Home Nissan FIRST DRIVE | Finding electric zen with the new Nissan Ariya

FIRST DRIVE | Finding electric zen with the new Nissan Ariya


Nissan introduced the world’s first mass-market electric car to the local market in 2013. Driving the Leaf all those years ago left a lasting impression – it introduced me to a feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time, which turned out to be “range anxiety”.

As technology improved to more efficient EV batteries across the board, it’s something I seldom think about. Fast forward to February 2023, I drove Nissan’s second EV in Europe, the compact crossover SUV Ariya and didn’t think about range anxiety once.

The Ariya has an 87kWh nett battery with a claimed 515km range from a single charge. By comparison, the first-gen Leaf had a 24kWh battery.

The Ariya is built on the new CMF-EV platform that houses Nissan’s e-4orce technology designed for its electrified and all-electric powertrains, including the X-Trail I sampled in France, Spain, and Andorra over two days.

It combines power from the electric motor, four-wheel drive system and chassis to deliver an all-round superior driving experience with better handling for any type of terrain. It includes a “snow mode” we tested at the world’s highest permanent track at Circuit Andorra.

The Ariya with e-4orce has a total output of 225kW and 600Nm of torque. It can go from 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds, with a top speed of 200km/h and claims efficiency at 19.9kWh per 100km. It has a maximum charging speed of 130kW from a DC charger.

In terms of the e-4force naming convention, Nissan says the “e” refers to its 100% electric motor drive system, and “4orce” refers to the vehicle’s physical power and energy, with “4” representing an all-wheel control.

James Crisp, senior engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe, said the company has moved on with the Ariya, which runs on a new platform, when compared to the Leaf it sells in some markets.

“The platform has been built from the ground up to accommodate a new generation of battery cells that allows us to increase the energy density and performance of the battery, the motor and the high-voltage architecture,” said Crisp.

The CMF-EV platform is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance that will form the basis of 15 electric models across the brands by 2030.

On why Nissan thinks its technology differentiates itself from other EVs, Crisp said it’s not only the all-wheel drive system, but the chassis and braking system combined provides security and comfort to drivers.

Ariya customers are slightly different from the family hatchback Leaf, said Crisp.

“Ariya is a bigger SUV with a different proposition for performance, space in the cabin  and a new styling direction for Nissan.”

It is a well-equipped, good-looking car, with an attention-grabbing copper shade that brings out its futuristic design. It is roomy inside with sufficient storage, wireless charging, plus additional USB-A and USB-C ports accessible via the moving centre console.

The dashboard has two 12.3-inch displays, an instrument cluster and infotainment display. Our driving routes were pre-programmed, so we didn’t need to connect our phones. The user interface felt a bit dated compared to other systems we’ve tested.

Bits of the cabin felt futuristic yet minimalistic, with capacitive buttons supporting haptic feedback found on the dashboard and centre armrest. You can use it for things like drive mode and climate control but this could be a miss with those who prefer physical buttons.

Driving modes include standard, eco, sport and snow. It’s a smooth, comfortable drive with sufficient power at take-off, and that noticeable e-4orce tech when braking, but when the car is in sport mode it makes a sound I didn’t quite enjoy. It also has a dedicated e-Pedal mode for one pedal driving.

After driving through French and Spanish highways, curvy narrow roads and mountain passes, we eventually made our way to Circuit Andorra. The vehicles were equipped with studded tyres for snow, which we tested for constant speed, braking, acceleration, traction and going through a slalom.

Having never driven in snow before, much less an electric car, the experience made me feel confident behind the wheel. It’s not something I would specifically do for leisure, but I was surprised by its capabilities, the handling and turning circle.

The Nissan Ariya is well-built with modern interiors better suited for eco driving in a city because of it slower 130kW charging speeds but its touch controls may not be for everyone. While Nissan has not confirmed whether the Ariya will be launched in South Africa, the manufacturer’s E-Power hybrid technology is set to feature locally soon.

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