First drive: Nissan Ariya prototype review

The Nissan electric SUV is charming and comfortable. However, its ambitious price and limited range may limit its appeal.

Despite being an early adopter of EVs with the Leaf hatchback it took Nissan a while before they came up with a second EV. It finally did with the Ariya SUV. Well, almost. Although the car we are driving today is pre-production, it was sufficient to demonstrate that the Ariya could be a compelling entry in the market currently dominated by the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia EV6.

The Nissan contender for the Volkswagen ID 4 class looks like it has been a very thorough job. It is based on the CMF-EV platform, which was shared with the Renault Megane E-Tech Electric. This platform will be the foundation for a variety of EVs made by both brands.

Ariyas entry-level models are front-wheel-drive, unlike their rivals. Higher-powered versions get an extra rear motor. This layout means there is no space for a frunk. However, it does offer the benefit of a larger boot. Despite this, the interior space is marginally larger than an ID 4.

The design is another area in which Nissan and Renault differ from Volkswagen Group brands. It’s obvious from the Megane E-Tech’s design that they are mechanically related. The Renault is a more sporty and chunky hatchback while the Ariya is larger and more SUV-like. However, it has simple lines and smooth surfaces.

The Ariya has larger batteries and more power that the Megane. This entry-level model has a 63kWh battery pack and one 215bhp motor, which gives it a WLTP range that is 250 miles. A redesigned 87kWh battery pack is also available. It comes with either a single 239bhp motor front or two ‘E-4orce’ dual motors of 302bhp and 388bhp. The range figures for this big battery are yet to be confirmed.

A 63kWh battery can travel 250 miles, which is not bad. The 130kW maximum charging speed is not so great. Nissan claims that the charging curve actually is very flat. It will also be able maintain the maximum charging speed for longer periods of time. It is disappointing that 130kW can be achieved by Hyundai and Kia, which both manage 230kW. The 10-80% charge of the larger battery will take about 40 minutes, while the Kia Ev6 can complete the same in 18 minutes.

The Ariya has a flat floor thanks to the skateboard platform, or magic carpet as Nissan calls them. Nissan made the most of this, giving the cabin a light, airy feel. There are many cubbies throughout the interior, as well as drawers and drawers that slide forward and backwards electronically from the centre console.

The high seat height is a problem for tall drivers. Buyers want a commanding driving position. However, at 6ft2 I found it uncomfortable to be so close to the roof on even the lowest setting.

Modern car interiors should have a variety of screens. The Ariya has twin 12.3in screens for the gauge cluster and infotainment. The new interface was responsive and intuitive, even though I didn’t have much time to use it.

The interior materials are excellent and give the Ariya an elevated feel, despite the shag carpeting being a little questionable. Fake-wood trim looks convincing and even has haptic buttons. However, additional physical controls would be appreciated.

The Ariya is described by Nissan as being lounge-like. The car’s interior is very lounge-like, as well as the way it drives. It’s not another EV SUV that tries to be sporty but ends up with a compromise ride.

A test track that simulates different driving conditions on a race circuit was not the best place to gauge ride comfort. However, some trackside surfaces meant to scare off race cars with their roughness, such as kerbs, suggested the Ariya has a more cushioned ride with less pitching and better control than the Ioniq 5. This could make it a good choice for UK roads.

It’s not a sharp driver’s car. The body is able to roll around corners, and the roadholding is good rather than excessive.

The Ariya is an easy-going, natural EV to drive. As long as you don’t doorhandle the vehicle, it is very safe. It has a well-balanced steering wheel and sensibly geared, but it doesn’t have a true one-pedal mode.

Pre-orders can be made in the UK, Norway, and the Netherlands for summer deliveries. Prices range from PS41,845 (small battery) to PS58,440 (performance). The price for the big-battery single-motor model is PS51,000.

We won’t be able to make a decision on the Ariya until after we have spent more time in it. It’s a charming, distinctive EV SUV. However, it looks expensive.