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2023 Nissan Ariya first drive review: Worth the wait

Revealed over 2 years ago, the Nissan Ariya has suffered a few setbacks going from reveal to production. The supply chain disruptions thanks to the pandemic made it tough on the entire industry. But the U.S.-spec Ariya is on U.S. shores and about to head to dealerships, so we finally got a chance to get behind the wheel.

It was worth the wait.

The 2023 Nissan Ariya comes in two different battery sizes in either front- or all-wheel drive. The standard range battery has a usable capacity of 63 kWh, while the long range battery is 87 kWh in usable size.

That means the longest range model, the Venture+, can travel as far as 304 miles on a full charge, while the short range Engage model tops out at 216 miles.

Most, however, will exist somewhere in between. Front-wheel drive models will be around 289 miles for most trims, and we’re still waiting for range on all-wheel drive models.

The Ariya is shipping first as a front-drive model, with all-wheel drive variants arriving next year. EV adoption is greater in the sunshine states, so it makes sense for Nissan to bring those here first.

Wrapping up the battery tech specs, the Ariya uses a liquid-cooled battery pack and a CCS fast charging connector that tops out at 130 kW. Nissan claims a 20%-80% charge time of 35 minutes on the small battery, and 40 minutes on the larger battery.

For comparison, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 will do the same thing from 10% — which is a lower starting point — to 80% in 18 minutes. You can watch us doing that very thing right here.

That, ultimately, is the biggest demerit for the Ariya. The charging speed is at the lower end of the cars in this segment, and while most people are DC fast charging on a regular basis, charging time can be a differentiator in this hotly contested segment.

The rest of the Ariya, however, is quite good.

Nissan claims that the Ariya is the quietest vehicle in the segment, and we believe them. Even at 80 mph of highway speed, wind and tire noise is kept to a minimum. Admittedly, the roads around Nissan’s headquarters in the Nashville area are much nicer than the roads around Detroit, but the car is still quiet.

Another shining star, and the most surprising, is just how good Nissan’s ProPilot Assist 2 system works. On the Ariya, the level 2 driver’s assist system allows for complete hands-off driving while on divided highways that have been digitally mapped.

Much like Ford’s BlueCruise or the fantastic GM Super Cruise, ProPilot Assist 2 uses a camera to watch your eyes — to ensure you’re paying attention — and keeps you centered in your lane and keeps with the flow of traffic as you do long commutes.

The Ariya system will also suggest lane changes for you, and while it doesn’t do it completely hands-off like Super Cruise, a light touch on the wheel is all that’s needed to confirm you’re paying attention and looking for traffic.

Nissan uses a sensor in the steering wheel to ensure you’re touching it — and only when lane changing — which is better than the wheel torque sensors that competitors like Hyundai and Tesla employ.

For a first-generation hands off system, the Ariya’s ProPilot Assist 2 is better and more predictable than Ford’s current BlueCruise implementation — though an auto lane change system update is coming — and nearly as good as GM’s Super Cruise. That is high praise.

Acceleration, braking, and handling is what you’d expect from an electric crossover. It accelerates briskly, even in single motor trim, and it handles well for its size and weight, but it’s not the new Nissan Z in terms of handling.

In fact, the Ariya airs more toward luxury than sportiness. The super quiet interior helps with that. But also the interior materials feel and look expensive, and we honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the Ariya was originally intended to be an Infiniti in the United States.

The seats are comfortable, and legroom in the rear is on par with some of the best in the segment. The E-GMP cars from Hyundai and Kia might have a smidgen more space, but we’d need a tape measure to know for sure.

The Ariya’s wheelbase is as long as the gas-powered Murano, but it’s smaller in overall length than a Rogue. That means Nissan pushed the wheels out to the corners as far as it could — sacrificed a frunk — to give you the most interior and cargo storage area in the back that they could.

The center console is movable, and doesn’t take up the full space in the middle. That makes the cabin feel much more airy and spacious, like in Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, and was a smart interior design choice.

There’s a slick power sliding storage tray, too, that reminds us of the place where James Bond would store is Walther PPK while he drove. The tray cannot be opened unless the ignition is active, adding an extra layer of security in storing valuables.

As far as design, the outside looks sleek and elegant. The waterfall front grille looks great, and the slim headlight design looks classy.

In profile it has a coupe-like profile, but it doesn’t sacrifice a ton in rear headroom or storage space.

Around back, a light strip extends across the entire back when the lights are on, but are grayed out when they are off, giving the car a different personality depending on the time of day.

Overall, this is a very handsome and luxurious looking car. Best in the segment? Depending on what you are looking for in design, it’s a very real possibility. If you were to compare to luxury models like the BMW iX, this is far more handsome.

The instrument cluster, heads up display, and infotainment system is Nissan standard, which is to say pretty solid. The ProPilot Assist 2 uses the ambient lighting in addition to the displays to show you which drive mode you’re in for the assist system.

The updated infotainment supports wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto, but if you use the built-in navigation the system will provide dynamic route planning to charging stations in much the same way a Tesla will. It’ll even precondition the battery as you approach a station. This route planning also can happen with the NissanConnect app, which is updated for Ariya.

The Empower+ FWD model that we drove has a list price of $54,985 including the $1,295 destination fee. The Ariya starts at $44,485.

If you can get one before the end of the year — which Nissan says should be possible — you’ll get the big federal tax credit. However, the Ariya is currently built in Japan so when the new tax credit goes into effect next year, the Ariya sadly won’t be eligible.

We tried to figure out if Ariya construction will move to the U.S. — perhaps as one of the two vehicles that Nissan will build in Canton — but nobody was willing to give us the scoop on future plans.

Overall, our first impressions of the Ariya were solid. Features are excellent, driving comfort is great, and it’s a nice to car to spend time in.

Until we can test the charging curve to see what its like in the real world, we have to go by Nissan’s estimates, and that slower time on a fast charger is the only real concern in an otherwise excellent vehicle.

Nissan should have no problem selling them.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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