Nissan Ariya Evolve First Drive: Have The Leaf Creators Mastered EVs?
Nissan was way before its time introducing the Leaf, so we take a look at its latest EV offering.
Nissan made motorists take EV ownership seriously with the original Leaf only to lose that hard-earned momentum with its uninspiring replacement. After a spell on the side-lines it wants to get back in the race with this: a super posh Sport Utility Vehicle with a real-world range of 330-miles.
IS THIS THE NEXT BIG NISSAN?
Built in six specifications and two power levels, and available in a choice of two- or all-wheel drive, the Japanese company certainly reckons so. Called Ariya – an ancient word that is said to mean honourable, dependable and something to be admired – this five-seater is taking the fight to both mainstream and premium rivals.
That means everything from the Ford Mustang Mach-E to Audi’s Q4 e-Tron is in its cross-hairs and on paper the evidence suggests it can take them on at their own game – and win. Built around the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CMF-EV platform, the Ariya is not what you would call a shrinking violet at 4.59 metres in length and 1.85 metres in width.
Still, that bulk is superbly disguised by standard 19-inch or optional 20-inch alloys wheels, a futuristic front end, gently arcing roofline, and snazzy rear end that has a welcome hint of Lamborghini Urus about it.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Not as much as you would think despite being such a hi-tech SUV that has an abundance of safety gizmos and in-car luxuries. The line-up is split into ‘Advance’ and ‘Evolve’ that run two different battery sizes and offer front- or all-wheel-drive configurations for ranges between 250- and 310-miles. When you consider the lightest Ariya weighs in at 1.8-tonne, that is pretty respectable.
We tested the car in ‘Evolve’ trim complete with the larger 87kWh pack; the only extra that came fitted was ‘Akatsuki Copper’ paint. Capable of accepting fast (22kW) and rapid (130kW) charge, and with a price tag just north of £54,000, the kit count certainly takes the sting out of things.
As standard is a 10 speaker BOSE sound system, a full-length panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, and a 12.3-inch HD colour display that offers sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
ANY ACES UP ITS SLEEVE?
The best ideas are often the simplest and Nissan has shown that with the clean-looking dash area. Two 12.3-inch screens – one for the driver and a second directly beside it for journey instructions, battery energy levels and charging station information – reinforce the premium ambience that is there to greet you once inside. Responsive and super quick to process requests, the centre screen allows owners to choose the widgets that best meet their personal needs.
Other pluses include 4G connectivity and over-the-air-updates. A small row of backlit heating and ventilation buttons on the band of wood-effect material below it provides haptic feedback to confirm your selection. And then we get to the centre console which, at the press of two buttons on its shoulder, can be moved forward electronically to free up additional space if the middle seat passenger in the rear is particularly tall, or backwards to maximise the totally flat floor area that exists in the front.
All told, the Ariya is easily the biggest push in craftsmanship Nissan has enjoyed for a considerable time as everything looks – and more importantly feels – expensive. Exactly as you want it to be.
HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?
Space in the Ariya is so plentiful you can expect to accommodate five adults and their belongings with room to spare. When the centre rear seat is unoccupied the armrest can be used for either added convenience or to utilise the small ski hatch that allows longer objects to be carried safely in transit. Natural light floods through the deep windows, helped by the full-length glass sunroof.
The sheer width mentioned earlier should come into its own as far as the boot is concerned, yet that is not necessarily the case as front-wheel-drive models have 466-litres of storage – a figure trumped by Skoda’s Enyaq (585-litres). A height adjustable floor comprising individual boards is a boon as these can be used to make partitions for specific objects to sit in these channels securely.
A SMOOTH OPERATOR
19-inch wheels tend to spell disaster for ride comfort on any car but in the Ariya’s case the whole experience is settled and apart from occasional road noise, is wonderfully hushed through town and on the open road. Divvying up a very healthy 236bhp, the electric motor is super smooth and it gets you up to 60mph in a manner that reassures – a welcome fact given the car’s kerb weight.
That mass is noticeable through bends but, then again, are you surprised? However, it does point and steer in a fluid manner and the independent MacPherson strut at the front and the multi-link arrangement at the rear allow the Ariya to glide over nasty surprises to deliver a supple, cushioned journey. A 360-degree camera certainly helps in tight spaces and the camera-based digital rear view mirror – first seen on premium marques – compensates for the tiny rear window.
CHARGING: The Ariya comes with two battery options and with the larger 87kWh pack, a charge time of 0-100% using a 22kW supply takes 4 hours 45 minutes – a process rapid charging slashes to 35 minutes (10-80%) if using a 150kW supply. The optional regenerative braking is selected via the ‘e-Pedal’ button on the centre console, although it does not bring the car to a complete stop.
INTERIOR: Inspired by NASA technology, the ridges on the leather and suede-finished seats work with the cushioning to keep you ache-free for hours at a time. These are heated and cooled in the front for added comfort and form an extensive equipment list that includes ambient light inspired by traditional Japanese paper lanterns, wood-effect trim inlays and copper detailing on the vents.
STYLING: Nissan – like some rival brands – has settled on a daring design for the newest EV it has brought to market. This modern look of the coupe-inspired SUV is accentuated by an illuminated badge, super sleek LED headlights and a full-width light strip at the back. The blanked off ‘grille’ conceals an array of radars and cameras that control the 19 different active driver safety aids.
PRACTICALITY: The centre console can be inched forwards or backwards at the press of a button where a separate key to open and close the flush-fitting lidded tray is also found. There is lots of space to safely place phones, keys and wallets, and the door bins are a sensible shape and useful size for swallowing water or coffee bottles. 60/40 split folding rear chairs incorporate a ski hatch.
Price: £54,335 (as tested)
Powertrain: 87kWh battery/one e-motor
Power/torque: 236bhp/221lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 100mph
PROS & CONS
- Space age styling
- Premium equipment
- Roomy, funky interior
- Cost price could be an issue
- Ariya’s size might deter some
- No front boot storage