Considering Nissan was one of the pioneers of the 100% electric vehicle with the introduction of the Leaf way back in 2010, it’s surprising that it took so long for a second EV to emerge.
On sale since 2022, the Ariya is a mid-sized five-door SUV, which means that its formidable rivals include the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Skoda Enyaq, Volkswagen ID.4 and Tesla Model Y.
Two things are for sure, the Ariya’s futuristic looks help it stand out from the crowd, while its plush interior is a real step-up for Nissan.
Up front, the large closed-off grille is flanked by sharp LED daytime running lights and headlights. Below there’s a meaty spoiler. The swooping roofline leads to a full-width LED light bar at the rear of the car.
Inside, it’s smart and minimalist. Stylish wood-grained trim (the pattern is applied to plastic panels using a hydro-printing process) spans the width of the dashboard and it has a premium feel.
Touch-sensitive controls are hidden within the trim, illuminating when the car is switched on. Obviously, physical dials and switches are preferable, but at least these touch controls work and they offer haptic feedback.
There are also a few more haptic feedback buttons conveniently placed on the sliding centre armrest, which can be moved via the press of a button to provide additional foot space in the front or the rear.
The Ariya’s infotainment system consists of two 12.3-inch screens, mounted side-by-side – a driver’s digital instrument cluster, plus a main infotainment interface complete with sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
There’s a choice of two battery sizes- a standard 63kWh unit or the ‘extended range’ 87kWh, which Nissan claims can travel 250 miles and 329 miles respectively from a full charge.
Starting at £46,145, entry-level models use a single electric motor to power the front wheels, producing 214bhp (63kWh) and 239bhp (87kWh).
All-wheel drive versions (marketed as ‘e-4ORCE’) get the larger 87kWh battery and an extra electric motor, delivering a total of 302bhp. However, range takes a hit, resulting in a claimed 285 miles.
The front-wheel drive 63kWh is capable of a 0-62mph sprint in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 100mph, while the all-wheel-drive 87kWh has a 5.7-second 0-62mph time and can go on to 124mph.
The Ariya can be charged at speeds of up to 130kW (slower than some rivals such as the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5), meaning you can top up from 10-80% in around 30 minutes, while an overnight charge from a 7.4kW wallbox will take 10 hours.
Standard equipment is generous and there are just two trim levels to choose from – Advance and Evolve.
Entry-level Advance is fitted with full LED lighting, a heated windscreen, climate control, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a navigation system, 360-degree cameras and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Evolve adds a panoramic sunroof, a video-based rear-view mirror, ventilated seats, heated rear seats and a Bose sound system, among other features.
The extensive list of safety and driver assistance aids standard on all grades includes Intelligent Driver Alertness, Lane Keep Assist, Traffic Jam Pilot, Blind Spot Intervention, Intelligent Cruise Control, Full Auto Park and a 360-degree Around View Monitor. Extra goodies on the Evolve spec include Pro-Pilot Park and a Head-up Display.
Our 63kWh Advance test car looked sensational in Akatsuki Copper with a pearl-black roof. Somewhere between a traditional and coupe-styled SUV, it’s striking and on the tall side.
On the road, the Ariya delivers a relaxing driving experience, thanks to the whisper-quiet electric motor, top build quality and smooth delivery of instant torque.
It’s fast, but not ridiculously so like some rivals, and there are three driving modes (Eco, Sport and Normal), though keeping it in the latter will do just fine.
As you’d expect from Nissan, there’s also an e-pedal option, which whacks up the regenerative braking and can bring the car to a halt simply by lifting off the accelerator.
Grip levels are good, though as we found with our FWD test car, it is possible to spin the front wheels when setting off on loose surfaces and in the wet if you’re too heavy with your right foot.
It’s perfectly composed at high speed and on flowing country roads, but try to hustle on more challenging corners and it’s weight and height become more obvious.
There’s a bit of body lean and 2.2 tonnes to slow down, so discretion is the better part of valour.
Otherwise, the steering feels nicely judged, and the commanding driving position offers good visibility (plus there’s a rear wiper, unlike some rivals!).
We haven’t tried the all-wheel drive e-4ORCE model yet, but we suspect the increased grip, power and range (we’d estimate the real-world range in our 63kWh test car is closer to 200 miles) might be worth the extra expense.