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First Drive: 2023 Nissan Ariya Has the Right Idea

  • All-new Nissan electric crossover SUV
  • Projected range of up to 300 miles
  • Single-motor version launching now, all-wheel-drive model to follow
  • Available hands-free driving system is impressive on the road

What is the Ariya?

Nissan pioneered the affordable EV with its Leaf hatchback that launched for the 2011 model year. But a lot has changed since, with newer EVs becoming larger, quicker and capable of considerably longer range. Now Nissan finally has a rival to the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Toyota bZ4X and Volkswagen ID.4: the 2023 Nissan Ariya.
The Ariya is a four-door compact crossover SUV with seats for up to five passengers. It's spacious inside and offers the latest technology features like dual 12.3-inch screens and an available hands-free driving mode on select highways. It's also capable of driving about 300 miles on a full charge, according to Nissan, which is a competitive distance for this class of EV.

What are the Ariya's power and range?

Many electric SUVs give you two choices for battery size, and the Ariya follows that trend. The base version of the Ariya has a 63-kWh battery pack. This is similar in capacity to the standard battery packs in the Mustang Mach-E and Hyundai Ioniq 5. It can be paired with either a single electric motor for front-wheel drive (214 horsepower) or a dual-motor setup that provides all-wheel drive (335 hp).
With this configuration, Nissan says you can expect about 216 miles of range on a full charge with front-wheel drive and 205 miles with all-wheel drive. These distances are below average for the class — typically you can expect around 230-240 miles with a base electric SUV — but it should still be sufficient if most of your driving is commuting and around town.
For more long-distance driving capability, you'll want the extended-range battery. This has a 87-kWh capacity and provides a little more power as well — 238 hp with FWD and 389 hp. With the big battery and FWD, the Ariya has a Nissan-estimated of range of 304 miles. This is more competitive and similar to what you see in rival EVs. Of course, we'll know for sure how the Ariya performs once we get one in for a full test and run it through our Edmunds real-world range and consumption test.

We've driven an Ariya Premiere, or the single-motor front-wheel-drive version with the extended 87-kWh battery pack. Dual-motor all-wheel-drive versions won't be available in 2023. This Ariya Premiere is certainly not a performance model. However, acceleration feels good from a start, and punching it to change lanes is nice and easy.
The Ariya does have a smooth ride and stays composed around corners. That composure continues to the steering and braking, too. Driving the Ariya feels smooth and responsive, without any lurching or jerky movements. Let off the accelerator and the car will coast or softly cruise under regenerative braking. That can't be said for all EVs. The biggest downside is the regen isn't strong enough for true one-pedal driving.

How long does it take to charge the Ariya?

Nissan says the Ariya can DC fast-charge up to a rate of 130 kW on a fast charger, which is enough to go from 20% to 80% capacity in 40 minutes with the extended-range battery. This is a little slower than the times quoted for most rivals, including the Mustang Mach-E and ID.4. The Ioniq 5 (and related Kia EV6) is the speedster of the group and can charge in less than half this time assuming you've got a powerful enough station to support it. At-home 240-volt charging times for the Ariya are also underwhelming. In both cases, we don't take issue with the Ariya's charging times. For the way most people use their EVs, they're sufficient. Just know some rival EVs can charge a little quicker.
Finally, Nissan Leaf owners should know that the Ariya's DC fast-charging port uses the combined charging system (CCS) connector. This is different from the CHAdeMO-style connector Nissan's been using on its Leaf EV. We're pleased to see this as CCS is becoming the de facto standard at public fast-charging stations.

How comfortable is the Ariya?

The Ariya has a nice ride, with a suspension that easily keeps you comfortable over rough surfaces. It isn't bobbing and weaving over every crack and bump. It takes a pretty large bump to upset the Ariya, a nice contrast over the often too-stiff suspensions in other EVs. This ride quality befits the calm interior of the Ariya, and it combines with a quiet cabin and no discernible creaks or rattles to lend it a premium feel on the road.

How's the Ariya's interior?

There are plenty of soft surfaces to mask a healthy dose of hard plastic. Large swaths of wood-like trim on the dash and center console add an upscale touch, as does the soft ambient glow emanating from the doors and footwells. The flat overlaid buttons atop those wood surfaces are a nice touch (it helps that they respond quickly to commands). The front seats are another strength for their thin yet cushy padding and relaxed structure. Getting in and out is a breeze because the Ariya lacks thick doorsills, which force a steep step inside on some EVs.
However, some of the more headline-grabbing features fall flat. The nearly flat front floor could allow loose small items to roll under the feet of the driver, and the power-adjustable center console moves slowly fore and aft to create only minimal space. There is also a power-extending center compartment that offers extra storage under the touchscreen. But its reason for existing becomes clear when you notice the traditional center storage bin holds about a business card and nothing else.

How's the Ariya's tech?

The twin side-by-side 12.3-inch screens inside the Ariya are certainly up to modern standards. What can't be ignored, however, are the graphics. The icons and menus on those screens look pretty dated and muted. There aren't any interesting animations at startup like on other EVs. Worst of all may be the native navigation maps. The streets and locations are difficult to discern. The good news is that wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto smartphone integration comes standard, and you can activate helpful voice controls simply by speaking "Hey, Nissan" aloud.
Screens aside, the Ariya has some strengths. In particular, the hands-free driving feature is a huge win. Nissan calls it ProPilot Assist 2.0, and it acts similarly to BlueCruise by Ford or Super Cruise by General Motors — using cameras and radar, plus premapped GPS routes, to navigate certain stretches of highway without the need for driver intervention. Our biggest concern? The system's cameras are vulnerable to sunlight glare, and a lot of glare can render the feature inactive. But the overall impression is positive. Operation is smooth and the system doesn't overreact to other vehicles that get too close. Keep your hands on the wheel and it will help change lanes for you too.

How's the Ariya's storage?

Nissan says the Ariya can hold 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats, or up to 59.7 cubic feet with those seats folded down. That's a little less than what you get from a typical small SUV or the rival Tesla Model Y or Volkswagen ID.4, but it should still be sufficient for most of your typical cargo-hauling needs.

Edmunds says

The Ariya is pleasing to drive and has an interior with personality. It's worth checking out alongside the Ioniq 5, Mach-E and ID.4. Just know that charging times and the look of the onboard screens are a little disappointing.

           by: Ryan ZumMallen