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Automotive: We test the electric Nissan Ariya on the road

Nissan is expanding its range of electric cars with its new Ariya. Ted Welford takes the wheel to see what it’s like

If there are two areas where Nissan has more experience than most, it’s building electric cars and crossovers. Launching the Qashqai as the first true “crossover” in 2007 and the Leaf as the first mainstream electric vehicle in 2010, both have proven to be highly lucrative.

So it’s almost strange that Nissan took so long to combine the two and create an electric SUV. But the time has finally come with the Ariya, which will hit dealerships soon – two years after it was first revealed. Was it worth the wait?

WHAT’S UP?

When it was first shown, the Ariya had little competition. But two years is a long time in the EV segment, and this Nissan is now struggling to compete alongside rivals like the VW ID.4 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Nissan has done a lot to make the Ariya stand out, though, building it around a new EV-only platform, giving it a more premium look inside and out, and l fitted with a range of new powertrains – virtually nothing is shared with the Leaf.

WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD?

Three powertrains are offered – a smaller battery car, a large battery model and a powerful four-wheel drive version. Our test car is the cheapest of the bunch, pairing a 63kWh battery with an electric motor producing 215bhp and 300Nm of torque. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes 7.3 seconds, with a top speed of 100 mph. It also offers an electric range of 250 miles, while the 130kW fast-charging capability means it can be charged in around 30 minutes from 20-80%.

An 87kWh battery model satisfies those wanting longer range and can handle a claimed 329 miles from a charge – on par with the best in this segment. If you want more power, take a look at the all-wheel-drive ‘e-4orce’ model, which gets a second electric motor, pushing power up to 302hp and doubling torque to 600Nm. mph takes just 5.5 seconds with this variant.

WHAT IS DRIVING?

Nissan’s years of electric vehicle expertise are immediately noticeable here. In true EV mode, power delivery is smooth and linear. However, there is occasional hesitation if you quickly pull away from a stop, which is a bit odd for an EV. It also doesn’t have that immediate ‘wow’ factor about it when you put your foot down like other electric cars, but it’s more than quick enough.

On the move, it’s comfortable and largely refined, although there’s quite a bit of road noise, which is more noticeable due to the quietness of the powertrain. It also handles very well for a relatively heavy electric SUV, feeling nimble, and the ride is largely dialed in too. Nineteen-inch alloys are fitted as standard, and we think you better keep those, rather than the optional 20, at least as far as comfort is concerned.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

Design is key in the increasingly crowded electric SUV segment, and the Ariya stands out for all the right reasons. Appearance will be subjective, but we reckon this is Nissan’s best-looking car currently, with its coupe-like roofline giving it a stunning profile, further enhanced by the silver window line that makes the roof look lower than it is.

Large L-shaped LED running lights at the front and a full-width LED light bar also add extra presence. We’d say it’s quite spec dependent though. Our dark green tester, for example, hid some of the Ariya’s best details, such as the contrasting gloss black trim around the arches. The funky gold color pictured gives the Ariya a much more appealing look in our opinion.

HOW IS IT INSIDE?

Nissan says it’s aiming for the top end with the Ariya, and nowhere is that better observed than its interior. It really looks great, with a range of premium materials coming together to create a very premium cabin. That gives Volkswagen’s ID.4 a slightly lower rent, that’s for sure.

There are also some really nice touches, like the power sliding console and the haptic feedback buttons that are actually integrated into the wood of the dash. Through the use of the EV-only platform, it adds to the feeling of space, with a completely flat floor front and rear, and plenty of room in the rear, even for adults. A disadvantage is that the trunk is quite shallow under the parcel shelf if the floor is kept in its usual position.

WHAT IS THE SPECIFICATION?

Nissan has simplified the Ariya, with only two trim levels available across the entire lineup – Advance and Evolve.

The level of equipment is very generous from the start, with a 360-degree camera system, electric trunk and a full suite of semi-autonomous driving functions included. The smart dual-screen interior layout is also included, featuring a 12.3-inch digital dial for the display instruments and one the same size as the touchscreen. Although the digital dials work flawlessly, we found the main touchscreen to be quite sluggish and hesitant to use.

Upgrade the Evolve and it brings a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker audio system and synthetic leather and ultrasuede seats.

As for pricing, the Ariya starts from £43,845 and goes up to £56,290 for the top-end ‘e-4orce’ model. Unless you need that extra 80 miles of range from the larger battery, we reckon the entry-level car will provide more than enough for most buyers.

VERDICT

Nissan’s second electric car and a Leaf follow-up have been slow to arrive, but the Ariya feels like it’s worth the wait. The company says it already has several thousand pre-orders, and we think that will quickly increase as customers get behind the wheel.

The feature that stands out is undoubtedly its interior; it’s a real cut above anything we’ve ever seen from Nissan. While the Ariya might not be the game changer that the Leaf or Qashqai were, it’s a very welcome addition to the electric SUV segment and does more than enough to stand out in an area where the competition is particularly fierce.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: Nissan Ariya

Price: £43,845

Model tested: Nissan Ariya 160kW Evolve 63kWh

Price as tested: £47,840

Motor: Single electric motor

Power: 215 hp

Torque: 300Nm

0-60mph: 7.3 seconds

Maximum speed: 100mph

Economy: N/A

Emissions: n/a

Range: 250 miles