First test, Nissan Ariya: the stable relationship

Nissan has invited the media to enjoy a day at the track with the Nissan Ariya, the company’s long-awaited second electric vehicle. After spending some time driving and goofing around with the crossover, I realize that this vehicle is nothing short of amazing. I think the Ariya is exactly what the American buying public wants and expects from an EV—the kind of predictable car you can settle into in the fall and plan for the future.

But will anyone grab it if you go on a summer vacation with Tesla?

The reader

The Ariya felt like a snappy, smooth ride, especially compared to a rigid SUV (and some crossovers). The suspension wasn’t tight and precise, but a bit loose and relaxed. Acceleration was as peppy as any EV, something we’ve all come to expect. However, Nissan has to use a thick-wound motor, as the dynamism also extends at higher speeds, delivering a punchy jump even from a 40km/h ride.

Black/dark green color, very nice.

Nissan launches its CMF-EV platform with the Ariya. Nissan was proud to say that it achieved a 50/50 weight balance with this design, including passenger placement. This feature highlights the already excellent drivability that makes modern electric vehicles so much better than their predecessors.

Braking the Ariya was a little daunting, but that was entirely due to the regenerative braking setting that I just wasn’t used to. Getting in the car, the brakes were very responsive, even jerking the one time I pressed the pedal. It turns out that regenerative braking is also influenced by the selected driving mode (in this case, Sport mode). With a little customization and practice, the brakes could be mastered.

For the AWD version (which is yet to be tested) Nissan uses a rear-twin motor which adds significant weight, so it’s good to know that hard emergency stops are available for this option. Overall, I think the powertrain was in line with other EVs in the segment. Nothing stood out to me.

Interior

The model we rode was called a prototype, but the marketing team also told us it was built to European spec, a combination we won’t get in the US. We drove a high trim level with the smaller battery (63kwh). This means that the interior had all the comforts that make the car unique.

Dual display on a curved slate

Rolling in the top trim, the Ariya had a few select points with superb fit and finish. Leatherette embellishes the touchpoints, from the steering wheel to the surround of the center console to the door accents. The seats generally had high quality materials with heating and cooling features. One feature struck me as having a lot of character – the accent lighting. Nissan attributes the design to traditional lanterns used during Japan’s Edo period from 1603 to 1867 AD.

Andon Lighting

The ambience is set by simple, soft tan light behind geometrically shaped ‘grids’ at various points throughout the interior. Knowing the history, it was pleasant, rather soothing. At the same time, the busy shapes of the shades also helped clutter the design. As cute as these shapes are, they are made of plastic, which is also noticeable on other parts of the interior. I went to poke around and found that the underside of the center console compartment had a very thin, loose sheet of plastic inside. I highly doubt anyone would put their hands under there to review the material, but I did. It looks like Nissan is trying to strike a balance between a relaxing atmosphere while offering inexpensive friendliness.

Aside from the touchscreen in the center of the dash (which has the deeper controls for connectivity, radio, user profiles, and more), the Ariya spreads out the control points to make your life easier. With one exception, I found that the buttons are all in the correct order. There’s a volume dial in the center of the dash, but the majority of audio controls go through the central touchscreen and steering wheel buttons. The Ariya has a line covering the lower depth of the dash in a lovely faux ash wood with a nice texture. I wonder if it insulted the designer to see that satisfying aesthetic broken up to add colorful temperature controls. Flat panel touchscreen buttons with haptic feedback illuminate from this texture. Somewhere in Japan, there’s an engineer, a designer, and an accountant all fighting in a bar.

Why break that nice trim for temperature controls?

In the seating area, the Ariya features flat floors front and rear and a movable center console. The center console not only includes a compartment and wireless and USB (A and C) charging points, but also includes the gear selector and a few other controls. In the center console are the controls for driving mode selection, automatic parking, electronic pedal and central glove box.

In the center of the dashboard extends a small drawer with a retractable lid. This space can hold goodies but can also be used as a platform to rest a laptop. Nissan mentioned something like “static entertainment options”, which I interpret to mean “something to do while the car is charging”.

Life with the Ariya

The Ariya charges at a rate of 130kW, which the company was quick to point out is a largely consistent rating throughout the charge cycle. Some companies claim maximum speed, but the fine print shows a steep drop to a slower speed for the rest of the charge cycle. Nissan nipped that in the bud, sharing a vague graphic showing a slight bend peaking at 130kw.

Ariya charging port (located on the passenger side)

Other features were in the car, but we couldn’t see them in action. We weren’t able to try Nissan’s Level 2 autonomy feature set with “hands-free, eyes-on”, or lane-change assist or autopark. I didn’t have the time (or patience) to try connecting my phone for Alexa integration or the Nissan “Hey Nissan” personal assistant. In the future, we hope to get our hands on it for a longer test.

In another note, Nissan is planning OTA software updates. Instead of having a first update right after launch to showcase the OTA feature itself, the company plans to deliver a product that will stick around for quite some time.

The briefing was short. 100 points to Team Nissan for that.

Countryside

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to wonder if my view of the world has been distorted by reading every article on Electrek for years. I’m starting to believe that having a car that farts is a basic human right and that Toyota is a leader in electric vehicles. But once in a while, I see the light of day and realize that my world is very small.

Take the electric vehicle market, for example. In 2021, the EV market share was 4.5% and the California government claims 40% of total EVs in its state. If so, the other 49 states share 1.8% of the rest, which puts me in the very rare minority that owns 2 electric vehicles.

The remaining 98.2% are still driving noisy, smelly and slow-moving vehicles that cost an arm and a leg to operate and maintain. What would convince these people to accept an uncomfortable change in their lives (an upgrade, really)?

Compared to a Tesla

Unless you’re talking size, the Ariya doesn’t compare to a Tesla Model Y.

Electrek’s Grasp

The Ariya is an excellent vehicle. The feeling, functionality and character will attract many buyers to the world of electric vehicles. The ride is predictable, the features are flattering, the interior is impressive, and the inherent benefits of electric vehicles run 10 pages. Ariya is the stable relationship.

Like it or not, Elon Musk and Tesla are inseparable, and the eccentric genius magnet that he is has raised fears of brand instability. Many investors don’t see it that way, but my extended family often does.

I am interested in the Ariya. I think we should go out again. I’m starting to think the Ariya might be marriage material.

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