Saturday, June 10, 2023
First Reviews 2023 Nissan Ariya First Drive Review: A Near Ideal Middle-Ground Electric SUV

2023 Nissan Ariya First Drive Review: A Near Ideal Middle-Ground Electric SUV

Uniquely styled, and pleasing to drive but pricey, the new Ariya EV is what Nissan needs

  • The Nissan Ariya is priced from $43,190 in the US and starts at $52,998 in Canada.

  • The Ariya is the long-awaited follow-up to the pioneering LEAF.

  • Let’s hope Nissan can build enough to supply the demand.

Nashville, TN. Let’s not mince words: Nissan needs a homerun otherwise… Well, there won’t be an otherwise, but the Japanese automaker is in serious hot water so far in 2022. Sales are down dramatically in Canada and the US however, if all goes to plan, the nosedive will run its course soon. And in our opinion, the Ariya is key.

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Nissan is heavily promoting the new Z, Sentra, and the Rogue in Canada. The latter has become the automaker’s main pillar in North America, accounting for nearly one in four of all their sales. The Z is the brand’s newest poster child and, although the Sentra accounts for roughly 66% of all Nissan car sales in the country, it does not represent the car company’s future.

This is a job for the Ariya and its many versions

Nissan’s long-awaited all-electric SUV will be offered in six different trims, three with a FWD configuration with the others offering a dual-motor layout. The first two iterations will be built around the smaller 63-kWh battery with a single or two electric motors. With AWD, the $60,598 Evolve e-4ORCE AWD versions should prove to be popular. The next two iterations are FWD with equipment variations and, most importantly, the larger 87-kWh battery. The mid-range Venture+ (+ for the battery) and Evolve+ (tested model priced from $64,998) are the range queens with all of 490 km to go between fills.

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The number of battery/motor configurations means there are nearly as many outputs and range possibilities. With the smaller battery and FWD, the Ariya offers up 214hp, 221 torques, and 346km of range. A second motor pumps up power to 335hp, 413 torques, but drops the range to 330km. With e-4orce and the big battery, the electric SUV gains all of 389hp and 442 lb.-ft. of torque. This configuration provides a very reasonable 426km of range.

Our brief drive was fairly intense making it all but impossible to accurately measure range and efficiency. Despite this, the indicated numbers were encouraging enough for me to believe that the projected 490 km range seems more than plausible in ideal driving conditions such as the ones we were in.

A refined driving experience

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The tested Evolve+ FWD, with the larger battery, gains an extra 24hp or a total of 238, while torque remains unchanged. The supplied power is adequate for all commutes with the usual and expected instant torque. At roughly 4,400lbs, the Ariya also happens to be a reasonably good driver. The roads in Tennessee are generally smooth and serve to display the Nissan EV’s chassis’ ability and it’s clear it’s tuned more for handling than outright comfort. In the Greater Montreal area, that may translate into an overly harsh ride.

One unfortunate discovery about the Ariya is that it does without Nissan’s e-pedal 1-pedal driving function found in the LEAF. According to Nissan, surveyed potential customers were not interested in the feature. My guess is that the concept was unclear to them…

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Even so, the Ariya offers e-Step which, when combined with ECO drive mode (Sport and Standard are the others) and select “B” with the shift lever, the driver then gets access to maximum regenerative braking. The SUV will not come to a complete halt. In fact, it’s designed to “creep” forward until the brakes are physically applied. On the topic of the brakes, pedal feel is spongy and travel is long.

Ariya redefines Nissan’s design philosophy

The 2023 Nissan Ariya looks better in person than in pictures. The elegant and sleek nature of the front end is highlighted by an exposed 3D kumiko pattern. The new Nissan front shield incorporates sensors for driver assistance functions without disrupting the SUV’s appearance. The Japanese term iki means “to flow” and well describes the 2023 Nissan Ariya’s smooth surfaces. It all starts at the very front with the brand’s new logo which is composed of 20 LEDs.

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The rear of Ariya is characterized by the rapidly dropping C-pillars. In fact, they blend almost seamlessly into the hatch’s profile. The single-piece horizontal light blade looks black when off and lights up completely red when in use. This Ariya’s visual impact is certainly unique however not without hints from the Murano. With the latter, Nissan’s newest EV shares a similar wheelbase in an overall footprint that is similar to that of the Rogue.

The cabin is inspired by the Japanese term ma. In Nissan’s words, it is more akin to a sleek café lounge on a starship, rather than a traditional automotive interior. Truth be told, the void is refreshing by the absence of controls, and is very upscale, far more so than what is found in the Volkswagen ID.4. As standard, a twin 12.3-inch display is standard as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The dual screens add an extra layer of “upscale” to the otherwise attractive dashboard.

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The tested Evolve+ featured premium-looking leatherette on the door cards and dashboard, giving off the impression that the Ariya is deserving of the Infiniti logo. Although the rear bench is spacious, passengers up front are not as at ease. The large power-movable center console, when midway or forward, cuts into available legroom. What’s more, there’s little storage space available other that the available power drawer just ahead of the console. Thankfully, the zero-gravity front seats are ultra-comfortable.

The Ariya was revealed 27 months ago

Through no fault of its own, the delayed introduction of Nissan’s Ariya will have given the competition loads of time to settle into the market and make their mark. EVs like the Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4, and to a much lesser extent, the Toyota bZ4x and Subaru Solterra, have already begun defining the segment. And there are more on the way, such as the Chevrolet Blazer and Equinox, but it matters little.

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

For one, demand for EVs continues to dramatically outpace supply meaning that there’s room for everyone. And two, the Ariya lands exactly in the middle of the pack, meaning it’s average. As like to point out, Nissan builds some of the best average vehicles, and the Ariya is no different. Other than its pricing structure, which is about $5,000 too high in Canada, the Ariya will please the majority of Canadian small-midsize electric SUV buyers.

2023 Nissan ARIYA Canadian Pricing Announced

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Nissan Ariya | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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