Why we’re running it: It took Nissan 11 years to give us its second EV. Was it worth the wait?
Month 1 – Specs
Life with a Nissan Ariya: Month 1
Welcoming the Ariya to the fleet – 14 November 2023
James Hunt, Alan Jones, Gilles Villeneuve…and me. What do we have in common? No, you’re wrong. We have all conquered Spain’s Jarama racing circuit.
Admittedly when I drove around it I was behind the wheel of a Nissan Ariya complete with crumple zones, driving aids, airbags and air con. But still, nailed it.
You see, I went to the original launch of the Ariya, which was done at the San Sebastian circuit. As far as driving experiences, Jarama in an electric SUV was a weird one. I could certainly suss out the fundamentals of the car as well as what it’s like probably-not-quite-on the-limit-but-fairly-close-to-it (it’s about what you’d expect from a FWD SUV) but the billiard-smooth surfaces didn’t tell me much about what it’s like in the real-world.
What I’m getting at here – finally – is that I’m thrilled to be running one for a few months so I can experience what it’s like in real life. To see what it’s like to commute in, do long distances in and even, how it traverses the dizzying trail to Asda. Who knows, I may even pitch it against something from Nissan’s back catalogue.
Initial impressions? The ginger-on-black spaceship vibe is a look. It’s like Elon Musk tasked Mrs Hinch to create an autonomous personal delivery vehicle for the new inhabitants of Mars. I think the paint is a £1225 option most people would tick.
Inside it’s also refreshingly modern. Like with a lot of electric cars, there’s a tonne of space in here and it feels almost bare at times. There’s a large gap between the centre console and dash which realistically I’ll never do anything with. But I like the idea of it.
I adore the camera button. A very minor thing, I know, but it lets you, the driver, tell the car that you’d like to see the front or rear cameras. Rather than you have to rely on the brain guessing if you’d like to see one.
Heating controls not on the screen is a bonus too. Although they are a bit weird. More on that in another update.
In posher versions of the Ariya the centre console is electrically adjustable. Ours is the 63kWh Advance model. This is the second cheapest and not quite upmarket enough for me to be able to do this, which is sad because it really is peak over-engineering and such an enjoyable gimmick.
Despite our car’s lowly status among the Ariya species it’s hardly lacking in kit though. It has 19-inch alloys, Nissan’s easy-to-use semi-autonomous tech, a12.3in infotainment screen and front and rear parking cameras.
One thing our model does have – and something I remember while trying to ape James Hunt on track – is lush carpets. The extra thick covering is really noticeable when you step in. Sure, it’s used because of its sound-deadening qualities rather than an attempt to make it like a Rolls-Royce. But that’s the sort of thing us car bores would say. Regular people, my mum for example, notice these small things.
The Ariya comes with two battery sizes and ours is the smaller one. This means less range (officially 250 miles), but faster charging times. Nissan also has four power options, but the smaller battery model is only available with one output – 215bhp.
Cars with the larger battery (87kWh) get 239bhp in standard rear-wheel drive form, while all-wheel drive models get twin motors and 302bhp or 389bhp in Performance spec.
It has a lot going for it, then, and I’m relishing the idea of living with it, because I’ve driven and lived with most of its rivals.
Most people in my position have done the same. The electric SUV market is torrid, in both senses of the word. Most manufacturers have one in their arsenal and the Ariya finds itself up against some stiff competition.
But my favourite is the Kia EV6. It’s a really well-thought-out car that looks great and has brilliant battery management tech and a reliable range predictor. If the read-out says you have 200 miles worth of range, you probably do.
This is the yardstick from which I’ll be measuring the Ariya against. If it can be as clever with its battery as the Kia I think it can offer real competition against a really, really highly regarded car.
I mean, Nisan’s certainly had long enough to get things right. It initially caught the other car manufacturers napping in 2011 with its Leaf Hatchback, but since then Tesla’s rise has been meteoric and the Korean manufacturers have sunk billions into EVs.
Nissan is going through an exciting time at the moment. Just five years ago it was selling the remarkably forgettable Nissan Pulsar (yes, I did need to Google it) and now, it’s building super modern electric SUVs with fancy carpets and close to 400bhp.
And I have the opportunity to see if the Ariya brings a new start for Nissan in the electric age or if it’s just a footnote in the car’s history, as well as being the unofficial record holder for ‘least sporting car to tackle Jarama.’
The Ariya both impressed and disappointed me. It has an inviting cabin and great low-speed drivability, but I’m amazed that Nissan, which usually takes care over the small things, was satisfied with its close body control: I found it fussy, head-tossy and generally a bit odd.
Nissan Ariya 63kWh Advance specification:
Price New £43,845 Price as tested £46,365 Options Akatsuki Copper paint with Pearl Black roof £1225, Sky Pack £1295
Test Data: Engine Single AC motor, separately excited Power 215bhp Torque 222lb ft Kerb weight 1914kg Top speed 100mph 0-62mph 7.5sec Economy 3.5mpkWh CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None