Nissan pushed boldly into electric vehicles with the LEAF in 2010 back when electric vehicles were little more than a novelty and a dream. The vehicle set the bar for what a mainstream, affordable electric vehicle of its time should look and feel like, cutting the path for others to follow. It was a bold and costly push into the early world of electric vehicles and polarized company leadership.
In the ten years following the initial launch, Nissan continued to refine the LEAF, adding more range and smoothing out some of the more controversial design lines on the bubbly first generation vehicle. It found itself and evolved into a mainstream vehicle with plenty of range for the average driver. As battery costs came down and more fast charging infrastructure was installed around the world, the LEAF emerged as a great fit for many drivers.
Nissan has been anything but idle, mapping out plans to overhaul the company with EVs at the core under the umbrella of the Nissan NEXT initiative (PPT). It will see 20 new products launched over the next 5 years, building the bridge to 2030, when the company expects 40% of sales to be pure electric vehicles. The majority of the new vehicles are not electric but the plan does include a focus on pure electric vehicles as well as Nissan’s hybrid e-Power line. e-Power vehicles utilize a smaller battery to power a fully electric powertrain with a range extender combustion motor to provide additional range and driver comfort for longer trips.
A foundational pillar of the initiative is Nissan’s fully electric ARIYA crossover that is aimed directly at the heart of the popular segment. Nissan invited CleanTechnica out to drive the ARIYAs and we eagerly headed out to Nashville, Tennessee to put some miles on the exciting new market entrant.
Disclaimer: Nissan paid for the author’s travel and accommodations to attend this event.
Behind the Wheel
We were given single motor, front-wheel drive configurations of the ARIYA as it will launch first. An all-wheel drive build will be introduced shortly after the initial launch. On the power and performance side, acceleration is consistent following a very linear curve up from a stop. This is a sharp contrast to some more performance-oriented vehicles which really lean into the instant torque provided by electric motors to provide a much punchier acceleration off the line. While it is less exciting off the line, the more tame acceleration curve translates to more range per charge.
That’s not to say that it isn’t peppy. The ARIYA packs a nice bump when accelerating, with a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds, with the all wheel drive version boasting a more respectable time of 4.8 seconds. Higher speed torque had less top end, but there still wasn’t any point in our nearly four hours of driving the ARIYA on freeways, highways, city streets, and heavy traffic where it felt like it needed more punch.
Letting up on the accelerator in the ARIYA summons Nissan’s optional e-Step system to engage the electric motor to slow the vehicle with regeneration. This makes for a more natural, efficient drive as the motor pulls power from the moving vehicle, pushing it back into the battery. It provides a near perfect one-pedal driving experience, though it will not bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Regen is not as strong as we have seen in other electric vehicles, but definitely provides a noticeable deceleration. This makes casual driving much more relaxed with just the accelerator pedal being used for the vast majority of instances.
If you need to slow down faster, the brake pedal can still be used to engage the friction brakes. We stomped the brakes in our testing and the friction brakes clamp brought the vehicle to a stop quickly and in a controlled manner, slowing the speed of the vehicle as my adrenaline spiked in response. The ARIYA’s brake system keeps the brakes engaged for a quarter second or so after releasing the pedal, resulting in much less body sway front to back when releasing the brake pedal. It’s a nice effect that contributed to a more premium driving experience.
We ran Nissan’s ProPILOT 2 through the gamut and found it to be useful, but not perfect. We wrote a dedicated piece up on that, so head over there to unpack the full ProPILOT 2 experience from the Nissan ARIYA.
A Refined Design
The look and feel of the cabin is more modern than most of Nissan’s lineup, thanks to a completely reimagined interior. A flat floor sits on the massive battery pack and Nissan was very intentional about maximizing the open spaces it allowed. Tasteful Kumiko-style accents along the interior doors and along the front corners of the vehicle carry the traditional Japan’s woodworking design throughout the vehicle.
The center tunnel is gone and Nissan’s engineers got to work imagineering a completely new center console concept. They landed on a moving center console that allows the driver to, at the push of a button, move the center console from a normal position towards the rear a full 8 inches. This opens up the front of the car and really makes it feel more relaxed, with an airy zen like feel.
Complementing the new center console is a similarly motorized front tray that opens up from the center of the dash and pushes out towards the center console. The tray has room for storage and a flat lid that would make a place for a laptop or tablet to sit on while charging. It’s an interesting idea, but it feels half baked. The drawer mechanism is painfully slow and feels overly complicated for something as simple as a drawer. I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just put another screen optimized for media when parked.
Throughout the interior, Nissan opted for integrated haptic buttons for the handful of features that need to be regularly accessed. These buttons can be engaged with just a touch of the surface. Using haptic buttons let Nissan add buttons without having to disrupt the smooth flow of the surface. The trade off is in looks. A sleek dark grey wood look dash soothes the eyes as you enter, with the bold colors of the flush buttons popping out unnaturally into the experience. The presence of the buttons makes it obvious that much of the interior finishes are little more than plastic, diminishing the otherwise premium experience.
Thankfully, the haptic buttons themselves work extremely well. A light touch on the button adjusts things like temperature, defrost front and rear fan speed up and down, and the other basic climate controls you’d expect to find in a modern vehicle. Back on the center console, the auto park button finds a home as well as the drive mode selector switch which enables the driver to switch between sport, standard, and eco modes in the vehicle depending on driver preference.
We found eco mode to be understandably tame, much like a Toyota Prius in its most efficient setting. It’s much more relaxing and efficient and helps avoid unnecessary speeding tickets. For more spirited driving, Sport mode summons the full power of the motor and is a ton of fun when launching onto a freeway onramp or to have a bit of fun when taking off at a green light.
The Nissan e-Step button also lives on the center console, allowing the driver to turn on and off Nissan’s one pedal driving system. Finally, the haptic switch allowing the driver to open and close the center console drawer is also on top of the high tech console. Aside from a few carefully placed buttons in the vehicle, the vast majority of the controls are either integrated into the touch screen system.
Overhead, an expansive panoramic glass roof provides an open feel to the top and provides a bit more headroom. Unlike the glass rooftops used in many other electric vehicles, Nissan offers a cover motorized cover that slides over the glass. This allows owners living in warmer climates or who are sensitive to the sun to mute the experience and adds a whole new layer of comfort without having to sacrifice the option of the panoramic glass roof. Closing the glass ceiling cover does make the interior feel smaller and more cozy, but is a welcome addition for those sensitive to the sun like myself.
The front section of the twin pane panoramic glass roof also opens. It’s a nice addition for ventilation and just to feel a wind blowing through your hair or the sun shining directly on your skin. It’s a nice touch and really contributes to the premium interior of the Nissan ARIYA, especially considering how many otherwise beautiful panoramic glass roofs don’t open up.
Nissan chose to use the space under the hood of the vehicle for the HVAC and thermal management systems for the vehicle. They did this to open up more cabin space and legroom for the driver to provide a more open airy environment inside the vehicle. The trade off here is that you do not get a frunk in the ARIYA. Frunks are super cool but so is an open cabin. It’s neat to see Nissan exploring the potential of electric vehicles without just hopping blindly onto each and every industry design trend.
The infotainment system in the ARIYA boasts both Apple play and Android Auto. In our testing, we connected a Google Pixel 6 to the car’s Android Auto system and used it for navigation through Google maps and music through Spotify. The core functions and integration with the vehicle performed flawlessly in the ARIYA. The center 12-inch touchscreen display in the ARIYA is responsive and makes for a beautiful navigation experience through Android Auto.
It is exciting seeing Nissan bring its years of experience with the LEAF to bear on the popular crossover segment. Its clean, modern design will appeal to mainstream buyers around the world and the seamless integration of technology only serves to amplify the electric vehicle experience. ARIYA’s price ranges from $47,190 up to $60,190, positioning it right around the post-COVID average new vehicle selling price here in the US of over $50k. The ARIYA is priced for western markets and should give Nissan a nice entry point into high volume, global electric vehicles with their higher cost of goods sold as the company works to ramp up electrification efforts.
- MSRP: $47,190 for the ENGAGE AWD w/Standard battery up to $60,190 for the Platinum+ AWD with Long Range pack
- Battery Capacity (Standard Range Pack): 66 kWh (63 kWh usable) liquid-cooled lithium-ion pack
- Battery Capacity (optional Long Range Pack): 91kWh (87 kWh usable) liquid-cooled lithium-ion pack
- AC Charging: 7.2 kW on board charger
- DC Fast Charging: Up to 130 kW CCS1 standard
- Range (63 kWh FWD Engage trim): 216 miles / 348 kilometers EPA
- Range (87 kWh FWD Venture+ trim): 304 miles / 489 kilometers EPA
- Range (87 kWh FWD Evolve+, Empower+, Premiere rim): 289 miles / 465 kilometers EPA
- Motor (63 kWh FWD): 160 kW / 214 hp single externally excited synchronous motor w/ 221 lb-ft torque
- Motor (87 kWh FWD): 178 kW / 238 hp single externally excited synchronous motor w/ 221 lb-ft torque
Check out the full spec sheet for the 2023 Nissan ARIYA FWD for all the juicy details.
Featured image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
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