Why we’re running it: It took Nissan 11 years to give us its second EV. Was it worth the wait?
Life with a Nissan Ariya: Month 4
Want to use the Nissan app? You'll need to pay for the pleasure... - 21 February
As a digital native, I find smartphone apps largely intuitive. But not the Ariya’s. Nissan wants to charge me £2 per month to remotely check the state of charge of my battery. But I discovered that I can ask Siri, theoretically bypassing this fee. When I asked, he obediently responded with 66% – which was wrong by about 40%.
We chicken out of taking our EV up north – but its PHEV substitute isn’t much better - 14 February
In last week's issue, you might have read a review of the latest Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupé.
The real anoraks among you may remember that it was shown in picturesque Northumberland, with the sky's palette doing a remarkable impression of a golden retriever.
That test location was quite far away for this latte-sipping, media-bubble-inhabiting Londoner, so I decided that something powered by petrol would be preferable to my Ariya, as the drive is essentially all the way up the Al, and at motorway speeds the EV is still managing fewer than 150 miles per charge.
We hadn't written about the latest BMW X3 PHEV for the website, so it seemed like a win-win. Autocar would receive lovely pictures from Max Edleston and some tolerable words from me, and I would get to drive up north without spending hours charging en route.
The X3 has a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, an electric motor and a 12kWh lithium ion battery. Officially it does around 30 miles of pure-EV driving, but in reality it does a lot less. No stress for me, as I could just fill up in moments thanks to the ICE.
Except that the 2.0-litre petrol is supplied by a measly 50-litre tank, and I had around 600 miles to cover there and back. And for the purposes of Porsche photography, we needed to do another couple of hundred miles. And we wouldn't have time to charge the tiddly battery. And the X3 needed to lug around that empty battery. And the need to get the shots before sunset meant we couldn't hang around while driving between locations.
This resulted in around 28mpg, or fewer than 300 miles per tank. Going by the on-board computer, I saw it as low as around 270. That's rubbish for an ICE car. Some EVs will go farther than that between stops. Big-battery Teslas, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and Hyundais do 300 miles easily.
I know I'm not comparing apples with apples here, as it takes much longer to fill a battery with electricity than to fill a tank with petrol. But it does make you think that the days of driving 800 miles without filling up are behind us.
Could I have taken the Ariya, with a range of 140 miles? On the way there, sure. I had to stop every now and then anyway, so it wouldn't have taken much longer with some planning. But when I was leaving Newcastle at 6pm with a six-hour drive home? Petrol every time.
You get a real sense of space up front. And the carpets are plush.
But also let down
Its range is poor at present and the phone app offers very little info.
Life with a Nissan Ariya: Month 3
Our Ariya is leaving us a bit cold – quite literally – because of its low range - 31 January
Dear valued Autocar reader, I would like to formally apologise to you. In our 20/27 December 2023 double issue, I posited that range anxiety was a state of mind and it needn't really exist for most people because most people don't drive that far in one go.
It was all just a case of being pragmatic, I said, and doing a bit of planning. I even went as far as describing myself as 'blasé' about range. I wrote that in a heightened sense of machismo and I have since been put firmly back in my place.
You see, all of this grandstanding was done when I was mostly just nipping around town and using the occasional dual carriageway. In the past month or so, I increased my mileage drastically compared with the norm and the Ariya has been a bit of a headache.
Range was typically close to 200 miles with my mixed driving. But in the cold, at 70mph, it is more like 140. This is quite annoying, especially when, during one trip, I could not get the ginger spaceship to do more than 2.5mpkWh.
Typically, it does around 3.0mpkWh, but for some reason the efficiency tumbled, as did my mood. This particular act of insubordination led to an unplanned charging stop and a rather tired-looking partner, who was already wearing her coat because I had turned the heating off to attempt to claw some range back.
I'm aware that my last two reports have been on the topic of range. But I'm not being obtuse (or lazy, sub-editors). When you drive an EV with a small battery in the depths of winter, range is the thing that you think most about.
You don't have the mental capacity to judge secondary ride when you're on Google Maps attempting to find a shorter, if not quicker, route to where you're going.
And my gut feeling is that if I were driving a Tesla Model Y or Kia EV6 right now - the Ariya's main competition - you would be reading about some little quirk or the way it drives or how its range prediction software has remained spot on during the cold snap and not about my girlfriend wearing her winter jacket inside of the car.
The ride, enhanced by relatively small, 19in wheels, is glossy at motorway speeds.
Range, not helped by the cold weather, is greatly reduced at motorway speeds.
Caught out by range anxiety... and the Ariya's computer - 24 January
Life with a Nissan Ariya: Month 2
Best cure for range anxiety? Not a bigger battery but simply extended time in an EV - 20 December
The term 'range anxiety' first entered the Oxford English Dictionary more than a decade ago and, according to the de facto authority on the language, its usage dates way back to the 1990s.
Even after all this time, many people are still living with a sense of disquietude, fearful that their electric car doesn't have enough charge to get them to where they want to go.
I know of EV drivers who charge their cars every night, even when their batteries are at 50-80%. My dad, who is from Glasgow but now lives in the Midlands, says he wouldn't buy an electric car in case he suddenly needed to drive up to Scotland.
But I have finally got to the point of being completely blasé about battery charge. As I'm writing this, on a cold Friday evening in East London, I genuinely don't know how much my Nissan Ariya has.
I have been driving EVs for years now and have had four as long-termers over that time, and I've finally got to this zen-like state because I know I don't need to drive very far tomorrow. Or the next day. Or next week, particularly. And I bet you don t either - no matter what those internet commentators may say.
So if you're an EV sceptic, I implore you to pay heed to these words: range anxiety goes once you realise that you most likely don't need to drive 200 miles with 10 minutes warning.
This is a good thing because the range of this 63kWh Ariya isn't brilliant. The lowest temperatures recently recorded have reduced its real-world cruising ability to below the 200-mile mark.
Turning off the car's heating systems doesn't make too much of a difference to the range - which is a pro because some EVs shed range should you so much as just look at the air-conditioning system, the Toyota bZAX being one recent example.
In any case, I'm finding that the heated seats are so good at warming up that I don't bother messing around with the air temperature settings at all.
I've been experimenting with Nissan's e-Pedal function to see if I can claw back some juice that way. However, I don't think it makes a huge difference to the mpkWh figure, mostly because when it's off, the lack of rolling resistance really does make it feel like a large wind might have enough wattage in it to sail me to the shops or work, so at times it almost seems counterintuitive to try to slow the car down.
The e-Pedal system itself is also a little annoying. It's often hard to judge quite how much effort is required to bring the car to a stop.
At times, it has made me look a bit amateurish, which is super embarrassing when I have friends in the car who are left wondering why their 'car expert' mate pulls up at a set of red lights with the decorum of a taxi driver who has competing ride-hailing maps vying for his attention on multiple window-mounted smartphones.
Now that I've covered a good number of miles in the Ariya, I'm in a position to comment on Nissan's semi-autonomous driving system, called ProPilot. It's simply one of the best in the business. After a few weeks, you can set it with two finger movements while not averting your gaze from the road.
It doesn't beep or bong all that much and its interventions are measured and smooth. It's easy to change the cruising speed and broadly it's a good system that's easy to get on with. The yardstick against which I'm measuring the Ariya is the Kia EV6, and I think Nissan's self-driving tech is just that bit easier to get on with.
Then again, it often turns itself off on the A12, and I'm not too sure why. Maybe it's just keeping me on my toes, trying to add a dash of anxiety back into my life.
The heated seats do their job so efficiently that I rarely feel the need to adjust the cabin heating.
There are certain angles, such as side on, that make the Ariya look like a disfigured soap bar.
Life with a Nissan Ariya: Month 1
Scullion's charger faces problems - 29 November
First-world problem, I know, but I can’t get the wireless phone charger to work consistently. It juices up my mobile on a straight motorway jaunt, assuming I don’t change lanes too quickly or hit a pothole, but when I dare to enter a roundabout at more than 5mph, said mobile ricochets around the charger housing and so refuses to charge.
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