While I am the first to say that having a comfortable and familiar interior design is a boon for new car owners, there’s also something to be said for occasionally reinventing things and shaking up what might well have become a stale and boring design. My son’s 2022 Toyota Tacoma interior demonstrates the problem with static dashboard design, as one example. The move from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, however, is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for companies to completely rethink and refresh the dashboard. The first company I saw really take advantage of that was Volkswagon with its radically different ID.4 dashboard. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to change gears!
Nissan has been selling cars worldwide for many decades (Back when it was Datsun, its first car for the US market was the 1958 Datsun 1000 Sedan) and while the dashboard design and overall vehicle design have kept changing, it’s clear that the EV Ariya was designed by a completely new team. Nissan already has the successful Leaf EV (which went through a dramatic exterior redesign a few years ago), but most all of their vehicles have the same stale dash and interior. That’s why when I first got behind the wheel of the 2023 Nissan Ariya EV, I was delighted! It’s a completely different interior design, unlike anything on the market, let alone anything in the Nissan lineup.
The company loaned me a pre-production 2023 Nissan Ariya Platinum+ complete with disclaimer card:
In case you can’t read it, this says “This is a pre-production vehicle being offered for media evaluation. While this vehicle provides an impression of what final production vehicles will be like, it should be regarded as wholly representative of the final product.” Fortunately, I didn’t find any duct tape or 3D-printed prototype parts. 🤓 Instead, it’s a beautiful EV that would be a solid addition to anyone’s fleet:
This pre-production prototype is “exterior 2-tone Passion Red Tricoat and Black Diamond Pearl”. There’s no shortage of flowery language when it comes to car company paint color names, that’s for sure! You can see that, unlike the Leaf, this is a bigger, roomier SUV somewhat in the style of the Nissan Rogue. The charge port is on the front left side and features support for a variety of charging plug standards:
For those of you unfamiliar with this configuration, this is a Combined Charge System type 1 (CCS1) connector, combining the older standard J1722 plug (the top one) with two high-speed DC fast charging pins. Find the right charging station and it can accept up to 500 amps & 1000 volts for a speedy charge. I did not find that charger and found that with just a regular 110V from my garage and the hefty Nissan charger, I was seeing a very, very slow +1.2% (+3.5 mi) charge per hour going from 53% to 77%. No question, unless you have a very short commute, you’ll want to install a proper 220V charger in your garage if you acquire the Ariya (or any EV). For spec purposes, it has an 87kWh lithium battery with liquid cooling.
I also tried a few ChargePoint charging stations and found that they were feeding about the same charge to the Ariya, which was quite disappointing. Bad charging stations? Definitely something to learn more about if you’re interested in a more modern EV with a CCS1 plug as a charging option.
What most impressed me when I got into the Ariya was the dashboard. It’s a fascinating mix of classic elements and very modern thinking with buttons integrated into paneling and dash details:
if you look closely at the earlier photo with the pre-production disclaimer, you’ll see the integrated climate control buttons up close. It’s a very cool design and they worked perfectly. The main gauge display, as with many EVs, doesn’t have much to show when you’re driving so it was mostly empty space, as shown above. Speed is just a number, and there’s no camshaft spinning at an indicated rotations per minute to justify even a mock tachometer, so… empty space. It did repeat a modern (and daft) design characteristic of warning you that the rear seat belts aren’t fastened, even if the back seat was completely empty. I’m not a fan.
The window, side view mirror, and lock controls on the driver’s door arm are classic Nissan, however, so what emerges from checking out the Ariya interior is a sort of transitional approach where some controls are “classic” while others are fresh and new. Perhaps there are some controls that can’t just become recessed sliders or buttons on a panel, but it is a very distinct dash design for sure. This mashup is repeated on the center armrest control section:
The indication for the wireless Qi charging is a bit misleading as the actual charge spot is under the armrest, not where the symbol is located, but these are all the cool features. Four drive modes, automatic parking (parallel or perpendicular), e-Step (one-pedal driving), and a tray that you can automatically slide open or closed in the center of the dashboard (in the first photo, that’s what the pre-production info card is sitting on). The purpose of the tray? No clue.
What I also enjoyed was the e-Step one-pedal driving. If you’ve driven a go-cart you know how it works: Push the pedal down and you’ll go faster, let up on the pedal and you’ll slow down. No brake pedal is needed unless you have to immediately come to a stop. It’s quite fun and something I utilize on all EVs that I drive.
Another interesting design choice was that instead of having a deep well accessible from the armrest, the rather limited storage space is underneath, accessible from the front:
Notice the charging ports are somewhat hidden, along with a coin holder or similar. The dual arrow switches let you slide the entire armrest forward or backward for optimal positioning, a curious addition that seemed a bit unnecessary.
Back to the dashboard, one thing that seems common across EVs is offering the driver an “eco score” when they turn off the vehicle, and the 2023 Nissan Ariya Platinum+ offered the same:
I really like this sort of thing as it’s a smart feedback loop to help teach the driver how to be maximally efficient. With an EV that has a maximum range of maybe 325 miles (according to the dash projection when it was about 100% charged), it’s pretty important to learn how to drive so that you can eke out the best possible range on a charge. This is also why lots of hybrids and even some ICE vehicles include a score too. I mean, heck, when a typical vehicle has a dozen or more computer systems integrated, why not offer something useful?
Stepping out of the vehicle, the Ariya has a very nice amount of cargo space, differentiating it from the Nissan Leaf’s small cargo area:
All the charging cables fit neatly under the closer panel for when you’re on the road and need to bring wires with you.
Being a larger SUV design, the Ariya offers a much more comfortable back seat experience than the Leaf too, with decent legroom (the below is with the driver’s seat as far back as it goes):
Some EVs trick you with the front hood, offering a compact storage spot instead of a clutter of engine components and wires. The Nissan Ariya is not one of those vehicles, however, and opening up the hood reveals that it’s almost indistinguishable from an internal combustion engine:
You can see that being an all-electric vehicle doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep track of fluid levels, something important for EV drivers to remember; the vehicle still has a lot of moving parts.
The overall drive experience with the Ariya was excellent. I really enjoyed the torque and rabbit-hop pickup from the 369hp AC motor, particularly in Sport mode. Combined with the e-Step one-pedal driving, it was really a ton of fun to zip around town and up into the Rocky Mountains with this vehicle. The only gotcha is that I found the ride a bit stiff at times, and had to adjust to the very non-luxurious suspension and motion dampening system. If you’re prone to getting carsick, you’ll need to become a gentle driver with the Ariya. I did not find any settings that would let me adjust suspension settings, and it felt the same across all drive modes.
There’s also the price tag: The base price of the most basic Ariya EV is $43,190, but this Platinum edition has a starting price of $62,770, which seems a bit pricy for what it offers. Yes, it’s a great new design and an efficient electric vehicle, but I was surprised by the price, particularly when compared to the similarly sized Nissan Rogue which comes in at a base price of only $27,910. You could buy his and hers Rogues and have enough money left over for a decade of stops at the gas station. Still, if I were in the market for an EV, the Nissan Ariya would definitely be on my shortlist, with me hoping that I can knock a decent amount off the price through state and federal rebates and discounts.
2023 Nissan Ariya Platinum+ in Passion Red and Black Diamond Pearl. MSRP: $60,190.00. Additions: Super Premium Paint, 20″ wheels, Floor Mats. AS DRIVEN: $62,770.00.
Disclaimer: Nissan loaned me a pre-production Ariya Platinum+ for a week so that I could write up this review. Thanks, Nissan!