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Nissan Ariya first drive: surprisingly potent and quite posh

Nissan Ariya driving on a track
(Image credit: Nissan)
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Here's the brand new Nissan Ariya, the car we've been seeing for a while now, either in tempting mock-up publicity shots or as a static display at car shows. Now it's driveable and the really good news is it's almost ready to hit the road.

Reservations are already being taken for the Ariya and deliveries are expected to begin by the summer. TechRadar recently had a chance to drive a pre-production version of the car, which is being billed as a coupe crossover SUV by Nissan. 

It's all-electric, has five doors and plenty of smart technology that you'd expect from the innovative Japanese automaker. So, what's it like behind the wheel of this £41k and up EV?

We got to find out at Circuito del Jarama, the former F1 racetrack just north of Madrid. Nissan had hired the circuit and subsequently created its own smaller route using myriad bollards. 

The idea was to give us a variety of driving scenarios emulating everyday road conditions. A big difference though is a racetrack is super smooth, so the effect wasn't quite the same as driving along rutted and potholed roads. Nevertheless, the Nissan Ariya proved to be every bit as impressive as it looks.

Striking and well equipped

Side profile of Nissan Ariya parked in the pits of a racetrack

(Image credit: TechRadar / Rob Clymo)

Indeed, the car is quite striking, especially from the front. It was good to see the Ariya in another color than the gold we've been seeing in all those publicity shots over the last couple of years or so.

TechRadar got to drive a dark colored model, which looked to be a very dark metallic green on closer inspection, though appeared black on first sight. The white examples looked pretty good too, but Nissan is offering the Ariya in a range of ten body colors. A trio of dashboard colors (black, blue and grey) will help to bling things up a bit more on the inside.

There'll be four versions of the Nissan Ariya heading for the UK market, with prices starting from £41,845. These include the Advance with a 63kWh battery, then the Evolve, the e-4ORCE Evolve and e-4ORCE Performance editions, which all feature a larger 87kWh battery. The top-of-the range e-4ORCE Performance 87kWh model is set to cost £58,440. 

However, that will also get you all the trimmings including a 10-speaker Bose sound system, digital head-up display, intelligent rear view mirror, electric panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloys with aero covers and Blue Nappa leather seat fronts. 

The interior of the model we drive, meanwhile, was an impressive blend of white seats and trim highlights with cool styling touches, like the Japanese-flavored patterns in locations like the door panels and around the speakers on each of the doors. 

The theme continues in other subtle areas throughout the interior. A panoramic glass sunroof topped it all off.

It's a pleasure to drive

The dash inside the Ariya SUV electric vehicle

(Image credit: TechRadar / Rob Clymo)

Like most new EVs the Nissan Ariya is a both a doddle and a pleasure to drive. Everything's electric, so you can get the seat and steering column into a position that suits and you're ready for the off. 

Drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport) are selected from the centrally mounted lever, which sits on top of a large binnacle that also carries push button options for engaging Nissan's addictive e-Pedal as found in the Leaf. This console can be moved backwards and forwards too using a couple of arrow buttons, allowing you to set a position of comfort that suits.

Twin 12.3-inch HD screens dominate the dash area, without being too intrusive. Our car also had a head-up display. We didn't get much time to take a deep dive into the infotainment options or pick our way through the sub-menus like we’d normally do in a proper review. However, the general layout, which is supplemented by some manual controls along the dash looks to be saying all the right things.

Drivetime was reasonably short too, being limited to a handful of laps in convoy fashion around the makeshift road layout, so there was no overtaking either. That said, and this being a track, it was hard not to push the car a bit. Nissan had carved up the circuit into different speed sections too, emulating typical speed limits. 

The Ariya is quite a big car and feels like it when you're putting on the power through tight bends. What you gain in head room from the height of the car you lose a bit in the corners. Again though, this is probably less noticeable driving on 'real' roads. 

The effect should also be minimized somewhat if you're driving an e-4ORCE model. Nissan's new technology is designed to monitor and automatically control power output and braking, helping to deliver a more dynamic driving experience to those looking for it.

Angled rear view of the Nissan Ariya parked in the pits of a racetrack

(Image credit: TechRadar / Rob Clymo)

In fact, the dual-motor, four-wheel drive version of the Ariya looks like being the best if you're aiming for a more energetic drive with its nigh-on 50/50 weight distribution. 

It's quite potent too, with 0-62 mph arriving in a mere 5.1 seconds under Sport mode. The front wheel drive 87kWh version does it in 7.6 seconds.

The Ariya cruised effortlessly along the straight sections though and felt agile enough for most needs. The view out the back is rather limited due to the shape of the roof, rear window and proliferation of headrests. No matter, as Nissan has packed in driver aids aplenty including its ProPilot parking tools to help you along the way. 

And, talking of neat tricks, Nissan's e-Pedal is also present and its addictive one-foot-to-drive setup is as much fun to use in the Ariya as it is in the Leaf. Overall, our five laps showed much promise and left us wanting more.

In terms of range, WLTP figures released by Nissan shown an estimated distance of up to 223 miles for the 63kWh Ariya, up to 310 miles for the 87kWh version and around 285 miles for the 87kWh all-wheel-drive 4-e4ORCE edition.

That drops slightly to 248 miles for the 87kWh performance model. All cars use CCS charging for the European market.

There's more to come

Close-up of the front of the Nissan Ariya

(Image credit: TechRadar / Rob Clymo)

The new Nissan Ariya is just one part of the Japanese automaker's plan for an electrified future, although its EV roots lie firmly in the past. Let's not forget Nissan launched the original Leaf compact EV way back in 2010. 

In the 12 years since, Nissan has sold a whopping 577,000 Leaf vehicles, which is a pretty decent number by anyone's standards.

The company now has plans for five new electrified vehicles, which involves a collaboration between all three brands that make up the Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi alliance. 

Part of that plan is to make use of both Lithium-ion and solid-state battery technology. In a bid to be leaner, the business is working towards cobalt-free batteries and reducing costs for Lithium-ion power packs by over 65% by the year 2028.

There are also plans for a pilot plant in Yokohama, Japan, which is due to open in 2024 with the aim of developing solid-state batteries for inclusion in production vehicles by 2028. It's just part of a huge €15.6 billion investment over the course of the next five years. Ultimately, Nissan wants 75% of its sales to be electric vehicles by 2026 and hopes to be selling 100% EVs by 2030.

During the Nissan Electrified event we got to see other models that form part of the masterplan. There was, of course, the Leaf. Also present were latest incarnations of the Juke, which has been given hybrid treatment and Nissan's hugely popular Qashqai, which gets the benefit of e-Power as does the Nissan X-Trail too. 

Nissan was also keen to underline how valuable its brand new Townstar all-electric LCV, or Light Commercial Vehicle delivery van could be to its vision of a battery-powered future. 

For now though it's the Nissan Ariya that looks like being one of the most exciting additions to the portfolio. We're looking forward to seeing how it fares on real and rather less smooth roads soon.

Rob Clymo
Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.