Nissan Ariya: the second EV in detail

Published: 17 April 2020

► A near production concept
► The second Nissan EV
► Based on an all-new EV platform

Nissan is getting closer to its next fully electric car, and it’s going to be a crossover SUV call the Ariya. Revealed at the 2019 Tokyo motor show, it’s the long-awaited follow up to the ubiquitous Leaf, and at 4.6m long, it’s got more in common with the Mercedes EQC, VW ID4 and Audi e-Tron than the hatchback it follows up. 

Future electric cars

And unlike the Leaf which has effectively stood on its own, the Ariya uses a scalable platform optimised specifically for electric cars. Without the need to house an internal combustion engine, passenger space is elongated and the cockpit floor can be flat, with the batteries packed underneath.


Design

The Ariya is a handsome thing with clean surfaces and a striking graphical face, including ‘boomerang’ LED lights and a closed off grille for aerodynamic reasons. ‘Electric power is this clean powerful energy, so we wanted to echo that was clean powerful surface,’ Giovanny Arroba, Nissan’s EV Design Director told CAR. 

Indeed, the overall teardrop shape looks honed in the wind tunnel, to boost range. Air intakes at the front of the Ariya also create ‘air curtains’ which help keep air attached to the side of the car. 

‘We wanted to express the technology that we're bringing to market, this kind of democratisation of electric and technology, which we call intelligent mobility design,’ said Arroba. 

Intelligent mobility manifests itself throughout the Ariya in lots of ways, but the replacement of the V-motion grille with a shield design is surely the most noticeable: ‘It was an open grille and was feeding the internal combustion engine with cooling air,’ explains Arroba. ‘That has been replaced with this technology shield which packages are radar and camera.' 

The shield ­– along with the with incisive-looking DRLs it melts into are surely the most striking part of the near-production Ariya, and they’re a new signature for Nissan electric cars.  ‘I think the shield in combination with the signature lamps, that frame that face, that combination shows our brand identity, electrified,’ he confirmed. 

‘The Ariya’s proportions show what’s possible with Nissan’s 100% electric vehicle platform, said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global design at the Tokyo motor show. ‘The surprisingly short overhangs, large cabin, large wheels and tailored two-tone paint scheme provide an elegant appearance that balances sport and luxury.’ 

It’s an entirely new design direction for Nissan, the first example of our new vision for our design language, which we call Timeless Japanese Futurism,’ said Albaisa.

And inside?

The Ariya isn’t all joysticks and VR headsets, it features close to production interior that outlines a car that has semi-autonomous capability of the near future. ‘This can car lives in a world where you still can engage and drive with the tactile feel of the steering wheel,’ Arroba assured us. There’s a touchscreen, digital cockpit and wheel-mounted buttons, and apart from some glowing switches on the dash, the Ariya cabin is grounded in reality. 

The concept sports the latest version of Nisaan’s ProPilot driver assistance suite. Like the Leaf it can accelerate, and brake following the car in front and keep within lane, as well as undertake hands-off driving between highway junctions so long as you’ve set the navigation – just like the current Japanese-market Skyline. But next-gen features include automated overtaking, lane diversions and piloted exiting of the highway.

Drivers okay the transfer to automated driving via a button; the pared-back interior lighting switches at that point to signify a more relaxed state. Whether the driver stays that way depends on how polished and bulletproof ProPilot 2.0 turns out to be – assuming it can be homologated for use in Europe.

What are the autonomous car levels?

The Ariya also demonstrates a series of connected features. As soon as the key is detected, the seats and vehicle settings change to match the driver’s preferences. Once a destination is set, the car’s AI will calculate appropriate parking for you. And if you’re picking up friends on route, you can have a video conference before your journey to pin down the details, then share the car’s changing location with them to co-ordinate collection. The vehicle will also be updated over the air to boost convenience.

More space

Like many other electric cars, its interior is also more spacious than you’d expect: Nissan has been able to move A/C components from the interior – where they’d usually be packaged – to the ‘engine bay’ and given back the occupants some real estate in the process. Remove the transmission tunnel, and there’s considerably more space in the Ariya than its outside shape suggests. In fact, it’s more D-segment inside, than its C-segment exterior.

Still a concept! Nissan’s been hinting at this for ages

Indeed. At the Tokyo show two years ago, Nissan unveiled the IMx concept, which stood for Intelligent Mobility-crossover. But that was a futuristic looking thing, with front wheelarches half-sheared off the body and no fripperies such as door handles and wing mirrors. The Ariya is clearly much closer to production – expect the real thing in the next 12-18 months

The Ariya is powered by dual electric motors, one apiece turning each axle to give four-wheel drive capability. Nissan is talking up the Airya’s balanced, sports car levels of performance, but is giving no indication of battery cell capacity or range. The Leaf e+ has a 62kWh battery option good for 239 miles – the bigger IMx concept was theoretically good for 600km, or 373 miles. That suggests the Ariya will be the costliest car in Nissan’s range bar the GT-R. 

I’m sold – when can I have one?

Nissan isn’t saying exactly. But Albaisa promised ‘you will soon be able to drive it’. And thanks to the new platform which can be pushed and pulled into multiple sizes, expect it to step up the proliferation of pure EVs from the Japanese.

It needs to get a shift on, else its EV lead will disappear as Ford unleashes its Mustang-inspired electric crossover and Volkswagen its ID.4.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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