Nissan’s (NSANY) CEO is bullish on EVs. Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s president and CEO, recently said the company will not launch any gas-powered cars in Europe and that the Japanese automaker will be fully electric by 2030.
"There is no turning back now," Uchida said.
A big part of that transformation rests with Nissan’s latest EV, the Ariya, which launched in the US and internationally earlier this year.
The Ariya was supposed to come out in 2022, but it was delayed.
“We had some issues with our supply chain network and you know, all the issues that plagued us around the supply chain last year,” said Aditya Jairaj, Nissan's then-senior director of EV strategy and transformation, in an interview with Yahoo Finance in April. “We're in market [now]; we sold our first [Ariya] in December, and I think it's fair to say that every Nissan EV-certified dealership has an Ariya.”
Jairaj said then that customer interest in the EV is very high. After my initial short drive in the car back in April, we received a new test Ariya EV for a proper review.
Design — more Japanese futurism
The Ariya looks very similar to other Nissan vehicles in the lineup, but is a bit different: Think more electrified and less econobox than the outgoing Nissan Leaf EV, the company’s first foray into electrics.
The Ariya has a pleasing design, starting with its wide "grill," which in this case is a blacked-out body piece with no air vents (since there's no gas motor to cool), and bracketed by triangular daytime running lights. The swept-back, low-profile roofline gives the car almost a sedan look, but technically Ariya is a crossover with a rear hatch.
Though the footprint of the Ariya seems similar to that of a midsize crossover like the ubiquitous Nissan Murano, the interior cabin space of the Ariya is downright cavernous.
“We figured out that by moving major components into the front of the car that we had this amazing open space, and naturally, because we're a Japanese car company, you get these notions of Zen,” Nissan design head Alfonso Albaisa said to Yahoo Finance back in 2022. “At the same time, we were dreaming of this Japanese futurism.”
In addition, the build quality and materials used inside the cabin are impressive. Nissan traditionally builds affordable cars rather than luxury or aspirational vehicles. But the Ariya has the type of fit and finishes seen in a luxury car, such as soft-touch materials and leather seating surfaces. But to me the star of the interior is the dark wood-grain panel on the dash that's integrated with climate controls with light-up, capacitive haptic switches that vibrate when touched.
Electrified performance? Well…
My Ariya test car was a front-wheel-drive version, in Empower+ trim. So, the Ariya here had a single motor up front, with 238hp paired with a 87 kWh battery. Nissan says the Ariya has an EPA-rated 289-mile range.
Behind the wheel the Ariya drove smoothly, with instant torque when needed, generally speaking a hallmark of electric powertrains. With its low center of gravity and seemingly fast-steering rack, the front-wheel-drive Ariya felt nimble.
Cruising amid city traffic and in suburban areas, the Ariya was completely adequate. What it did lack was the oomph you generally get from more powerful EVs — the head-snapping briskness that always puts a smile on your face. A more powerful e-4ORCE version exists, however, with all-wheel drive and robust 389hp.
But the Ariya, at least in my test's trim level, isn’t meant for performance. It’s a car that gets you from A to B in comfort, with near-premium levels of quality. The Ariya has a surprising quietness in the cabin that I found, again, to be something found in a higher-end car. EVs are generally quiet, but Nissan here did an excellent job of adding more NVH (noise vibration and harshness) materials to keep sounds out of the cabin, again adding to the premium feel.
The only drawback of the Ariya is a big one — price. The cheapest Ariya in front-wheel drive, Engage trim costs $43,190, and only gets you 216 miles of range. My test vehicle with options came to $59,495 including destination fees. And the kicker here is that Ariya does not qualify for federal EV tax credits because it is made in Japan.
Compare that to the Tesla Model Y (starting at $50,490 with all-wheel drive) and even the Volkswagen ID.4 (starting at $38,995 rear-wheel drive (RWD) and $47,795 in all-wheel drive), which both qualify for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit. Even the Mustang Mach-E crossover EV (starting at $42,995 in RWD trim) qualifies for $3,500 tax credit.
I give credit to Nissan for launching the Ariya in the US, in a growing competitive EV landscape. Nissan was a pioneer with the Leaf, though that car was more a proof of concept, a test of whether EVs had a chance in America, even one that had limited range and a quirky look. Nissan now has a more grown-up EV in the portfolio with the Ariya.
Though interest was high when that grown-up Ariya first hit showrooms earlier this year, the question is whether that momentum will last given its higher price point.