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Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the new Nissan Ariya - a full battery electric vehicle with a range of up to 533km, in the hugely popular shape of a crossover SUV, yet with interior space far greater than any such vehicle on the market - is how little like a Nissan it is.
When the Nissan Leaf first seriously launched electric vehicles on to the Australian market a decade ago, it was a bit quirky, a little challenging to look at, but it felt like a Nissan. The Ariya looks, and even more distinctly feels, a step up, and a step ahead. Infiniti and beyond, perhaps?
That feeling of perceived quality will no doubt be very important to justify the price of the Ariya, when we eventually find out what that’s going to be, but it’s also going to create a very positive feeling - a premium Euro glow - around this particular EV, and more generally around Nissan.
We flew to Sweden - a truly alarming place to drive and one that makes Melbourne look like Monza in terms of slow speed limits - for the world premiere of the new Ariya. You can check out the lovely scenery, and the annoying number of speed cameras, in the video above.
It’s far too soon to discuss the price of the Nissan Ariya, and even Nissan Australia says it would be “just guessing” if it attempted to put a number on it. That’s partly because the brand’s biggest EV yet will not be lobbing here this year. Nissan globally has decided to prioritise markets that buy lots of EVs, so that means the first shipments will go to Europe, as well as China and the US.
We should, hopefully, see Ariya in our market some time in 2023. Which does make it hard to assess the "value" equation at this point.
Still, it will arrive with a truly classy interior packed with cool features, like the Power Central Storage, or “Magic Box”, which pops out from under the dash at the press of a button and is large enough to store an iPad, or a cluster of smartphones, or your lunch.
Between the seats is the Sliding Centre Console, which offers plentiful storage and a handy, hidden wireless phone charger, and can be shifted forward and back at the push of more buttons, for perfect elbow placement, or to create more space for someone seated in the middle of the rear row.
Both on the top of that console and on the sleek, minimalist timber dash are lovely to use embedded buttons with haptic feedback, which, again, feel like something from a premium marque.
The Ariya also features a digital Intelligent Rear View Mirror, Pro Pilot Parking (finds you a space, parks for you), Pro Pilot semi-autonomous driving (combining active cruise control with lane-keeping tech), and an Intelligent Route Planner, which not only directs to your destination but works out where you’ll need to recharge to get there, checks the status of those chargers and will reroute you if they’re busy, or broken, to optimise travel time.
And Ariya has an Amazon Alexa connection, so you can ask your car to turn on the lights, or the heating, at your house before you get home.
Nissan says the car’s approach to technology represents the Japanese concept of “KI” - which means cutting edge and chic, yet subtle at the same time.
There does seem to be a bit groupthink going on when it comes to the design of electric vehicles, and nowhere is this more universally adhered to than with interiors. Minimalism is where it’s at, and there’s plenty of that, or not much of it perhaps, in the Nissan Ariya.
The vehicle’s battery is up to 33 per cent thinner than Leaf’s, allowing for a very low, flat floor, which makes the Ariya feel hugely spacious for a crossover SUV (it’s slightly smaller than a Qashqai, they say, but it feels bigger), and Nissan also managed to shift the climate control system forward, under the bonnet, creating even more leg and knee room for front-seat riders.
The interior space is meant to feel like a modern Japanese living room, while the vehicle’s design as a whole is “futuristic yet timeless, much like Japanese culture”.
Rather than the one, giant screen favoured by many designs these days, the Ariya uses two, 12.3-inch horizontal screens next to each other, “to reduce distraction”, and the screens are interactive, so you can two-finger swipe the sat-nav display from your central screen to the one in front of your eyes - it’s very Minority Report.
There’s a lot of Lexus-like talk about how the Ariya incorporates the very best of being Japanese, like its little “Kumiko” design touches - Kumiko is a form of Japanese craftsmanship that sticks pieces of wood together without nails. It’s an old-world touch in a very new-world car.
As for the exterior, it will no doubt split opinions, but I love it. Whenever something that looks this much like a concept car makes its way to the road, it’s an exciting thing, and it worked out pretty well for the Audi TT.
The designers proudly told us that Ariya has barely changed in its looks (apart from not having wing mirrors) from its concept origins.
The big, futuristic face is a particular highlight, the brass coloured cars are super cool, and it looks even better at night.
You really do have to see it in the metal to appreciate just how modern and chic it looks. And it really does make a Nissan Leaf look like a wizened old part of the family tree.
It’s hard to overstate just how spacious the Ariya feels for a car of this crossover SUV segment. I could sit in the middle rear seat in some comfort, once the Centre Console was slid forward, with just a slight intrusion in front of my forehead where the giant sunroof (yes, it actually opens) juts down.
Shifting to the rear outboard seats, and behind my driving position - I’m 178cm tall - I had limousine-like amounts of leg room. I can see the Ariya becoming very popular as a posh taxi.
The lashings of legroom continue in the front seats, while the glass roof adds to the sense of space.
The interior feels as nice, and premium, to touch as it looks, too, and the only real criticism would be that the front seats are a little thin in the backrest.
The boot capacity is 466 litres.
The Nissan Ariya base model will come with a 63kWh battery and an electric motor on the front wheels only, which is the variant we drove. It offers 160kW and 300Nm of torque via its new generation, electrically excited synchronous motor, and can hit 100km/h in 7.6 seconds.
It’s interesting to note that its top speed is only 160km/h, which means it’s going to be too slow to be bought by Germans. Won't be a problem in Sweden, though.
There’s also an optional 87kWh version of the two-wheel drive Ariya, with 178kW, and the same 300Nm of torque.
Down the line we’ll see the all-wheel drive "e-4orce" model, which uses the 87kWh battery only but has an extra motor on the rear axle and produces 225kW and 600Nm, and a more impressive 5.7 second dash to 100km/h. It also has a top speed of 200km/h.
The e-4orce, which is a stupid name, also has a towing capacity of 1500kg, which is double the two-wheel drive’s offering.
In terms of charging, the headline figure for the 63kWh Ariya we drove was 28 minutes - that’s how long it takes to go from 20 to 80 per cent charge on a DC charger, or up to 350km of range in just half an hour.
On a home wall box system, if you’ve got three-phase power and 22kWh charging, you can get from 10 to 100 per cent in 3.5 hours.
With the more common 7kWh single phase wall box, that 10-100 per cent charge will take 13.5 hours.
The 63kWh battery variant in the base, two-wheel-drive Ariya has a range of 403km (all range figures are to the WLTP standard). Step up to the 87kWh battery and you get a very impressive range of 533km.
The e-4orce version with the 87kWh battery offers a range of 500km.
The claimed efficiency figure for Ariya is 17.6kWh per 100km for the two-wheel drive with the 63kWh battery, or 18.1kWh/100km with the 87kWh version. And over a day of driving the trip computer told us we’d achieved 16.4kWh per 100km on average, and that our use of regen had added 55km of range.
After a 120km test loop, we had 74 per cent battery charge remaining, and a predicted range of 286km in our 63kWh Ariya.
The Ariya comes with Nissan's very best driver-assistance tech, including Propilot with Navi link. The brand's so-called Nissan Safety Shield 360 means you get the technology you'd expect of a new, tech-oriented car in 2022, including a surround-view camera suite (360-degree camera), forward collision warning with AEB and pedestrian and cyclist detection, active lane keeping assistance, rear AEB and more.
The Ariya is yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, or ANCAP.
Service costs and intervals are still TBC.
I’d like to just start with a plea to all car companies, everywhere, not to make me drive a car in Sweden again. Yes, they do seem to drive a lot of EVs, so perhaps that part made sense, but seriously, this a country where driving is exactly as slow, overly cautious and dull as you would expect from the nation that gave us Volvo.
There are speed cameras absolutely everywhere, and those cameras will book you for very, very low speeds indeed. A three-lane highway most often has a 70km/h limit. A nice, winding country road may be as low as 40km/h, and is rarely higher than 60km/h. It is not fun. It is infuriating.
So it’s just as well that the Ariya’s interior is a very quiet, very refined Zen-like oasis of calm.
Truly, all the advantages of EV driving are on display here. There’s no buzzing or vibration, no cessation of speed as a gearbox shifts cogs (it doesn’t have one, and uses only a single gear), and in this case in particular, great effort has been gone to to reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and make the outside world disappear.
The Ariya we drove had no fake noises, although the sportier e-4orce apparently will offer them. This was the entry model, so relatively speaking its mid-range punch and seamless acceleration were impressive, but it did lack the off-the-line back-whack fun you get in more potent EVs.
The all-wheel-drive variant should be quite a lot of fun, and I can already tell that it will be sporty to drive from the way this base model 2WD version handles.
When we found a rare opportunity to attack some bends, the Nissan sat lovely and flat, and the quick, 14:1 steering ratio offers nice, solid feel as well (apparently feedback from Leaf owners suggested Nissan’s previous EV was a little too light-on in the steering department, so they fixed it).
The low centre of gravity also helps with cornering enjoyment, of course.
The ride quality is also very good and the overall driving impression is of something European and well balanced (the e-4orce version has a perfect 50-50 weight distribution, apparently, while the front-wheel-drive version is 52-48).
The most annoying thing about Nissan’s Ariya is how long we’re going to have to wait to get it in Australia, while the rest of the world gets to enjoy it.
It is refined, almost luxurious, it is just the right size for people who’ve felt that EV offerings were too small, or too low to the ground. Our market loves a crossover SUV, and it is fabulously and practically spacious inside.
It looks good, too, and is enjoyable to drive, while the coming versions will add more fun and fizz to that experience.
And with a range finally creeping over the 500km mark, the usability is only becoming more real-world ready.
It might be wise to get your order in early.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.
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