WE’VE all heard of the Nissan Leaf – the first mainstream Electric Vehicle to gain some traction for the advancement and acceptance of the EV. It was revolutionary when first introduced back in 2011.

So, it’s somewhat surprising that it has taken Nissan so long to come up with another family EV – the Ariya. The Covid pandemic may have played a part in the Ariya’s delay, but it’s more likely to be because the Ariya is the first car to adopt the new CMF-EV platform which will be used by the likes of Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault over the coming years. The platform is, again, revolutionary and favours a more luxurious approach than the humble Leaf.

And the Ariya certainly is more luxurious. It’s a mid-sized family SUV with sporty coupe looks and is priced to take on the likes of the Tesla Model Y, Kia EV6 and Ford Mustang Mach-e – to name but a few in this hotly-contested segment.

With Nissan’s luxury brand, INFINITI, no longer in the UK (and with no EV in their line-up anyway) it’s up to Nissan to start tempting the premium EV buyers into their showrooms. And after living with an Ariya e-4ORCE Evolve for a week, I’d say they’re off to an excellent start.

Moreover, since August last year, the price of the Ariya has substantially dropped for all UK customers.

This new pricing, combined with two new grades, offers a more competitive price point, for customers considering moving to electric motoring. All 63kWh ARIYA were reduced by £3,000 and all 87kWh variants were reduced by £3,750. The line-up now starts at £39,645 with the top-spec ARIYA available from £59,025.

ARIYA Engage is the new entry-level 2WD version which is available in both 63kWh (251-mile range) and 87kWh (330-mile range) battery sizes.

Evolve+ is the new top-of-the-range e-4ORCE derivative and is priced from £59,025. This grade offers the highest power output of the ARIYA line-up with 394PS (388 HP) and faster acceleration. The 0 to 62mph sprint takes just over 5 seconds.

In addition to all the features of the Evolve – such as a panoramic opening sunroof, Intelligent Rear View Mirror, head-up display, power-adjustable centre console and steering column, Bose 10-speaker stereo and temperature-controlled front seats – Evolve+ also features 20-inch alloy wheels with aero covers and Nappa Blue leather seat trim.

I’ve been testing the 87kWh e-4ORCE Evolve model, which starts from £54,840. My car came with the £1,995 Sport Pack which adds 20-inch wheels and the Nappa Blue leather upholstery. It also had a Ceramic Grey paint job which added another £745, bringing the total to £57,580 – or £630 per month, with a £5,000 deposit.

So, not cheap then. However, this is an all-wheel-drive, twin-motor SUV-Coupe that feels special from the moment you climb inside.

And there are one or two surprises once ensconced. Firstly, the centre console doesn’t meet the dash. Indeed, the front carpet mat is just that – a mat, not mats. You could easily shuffle from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat if needed. Some idiot blocked off the driver’s door in the car park? No worries, enter by the passenger side and just sidle over.

This can be made easier by the 2nd surprise – a centre console that slides back and forth courtesy of two buttons on the side. Driving position and access to the gear-selector has never been more customisable.

Surprise number three is the hidden compartment that pops out from the centre of the dash at the push of another button on the moveable centre console. Ideal for keeping valuables safe – or just somewhere to stash an emergency Kit-Kat or two.

Surprise number four is just how premium the cabin looks. The blue Nappa leather makes quite a difference here, but even with standard upholstery the Ariya looks and feels plush.

The dash area consists of two 12.3-inch, hi-res displays, that have a pleasing wave shape where they join, bringing the infotainment side slightly forward of the main dash. Why just stick two screens together, end to end, when you can have a flourish like this? Subtle, but meaningful. Especially when the screens are “pushed” into a soft Alcantara backing which seems to hold them gently in place.

The soothing, opulent feel continues as your eyes take in the wood veneer inlay below the main dash. There are touch-sensitive buttons within the wood – only clearly visible when back-lit and almost disappearing into their background when not. Again, a touch of indulgence that sets the Ariya apart from the main rivals.

There are more such buttons on the sliding centre console, located just behind the nifty little gear selector – one for selecting your drive mode, one for engaging the Auto-Park function, one for opening and closing the “secret” compartment and one for selecting the e-Pedal function for one-pedal driving.

There are some cheaper feeling plastics lower down on the doors and in the door bins particularly, but the overall feeling is that Nissan has pushed the boat out when it comes to luxury for the Ariya.

It’s all very tactile in the cabin and it’s not just for show. The Ariya is also a very comfortable place to sit. The high-up seating gives excellent visibility, while the seats themselves (both heated or air-cooled) have plenty of electrical adjustment, including lumbar support for the driver.

Look up to the “intelligent” rear mirror and there’s surprise number 5 – a camera view of what’s going on behind, rather than a mirror.

Now, I’m still undecided about using cameras in place of traditional mirrors. I find they make me feel a bit queasy. It feels like mild motion sickness, as though the brain isn’t accepting what the eyes are telling it, for some reason. No matter, it’s quite easy to switch off and return to a standard mirror view.

I can see the advantage of such a thing – it gives a clear view when rear passengers might otherwise block the view (or if you are loaded up to the gills, while on a family holiday) and the extra-wide view allows you to see more of what’s behind.

However, I found that it was next to useless in the dark – the mirror is much clearer. Also, when it rained the camera lens seemed to attract water droplets and the view became distorted. So, great if your rear-view mirror is restricted, but otherwise it’s a “No” from me.

It’s a big, fat “Yes” for everything else up-front though. The 2-spoke steering wheel looks and feels classy, the large head-up display is sharp and clear, while the configurable dash can display as much, or as little info as the mood takes you.

The infotainment screen is easily navigated, looks great and features Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. It’s all connected to a premium sound, 10-speaker Bose system which sounds very good indeed. A large, rotary Volume controller sits central in the dash and caps off what is a triumph of design and ergonomic excellence.

The Nissan Ariya feels just as airy and spacious in the rear as it does in the front. There’s plenty of space for a 6-footer to stretch out, despite the sloping roofline, and the tall side windows and panoramic sunroof add to the feeling of space. The outer rear seats are also heated.

So, does the Nissan Ariya also deliver when it comes to the driving experience or does the “Luxury Nissan” tag drop off at the first sign of a pot-hole?

With the batteries held low down in the chassis, the Ariya not only benefits from more living space up top, but it also provides a low centre of gravity which makes the Ariya feel very well planted. Along with the all-wheel-drive of the e-4ORCE system and a multi-link rear suspension, you’ll find the Ariya is capable of providing a sporty drive which can belie its weight of over 2 tons.

It also boasts a 0-62 mph figure of under 6 seconds. Overtaking is an absolute breeze – the Ariya leaps forward with such immediacy that you’ll need your wits about you.

However, the Ariya is not about sporting prowess; it is more about a relaxed driving experience and on that front, it delivers by the bucketful. The e-Pedal system, of which I’m such a fan, means one-pedal driving is easily achievable. Lift off the accelerator and the car begins to break; lift off more and it breaks more. Simple.

But the Nissan Ariya is more than just an easy drive. It’s cossetting too. Noise levels, even at motorway speeds are well suppressed, and even though we are now used to how an electric car glides gently away from its parking spot, the Ariya feels impressive still.

Can it get ruffled? Well, yes, our roads are pretty terrible in places and a series of pot-holes will cause it to thud through the chassis – but this is very much the exception in the Ariya as most of the time nothing disturbs the calm.

Mrs B declared the Ariya to be her favourite EV to date and when we discussed its merits it was the ambience of the interior, coupled with the smoothness of drive that won us both over. I was truly sorry to have to give it back. And that was the final surprise.

AT A GLANCE:   
Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE 87kWh Evolve
OTR Price (as tested): £57,580 
Twin Motor Output: 306 PS 
Transmission: Automatic
0-62mph: 5.7 secs   
Top Speed: 124 mph   
WLTP Combined Range: 309 miles

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