2022 Nissan Ariya: Contender or Pretender?

2022 Nissan Ariya: Contender or Pretender?

Ar-i-ya intrigued by Nissan's new electric SUV?

  • Nissan is looking for a fresh start with the intriguing new Ariya
  • Ariya promises a high-tech interior and the option of quick acceleration
  • Does this Nissan have what it takes to compete against electric SUVs from Tesla, Ford and others?

Nissan already has the Leaf hatchback in its EV stable, but the automaker really needs an electric crossover to appeal to SUV-hungry buyers. Enter the 2022 Nissan Ariya, a crossover SUV with a compact footprint but lots of utility. Even though the automaker hasn't said much since the Ariya's reveal last summer, it'll be here in just a few months' time. Let's take a look at Nissan's new SUV and project whether it has the goods to hang with the Tesla Model Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E and other electric crossovers.

A new sense of urgency

Over the past couple of years, Nissan has really stepped up its game when it comes to interior design and materials quality, as evidenced by the Nissan Rogue's impressive redesign for 2021. The one remaining weakness shared by multiple Nissans is the continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT — especially when it's paired with a four-cylinder engine.

The all-electric Ariya has a major leg up on its stablemates because it will employ neither the CVT nor that four-cylinder engine, or any engine, for that matter. Freed of these burdens, the Ariya should prove to be relatively potent. The base model produces between 215 and 239 horsepower (depending on battery pack) and 221 lb-ft of torque — not phenomenal, but the output is higher than most Nissans, and the Ariya will benefit from the electric powertrain's instant torque. Indeed, Nissan estimates the single-motor Ariya will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in about 7.5 seconds, which is almost 2 seconds quicker than the Rogue.

But the all-wheel-drive version — which uses an electric motor at each axle — is the real winner here. The motors combine to produce 389 hp with the long-range battery (335 hp using the standard pack) and 443 lb-ft of torque, making the Ariya the first truly spicy Nissan SUV … ever? Nissan says the long-range AWD version can sprint to 62 mph in as little as 5.1 seconds, which would make it quicker than most versions of the Mustang Mach-E. The Model Y might beat the Ariya in a drag race, however.

Game-changing interior

The new Rogue and the redesigned 2022 Pathfinder show that Nissan is taking interior design seriously again. But like a lot of automakers, Nissan is employing a totally different cabin to distinguish its flagship EV from the rest of its lineup.

Step inside, and the first thing you might notice is the single panel that incorporates the twin 12.3-inch digital display screens. The center console is separated from the dashboard, which opens up the front of the cabin to give it an airier feel. The mouse-shaped shifter sits on this console, just ahead of the armrest and next to several drive mode controls that look like physical buttons but aren't. 

These controls, along with the climate controls on the dashboard, are distinct touch points on the wood trim. They offer haptic feedback when pressed, which Nissan says approximates the feel of mechanical switches. We'll wait to make a definitive judgment in the Ariya's case, but we're not fans of these buttonless controls in other vehicles. Even with haptic feedback, it's difficult — if not impossible — for a driver to distinguish between these segments of a flat panel without looking at them. Hopefully the voice recognition system will be able to make the necessary adjustments so drivers don't have to take their eyes off the road.

From a size perspective, the Ariya is roughly the same length as the Rogue, though the EV's wheelbase is 3 inches longer. That, combined with the totally flat floor, should give the Ariya's rear passengers the opportunity to spread out a bit.

Tesla-beating range?

The jury's still out on this one. Nissan says the Ariya will offer up to 300 miles of range, but it hasn't been rated by the EPA just yet. The EPA has rated the Model Y, with the more conservative of the two trims estimated to travel 326 miles before running out of juice. That said, in Edmunds' real-world EV range testing, we have generally found that Teslas underperform their EPA estimates, while other manufacturers' EVs tend to go farther than what the EPA says. We'll have a better idea of the Ariya's capabilities once we get behind the wheel and subject it to our typical EV testing procedure.

Edmunds says

The 2022 Nissan Ariya's quick acceleration, daring interior design and impressive projected range should give it the tools necessary to compete against top-tier electric SUVs. Stay tuned to our Ariya page for more details, including our driving impressions as soon as Nissan tosses us a key.

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