So here is the all-new, all-wonderful, all-electric new Nissan Ariya. It spent much of the time parked outside my home next to a bronze Nissan X-Trail, as if in a formal comparison study, and side by side the pair looked decades apart. It is a testament to how the world’s carmakers, led by pioneering firms such as Nissan, have risen to the challenge of electrifying the planet’s personal transportation. Ten years ago there was nothing around with the capability of the Ariya.
You should think of the Ariya as the Nissan family car of the future: an evolution of its existing X-Trail and Qashqai family SUVs, but rather more stylish and striking. It really is a very handsome beast indeed, from its ultra-narrow V-shaped LED lights and block of piano-black plastic at the front, through its razor-sharp sweeping lines, to its coupe-like tail. The launch colour, “Akatsuki copper”, is especially tasteful. I have to say I’ve not been so excited by a Nissan since the last time I had a go in their raucous GT-R sports machine. The Ariya isn’t quite as entertaining as that, but it is the future.
Or, rather, the present, because it’s arrived in the UK (this model is currently manufactured in Japan rather than at the giant Nissan works in Sunderland). The Ariya fits very nicely into the mid-sized SUV-like niche already occupied by the likes of the VW ID.4, Skoda Enyaq or Cupra Born (those three being closely related as VW Group products), the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Tesla Model Y, the Citroen e-C4, and the highly capable Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, among many others.
Still an uncommon sight on the roads, there is more mainstream choice than ever for the electric-car buyer – if you’ve got the money. There is still a price premium over an equivalent petrol or electric model of about £10,000, though monthly purchase and leasing plans blur this a bit. You still save on running costs, but the ramping up of electricity prices has eroded that advantage somewhat, and of course there’s little certainty around where the market and the government subsidies are heading.
Price: £46,365 (as tested, base model at £43,845)
Propulsion: Single electric motor, powered by 63kWh battery
Power (PS): 217
Top speed: 100mph
0-60mph: 7.5 secs
Economy: 3.7 miles per kWh
Range: 200-250 miles
CO2 emissions: 0
The Nissan is just as novel on the inside as it is on the outside. I was especially enchanted by the “haptic” buttons, which are just printed icons on the wood-like plastic dash, activated by the lightest of caresses rather than being traditional push-buttons. You get used to them fairly quickly and they suit the restrained but hi-tech feel of the interior. The Ariya is still a bit dark and sober compared to the lighter VW ID.4, say, and its driving controls are more conventional, as with a traditional automatic car, but everything feels very high quality, durable and reliable, as you’d expect from a Nissan.
The twin 12-inch touchscreens sweep seamlessly from the top of the dash to the instrument panel in front of the driver, as is the fashion these days, and this works very straightforwardly, with a proper old-fashioned dial for the radio. I’d prefer a bit more clutter to be honest, like buttons for the heated seats, but that’s just being fussy. Like other Nissans, the Ariya gets the excellent ProPilot system for cruise control and part-autonomous driving – far less fiddly than the set-up of some of its competitors.
The boot is wide and reasonably capacious, and head- and leg-room in the back is more than adequate for most passengers. When the time comes for loyal Nissan customers to migrate to an Ariya, they shouldn’t feel short-changed, with two trim levels, Advance and Evolve.
The base model with the smaller battery pack will give you a range of about 200 miles on a single charge, with about half an hour at a fast commercial charger to get you up from near empty to 80 per cent full. The larger battery pack will go for about 300 miles, and there’s also an option of four-wheel drive (though no great ground clearance). Interestingly the Ariya is fitted with the now more prevalent European standard CCS charging system rather than the rival Japanese CHAdeMO version, which should help future-proof the Ariya.
I’ve found the battery range on the Korean and Chinese makes (Kia, Hyundai, MG) to be a little wider than others, suggesting more efficient set-ups, but the Ariya is broadly competitive - 3.7 miles per kWh of battery charge compared to 4 miles from the best of the rest. It’s equivalent to around 160mpg in any case.
As to how it drives, it’s very much like any modern battery electric vehicle, with astonishing acceleration low down but some compromises as speeds increase. Nonetheless, you’ll feel perfectly at home at motorway speeds, and the Ariya has a sporty setting too (albeit with correspondingly fewer miles per charge).
For absolute economy, needed these days, you can put it in economy mode and use the “e-pedal” and drive it like a dodgem car. When you lift your foot off the accelerator, the electric motor acts like a brake and you slow sharply, thus increasing regeneration of otherwise wasted power. You soon get the hang of it and start trying to minimise your electricity usage, like a green driving challenge.
That’s my aria for the Ariya and, once acquainted, you’ll be singing its praises too.