It’s rare for any anticipated new product to arrive “on time” these days, with the global supply chain still in shambles and companies fighting over resources. After a long wait and many delays, the 2023 Nissan Ariya electric vehicle will show up at US dealerships later this fall.
The compact EV segment has changed dramatically since Nissan first revealed the Ariya, with new competition from Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, and Volkswagen, plus more set to arrive in the coming years. Nissan has plenty of experience in this market, being among the first automakers in the US market to offer a mass-market EV with the Leaf. Can the Ariya pick up where the Leaf left off, or is it too little too late?
2023 Nissan Ariya Models
See trim levels and configurations:
|Single Speed Automatic
|Single Speed Automatic
|Single Speed Automatic
Exterior Design: Fully Japanese
We didn’t think much of the Ariya’s design when we first laid eyes on it under the artificial lights of an auto show stand. It’s not retro like the Ioniq 5, aggressive like a Mustang Mach-E, or sleek like an EV6. Perhaps it was the picturesque Autumn hues providing the perfect backdrop, but the Ariya wasn’t camera shy on this excursion. The design embraces Timeless Japanese Futurism with iki (meaning cutting edge) shapes and kumiko (meaning three dimensional) textures. We find the overall shape to look like an SUV coupe, but not in an offensive way.
Our test unit for the day was the Premier launch specification, finished in a Copper/Black two-tone combination package that Nissan calls Akatsuki. Naruto fans will recognize the Japanese word meaning dawn/daybreak, the moment just before the rising sun marks the start of a new day. The black roof represents the night while the bright copper signifies the day. Buyers who have a Premier reservation also get matching copper wheels, though these are sadly not available on other trims. Everyone else gets grey.
Interior: Maximizing Space
The Ariya does not have a frunk. Now that all the Tesla fans have left, we can focus on why this exclusion is not a big deal. Rather than include a storage area under the hood that may or may not be heavily utilized, Nissan used that space for the climate control system. This allowed the engineers to free up space in the cabin for a flat floor, a touch that’s easily noticeable when riding in the front seat.
The Ariya’s cabin layout feels reminiscent of the BMW iX, with very little separating the driver from the passenger. We love the power-sliding armrest and electric cubby that emerges from the dashboard. Nissan says it’s the perfect space to prop a phone to watch a movie while charging or do some work on a tablet or small laptop. It also acts as the perfect hidden storage area for valuables. Our lone complaint with the cabin lies with the capacitive haptic climate controls housed on the wood trim. These buttons are visually pleasing but require a heavy press, forcing us to take our eyes off the road.
Up front, the Ariya gets two 12.3-inch screens, one displaying the gauges and the other showing infotainment. The latter is an all-new system featuring wireless Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa integration, and intelligent voice command with a “Hey Nissan” wake up command. In our limited time with the new system, it feels like a massive upgrade over Nissan’s existing infotainment, which we’ve criticized for its split-screen layout that can’t be deactivated. The user interface feels more intuitive here, making it easy to switch between route guidance and audio.
The rear seats are spacious, and thanks to the flat floor and sliding center armrest, even middle occupants can ride in comfort. Nissan says the trunk accommodates 22.8 cubic feet behind the second row, which is more than the Ioniq 5 and EV6, but less than the Mach-E and ID.4. With the seats folded, the trunk opens to a commendable (but not class-leading) 59.7 cubic feet.
Batteries And Power: A Versatile Lineup
Nissan will offer the Ariya with two battery sizes and two drive configurations, culminating in a slew of output and range numbers. The base 66 kWh battery pack (63 kWh usable) with front-wheel-drive produces 214 horsepower and 221 lb-ft and has a 216-mile range. Stepping up to the 91 kWh pack (87 kWh usable) increases the power to 238 hp and the range jumps to between 289 and 304 miles, depending on trim.
With e-4ORCE all-wheel-drive, the small battery car delivers 335 hp and 413 lb-ft, but the lowest range in the lineup of 205 miles. Adding the big battery increases the output to 389 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. The range totals 265 miles on the top Platinum + e-4ORCE trim.
In terms of charge speed, the car can charge at a peak rate of 130 kW. This is far from class-leading, but Nissan says the Ariya can hit that peak quicker than rivals and hold it there for longer, thus improving charge times. A 20-80% charge session will take 35-40 minutes (depending on battery size) on a 150 kW plug. At home, expect a 0-100% charge to take 10.5 to 14 hours.
Driving Impressions: A Budget BMW iX
From the moment we set off, all comparisons with the Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y were erased. The Ariya feels more like a budget BMW iX. Before you call us crazy, let us explain. Nissan tuned the Ariya with comfort in mind; the suspension is pillow soft and the cabin is eerily quiet. If this car had an Infiniti badge, it would not feel out of place. Buyers looking for a luxury experience will find it here, but this comes at the detriment of driving pleasure.
There’s nothing sporty about Ariya. In fact, it seems to try hard not to deliver excitement. Mashing the throttle results in golf cart level acceleration, as Nissan’s engineers told us they didn’t want passengers feeling sick from being pinned to their seats. We only had a chance to sample the big battery, FWD model on this first drive, so we hope the e-4ORCE cars can deliver a little more oomph. Acceleration is more spritely once the Ariya is up to speed, but off-the-line it always feels like a runner who missed the start of a race.
This is the first Nissan product in the US to ship with ProPILOT Assist 2.0, a new hands-free version of the company’s active driving assist suite. Like BlueCruise and Super Cruise, ProPILOT 2.0 only works on limited access highways while the driver is paying attention to the road ahead (the car checks using a camera on the steering column). Based on our experience with other systems, ProPILOT 2.0 does a great job maintaining its position in the lane. However, it requires the driver to put their hands back on the wheel for lane changes. In this regard, GM’s Super Cruise remains the superior system.
Pricing for the base Engage FWD starts at $43,190. This is higher than the Ioniq 5, EV6, and ID.4, but less than the Mach-E. Stepping up to the Venture+ FWD with the larger battery or the Engage e-4ORCE with more power both cost $47,190. Only the FWD models will be available at launch, priced at $50,190 for the Evolve+, $53,690 for the Empower+, and $54,690 for the Premiere, which is sold out.
The remaining e-4ORCE models arrive next year with pricing starting at $51,190 for the Engage+, $54,190 for the Evolve+, and $60,190 for the Platinum+. There are more budget-friendly EVs on the market, but few match the Ariya’s comfort. With new changes to the EV tax credit requirements, the Ariya will not qualify for the $7,500 incentive because it’s not assembled in North America as the Leaf is.
Verdict: The Budget Luxury EV
If you value a sporty driving experience, look elsewhere. Options like the EV6 and Mach-E deliver a more thrilling drive, while the Ioniq 5 bundles comparable comfort with more buckled down handling. But if luxury is your number one priority, the Ariya leads the pack. It makes a Tesla Model Y feel like a covered wagon by comparison, with soft suspension and an insulated oasis-like cabin. If you think of it less as an expensive mainstream EV and more of a BMW iX for half the price, it makes a lot more sense. For a certain audience, the Ariya could be a great option.