king?

When it comes to electric cars, Nissan is something of a veteran: the Nissan Leaf is one of the most established EVs on the road, it has been a big seller in Europe and was one of the cars that broke early ground in the transition to electric. 

Many have questioned why it's taken Nissan so long to expand beyond the Leaf, into more sectors. There's now greater urgency and a greater demand for electric cars - as well as a much better understanding of what electric cars offer.

There's also a lot more competition. Arguably, the Leaf's success was party due to little competition - the Renault Zoe was about all there was - but now there are a lot of choices in the mid-sized SUV segment.

So does all that Leaf experience flow into Nissan's new Ariya electric SUV? 

Design and build 

The easiest thing for Nissan to do in this segment would have been to take it's top seller - the Nissan Qashqai - and give it an electric version. That would fall into line with the likes of the Kia Niro, but Nissan had broader ambitions. The Ariya sits on a platform designed for electric and - just as we've seen from Hyundai with the Ioniq 5 - that brings huge dividends. There's no compromise in the platform as it's not trying to accommodate a combustion engine in a different version, so the results are better overall.

It means that Nissan launches the Ariya as a totally new car. The company will talk about its experience saying that Leaf + Qashqai = Ariya. But that sells the Ariya short, as it's much more than that. The Ariya is sleeker and smoother, and although you can see Nissan "DNA" in this design, it looks more premium. 

As so it should as it's naturally more expensive than the Qashqai - even the fancy e-Power version of that popular model - and the result is something that rubs shoulders with rivals like Audi and BMW. 

Nissan preserves conventional mirrors (which we're glad of), while it also has pretty standard door handles. With the move to a sleeker external design, we're not sure why it didn't opt for something slightly more futuristic to open the door - but there you go.

One of Nissan's design signatures is the grille and this has been flattened and integrated, so the idea of that shape remains but it's now a black panel, with deeper detail if you look a little closer. It's fairly large and offers a great design break on the front of the car - which means you get a slightly different effect depending on the paint colour you choose. 

The launch colour in bronze looks great to our eyes, but the safe black model loses the distinction of those black exterior design elements so doesn't quite have the same character. The Ariya is a car that looks best in some of the more vibrant colours as a result.

The Ariya rides high, giving you a lofty driving position, but it doesn't feel much larger than the Qashqai when you're driving it. It is larger, however, but offers that advantage of having a flat floor, optimising cabin space with a few clever details thrown in.

The boot offers 466-litres of storage on the two-wheel drive version, shrinking to 408-litres on the all-wheel drive model, the loss in space down to the additional rear motor that the AWD motor needs, while the sloping roofline means that those stuffing a dog in the boot might find there's a little less space up top than there was in models with a squarer rear end, like the Nissan X-Trail, for example.

The interior lounge

Moving to a lounge-style interior design has been something of a trend in recent cars. The Ariya walks the same path resulting in a modern interior that's fresh and inviting. Again, this is a good reason for not recycling the Qashqai, because when you slip into the Ariya, you know it's something special.

To increase the amount of interior space, the dash has been reduced leaving clear space around your feet. Nissan (on higher trims) is offering a movable centre console, so with the press of a button you can move it back or forth, to redistribute space fore and aft, or just to get the armrest in a better position for you.

collection: interior

It's something of a novelty and we're not sure how many people will really be excited about it, but it also means there's not a lot of storage in the centre - only really accommodation for the wireless charging pad for your phone and another slot lower down - next to the floor-level USB sockets. 

This is a quirk we saw in the Hyundai Ioniq 5 too, meaning that your phone might end up down by your feet if you choose to plug it in.

There's a hidden storage box in the front too. Press a button on the centre console and this drawer powers out, almost forming a little table at the front, but offering another hiding hole to keep things out of the way. There's a hint of James Bond about it, but with few open places to place things like sunglasses cases, it's certainly welcomed, if a little over-engineered. 

Sticking with the dash, there's been a huge reduction in physical buttons. There are almost none, with Nissan instead using a haptic touch system. With wood-like finishes and rear illumination, again it's a modern solution, reducing cabin clutter.

There's also a new design to the displays, Nissan putting these into one bar, rather than separating them as on previous vehicles. Again, it's very much the trend these days.

The steering wheel is also modernised over the Qashqai, with better touch controls across its surface, although it is rather busy compared to something like the BMW iX. 

As we've said already, there's plenty of space, with that advantage extended to the rear seats too, offering ample leg and headroom, thanks to the flat floor. The seats are comfortable, offering a range of finishes, plenty of support and powered controls. They also integrate heating as standard, with seat ventilation/cooling a feature of the higher Evolve trim.

There are two trims - Advance and Evolve - and with the Ariya pitched as a premium model, the standard specification is actually pretty impressive. That's not uncommon in electric cars, but here you're looking at things like ambient lighting, ProPilot, auto parking, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. 

The Evolve steps up with that powered sliding centre console, panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, synthetic leather seats, 10-speaker Bose sound system, a heads-up display - so there's a pretty big difference - and these are all premium features.

The interior finish is also softer than some other Nissan models. While there's still the use of hard plastics in places - incorporating Japanese traditional design hints - there are plenty of synthetic leather and suede options - the latter looking really smart. 

The result is an interior that's high quality and definitely brings distinction above the Qashqai. 

The interior tech

We've mentioned that the displays are now fused into one bar, giving a fresgh look, but the interface will be familiar to anyone who has been in the latest Qashqai. It's the same overall UI, with a run of icons down the side to access the key areas - navigation, phone, music and the widget-based home page. 

collection: display

The driver display offers a little customisation, allowing either dials or a more minimalised option that focuses on information, such as navigation, stats, and so on. The combined display also has a physical brightness control on the side, so you can easily tweak it up and down.

However, while the big spread of display is generally welcomed, it seems to have some sort of anti-reflective finish to it, so it looks a little matte, which mutes it slightly compared to, for example, a similar glossy display in the Qashqai. A minor detail, but something to be aware of.

Using the internal tech is mostly straight forward - there aren't too many options, a nice balance between form and function, although it's not the most modern in appearance, with a few questionable design choices.

The biggest of these comes across in navigation. When you have route planned in, the map display is fine, but when you approach a turning, there's a box that shows that junction that appears alongside the map - and for some reason it has a black background.

The result is a little jarring alongside the lighter coloured version of pretty much the same thing on the other side of the display and we're not convinced it's as useful as it should be.

The heads-up display is excellent, however, richly presentd and full of the information you need, including prompts for things like speed limit changes (powered by the road sign recognition), allowing you to accept the change of speed when driving with Nissan's ProPilot system, which will neatly offer adaptive cruise control and steering assistance with the press of a couple of buttons.

ProPilot has been around for a couple of years and really is an easy system to use, generally reliable in keeping your car to your lane, so you just have to rest your hands gently on the wheel, leaving the car to do the driving. However, when it loses the lane, for example if the lane markings are indistinct because of roadworks, there's only a brief warning signal and vibration before you're handed back control.

As with all such driver assistance systems, you need to remain in control of the car at all times, even if the car appears to be driving itself. 

There's further assistance for parking, as well as cameras around the vehicle to help you when reversing or when trying to squeeze into a small space. Again, a common feature, but conveniently implemented with a button to press on the dash to fire up the cameras.

You can also link the Ariya to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, meaning you can ask your smart speaker or phone to lock your car of give you details of the battery charge.

Power, performance and range 

There are two battery sizes - 63kW or 87kW - and both are available with either trim - Advance or Evolve. But there are also motor options, so you'll be able to step up over the 160kW standard motor to a 178kW motor, again, in both trims.

Finally, there's the all-wheel drive options - known as e-4ORCE - which adds a rear motor to bring the power up to 225W. Not only do you get all-wheel drive, there are performance additions that come with this range topper, so it's faster too.

That's six models to choose from, with a price ladder starting at just over £43k in the UK and topping out at over £56k. It is, in reality, competitively priced against some of the premium brands like BMW and provides some competition to the likes of Kia and Hyundai - with the Ioniq 5 starting a little cheaper, but with a slightly smaller battery.

The important thing to remember when ordering is that the trim levels are available with all those goodies regardless of which battery size or motor power you opt for. Out review model (pictured here) was the 160kW Evolve. 

The larger battery capacity models come with an additional benefit apart from extended range - and that's 22kW charging. This boost to AC charging speeds might mean you can get faster charging in more locations, faster than the standard 7.4kW offered.

Of course, for the fastest charging, you'll be using the DC rapid charging, with support up to 130kW. This isn't the fastest out there - Hyundai offers 350kW charging - so you'll get over 200 miles in 30 minutes on the larger battery size.

Onto the range and below are the official Ariya range figures from Nissan: 

  • 63kW - 250 miles (2WD)
  • 87kW - 329 miles (2WD)
  • 87kW - 310 miles (e-4ORCE)

During our test driving, we managed to achieve an average of 4.9 miles per kWh, which would equate to 308 miles compared to Nissan's figure of 250 miles (WLTP) on the 63kW two-wheel drive model.

The real-world range will always depend on driving conditions, driving style, how the car is loaded, but there are some impressive figures here and the results we got were achieved without any effort to make any real efficiency sacrifices - but we'll update this figure if and when we get to spend more time driving the Ariya.

The Ariya is also nice to drive. That commanding seating position gives great visibility with the steering weighting up nicely through turns to give it more feel. It rides and handles well, although we mostly drove it on smooth roads, so we can't say for certain how it will behave through potholes and on broken surfaces. 

The faster speeds fall to the e-4ORCE model (that's the all-wheel drive version remember), with a 0-62 time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 124 miles per hour. That's not hugely fast and won't give Tesla Model Y owners anything to worry about. 

The e-4ORCE model here is really about optimising onroad experience and giving you more power, not really any competition for the Toyota bZ4X's more enhanced off-road abilities.

The two-wheel drive options are looking at a slightly more leisurely 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, rather more average, but perfectly fast enough to most typical drivers.  

There is a sense of quality and refinement and like other electric cars, the benefit of having the power smoothly and instantly available when you put your foot down gives electric the edge over conventional models.

There are also other options, with both a straight D drive mode and a B battery mode that gives a little more regen on lift-off. You can then opt for the ePedal - toggled via a button - which reduces the need to use the brakes further, and is great for town driving.

There are driving modes too - sport, standard, eco - and the surprising thing here is that eco here has no regen at all. The idea is that when you lift off the power, the car will coast, avoiding the braking effect of regen that would slow you down. As such, eco mode is great for motorway driving. 

You can't manually change the regen levels, they're accessed through these different options and they all seem to work well enough and, importantly, they're all easy to get to grips with. 

Electric cars are known for being quiet and that's true here. There's an active noise cancelling system in the Ariya designed to remove other external noises and the result is a refined cabin. Wind noise is minimal, the only real intrusion coming from the tyres.

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