Good looking, well proportioned
When electric vehicles entered the scene more than a decade ago, Nissan was at the forefront.
The Leaf was the first EV in mass production, and its early adopters happily took on the growing pains of a budding and promising technology.
Today, EVs are on the verge of mainstream, if they’re not there already. And suddenly, Nissan finds itself behind the eight ball. The consumers considering EVs today expect more practical and family-friendly options with plenty of driving range. And the industry has delivered options. Several other automakers have brought larger SUV-like EVs to market, and most have a two-year head start.
Meanwhile, here we are taking our first look at the long-awaited 2023 Nissan Ariya. The tables,
it seems, have turned.
The Ariya lands in Canada with six different trims available, from the Engage front-wheel drive (FWD) priced at $55,843 (all prices include destination and fees) to the Premiere e-4ORCE – that’s Nissan’s term here for all-wheel drive (AWD) – priced at $72,843. There are two different battery sizes available, and here’s where it starts getting confusing: the Engage and the $63,443 Evolve e-4ORCE come with the smaller 63kWh battery, while higher trims such as the Evolve+ FWD we’re testing here ($67,843) come with the larger 87kWh battery.
Power and range
With all the variations available, power figures and range estimates are all over the map. The lowest-powered model is the Engage FWD at 214 horsepower and 221lbs-ft of torque; our Evolve+ tester has the same torque figure but 238hp, which is plenty for everyday driving. The top two e-4ORCE-equipped trims have two motors and the highest power figures of 389hp and 442lbs-ft. On the range side, the lowest figure is on the Evolve e-4ORCE at an estimated 330km, while the peak is 482km from the Venture+ FWD. It’s tricky to wrap one’s head around, even for those of us who have become used to parsing these figures.
Here’s another challenging statistic: the Ariya’s peak Level 3 charging speed is 130kW, which will recover the battery from 10 to 80 per cent in 40 minutes. Granted, there aren’t yet many DC fast chargers around that are capable of charging at that rate. But the future is hurtling toward us faster than ever, and this feels short-sighted when there are affordable EVs already on sale that are capable of 200kW-plus. Mercifully, while the CHAdeMO standard persists on the Leaf, Nissan has dropped it here in favour of the more efficient and more common CCS format.
Inside and out
From the outside, the Ariya is an attractive vehicle. It doesn’t stand out boldly in any particular manner. Yet given that the first-generation Leaf looked like an alien spacecraft, this is a safer approach. The interior, on the other hand, represents a ground-up new design. The lower dashboard features faux wood panels with fully integrated touch controls. A pair of 12.3-inch screens present a digital instrument cluster and infotainment system.
The true puzzler is the power-adjustable centre console. It moves 15cm forward or back with the push of a button. This is interesting but less functionally important in the face of the amount of usable space it gives up. Under the lid, there’s a small bin that fits a thin wallet or a pack of gum, set behind a somewhat finicky wireless phone charger. Two glove boxes are set under the dashboard to recover some storage, but their positions are less convenient.
The top panel of this console is well-designed. Two cupholders are integrated on the right side, out of the driver’s way. The gear selector is a shift-by-wire system similar to those in the latest Rogue and Pathfinder SUVs, but the Ariya’s is smaller and sleeker. Behind that are buttons for adjusting the Ariya’s drive modes and activating the e-Step. The latter system increases the intensity of the regenerative braking to recover more range. However, unlike the e-Pedal from the Nissan Leaf, the e-Step function doesn’t allow for one-pedal driving.
The most important safety and driver assistant systems are standard, including Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, active cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and a driver attention monitor.
The 2023 Nissan Ariya is a good-looking vehicle, and its well-proportioned and mostly well-featured. The two biggest challenges buyers will encounter are the complicated trim walk and the pricing, which is several thousand dollars higher than similar equipped competition, even after accounting for federal and provincial rebates. The best sales case for the Ariya is if Nissan can deliver it quickly and get ahead of the competition’s one- to two-year wait.