Nissan was right at the forefront of electrification, with its Leaf EV – which debuted in 2010 – being the first real mass-market electric car.
Produced in Sunderland, along with Japan and American plants, more than half a million versions of the Leaf have been made, with a newer second-generation model really helping to grow its sales.
But despite the early success, there’s been quite a delay between the Leaf and new Nissan EVs. Until now that is, with the Japanese firm launching the Ariya – a stylish new electric SUV that offers a familiar design that’s completely different beneath the surface, using a new platform designed specifically for electric cars.
While the Ariya is still undergoing final development ahead of its launch in the summer, we’ve been behind the wheel of a prototype at the Jarama circuit in Spain, to get an early taste of what to expect.
There are four powertrain options available on the Ariya – split evenly between two-wheel-drive single-motor cars and twin-motor four-wheel-drive options.
The entry-level option makes 214bhp and uses a 63kWh battery, though a larger 87kWh unit is also available, with this model’s 310-mile electric range being the most of any Ariya.
Moving on to four-wheel-drive e-4orce models, both use the larger battery and are available with powerful outputs of 302bhp and 389bhp – allowing for a 0-60mph time of 5.7 and 5.1 seconds respectively. Choosing four-wheel-drive does have a knock-on effect when it comes to range, though, with 285 miles being the highest claimed range on these models.
Ride and handling
Our testing was limited to silky smooth race tracks, because of them being prototypes, so we’ll reserve full judgement on ride quality until we’re able to try the cars on roads more representative of those in the UK.
However, we can comment on the powertrain, which seems very impressive – it’s quick, but the power delivery is smooth and linear, rather than the aggressive punch you often get with EVs. That said, more powerful versions are able to get up to speed quickly, while the steering feels nicely judged, being relatively light but well-suited to an electric SUV like this.
Nissan interiors haven’t always been the best in recent years, but the Ariya represents a significant step up for this Japanese firm. The material quality is superb throughout, and the overall look and feel is particularly smart.
It also features a new twin screen setup, with one display for the digital dials and a second for the main infotainment, that looks particularly slick, though the graphics are perhaps a bit cluttered. Some of the haptic feedback buttons in the middle aren’t very intuitive though, and take a firm press to activate.
Though the Ariya might be a few months away from arriving in showrooms, Nissan has already announced full specifications for it.
The range begins with the Advance, which certainly isn’t lacking in equipment – features include LED headlights, ProPilot semi-autonomous driving capability, a 360-degree around view monitor and wireless smartphone charger to name just a few features.
At the top of the range is the Evolve, which gains features like an electric panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats, synthetic leather and Ultrasuede seats and a 10-speaker Bose sound system.
Prices for the Ariya have also been announced, with the standard smaller-battery Advance version available from £41,845, which makes it good value for money.
If you want the larger battery, you need to upgrade to the Evolve, with prices rising considerably to £51,090. The price for the most affordable four-wheel-drive is £53,790, with the most powerful version costing from £58,440.
It’s a bit early to give the new Nissan Ariya a definitive verdict, but all signs point towards this EV being a big step up from Nissan. The design, battery technology and interior are all big advancements.
First impressions of the powertrain are that it’s smooth and responsive, while it handles well too. Comfort is something that still needs exploring though. While we’ll get to try the Ariya in production form in the next few months, it looks to be a great addition to Nissan’s line-up.Enquire on a new Nissan