Nissan's Goldilocks electric crossover is here, and we had a (brief) taste of it.

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

The Nissan Ariya excited us in concept form. It looked like an electric vehicle that — back in those retrospectively carefree days of late 2019/early 2020 — did not exist: a Goldilocks compact crossover that ticked every box, provided a decent amount of space and came in at a reasonable price point.

The Ariya took a bit longer to materialize than anticipated. But the production version finally heads to dealers in early 2023.

Recently, Nissan let me behind the wheel — briefly. I headed out to their technical center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. They gave me a brief demo and let me take out an Ariya Empower+ — the top-tier front-wheel-drive model — for a one-hour loop in suburban Detroit traffic. It wasn’t enough of a sample to sound out Nissan’s new electric car fully. But it was enough to glean some useful first impressions.

It appears Nissan hit its mark with the new Ariya. But with ample competition out there, doing so may not feel as groundbreaking in 2023 as it did in 2019.

The 2023 Nissan Ariya Empower+

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

Pros: Stylish, premium-feeling interior, comfortable ride

Cons: Pricey, Parking tech malfunctioned in our testing

  • Powertrain: Single-motor FWD
  • Horsepower: 238
  • EV Range: Up to 289 miles
  • Starting Price: $53,690

Why is the Nissan Ariya special?

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

The Ariya is not Nissan’s first take on a mass-market EV; the brand has sold the Leaf since 2010. But the Leaf epitomizes the early adopter EV: low-range, dorky looks and anemic performance. The Ariya will be a more elevated, practical and versatile take on what a Nissan electric car can be.

The FWD Nissan Ariya drives like a typical crossover

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

The AWD Ariya sounds exciting with its sub-5.0-second 0-60 mph time and new e-4orce (which I will always pronounce e-four-orce) system. The FWD Ariya is solid, but won’t set your pulse racing. Steering is light. The suspension forgives over bumps. The acceleration time from 0-60 mph, 7.2 seconds, is not rapid by EV standards. But leaping off the line with torque is not something an EV needs to do. And the Ariya will feel more familiar and crossover-like to new EV buyers.

Nissan gives you an “e-Pedal” for not-quite-one-pedal driving. Activating it — there’s an on-off switch with no adjustment — gives you ample regenerative braking without quite coming to a complete stop. I found it reasonable for stop-and-go driving in traffic but disabled it on the highway. Nissan’s ProPilot Assist hands-free system worked well over the three miles where I could activate it, but it lacks some of the features of GM’s Super Cruise, the current gold standard.

I would avoid Nissan’s in-car navigation system; I used it for my pre-programmed loop. It’s hard to figure out what with its older graphics — and proved tricky enough to get me to make a wrong turn on roads I’ve been driving on since I was 16.

The Ariya’s interior is a selling point

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

Nissan describes the Ariya interior as “spa-like.” I won’t go that far. But the Ariya feels more premium inside than your typical Nissan rental car. The brand employs the flat floor to good effect. There’s a lot of free-flowing space. The rear seating area and cargo bay seemed adequate. However, I did not have time to sneak home and start loading in baby gear.

I’m not a haptic button fan. But in the Ariya, Nissan has made the best use of them I’ve experienced. The buttons are integrated into the wood paneling. It looks cool and futuristic. But the controls are also well-spaced, reducing the attention-sapping precision required in other vehicles. And don’t worry; you still get a tactile, centrally located volume knob.

The Ariya’s self-parking tech was an adventure

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

Confession time: I don’t trust self-parking tech. I don’t have much use for it in Michigan, and the whole thing feels like witchcraft. I may have to exert some extra effort, but I’ve never caused a multiple-car accident with a press car.

I tested Nissan’s system in a controlled environment in the Nissan parking lot, with two Nissan engineers there for metaphorical hand-holding. The system worked well in a standard parking lot space. I selected my space, and the car calmly backed in without issue. Parallel parking confirmed my worst fears. The software simulated someone not knowing how to parallel park. It performed about six jerky corrections back and forth and left the Ariya about an inch from the front car’s bumper. The Nissan guys said it was the first time it had done that.

How much does the Nissan Ariya cost?

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

Nissan offers quite a few options. The Ariya offers eight trims in both FWD and AWD. There are several outputs and ranges. And you can choose whether you want AWD performance or range at a particular price point. Base MSRP for the Ariya is $43,190; the Empower+ I tested starts at $53,690.

What are some Nissan Ariya alternatives?

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

The Ariya is not breaking ground. It’s entering a crowded segment. The closest “crossover that happens to be electric” alternative is the Volkswagen ID.4 ($37,495). The Toyota bZ4X ($42,000) and Subaru Solterra ($44,995) twins also fall into that category. Cross-shoppers will likely look at the Hyundai Ioniq 5 ($41,450) and Kia EV6 ($48,500) too.

Verdict: the Nissan Ariya Empower+

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Tyler Duffy

An hour in a car isn’t enough time for a complete verdict. I can say that the AWD Ariya is the more exciting version on paper; I’m more intrigued to drive that. The FWD version fulfills its mission to be a solid, basic electric compact crossover. The main question is whether solid is enough for a car costing nearly $50,000 if you want a decent (~200 miles at the standard 80-percent fast-charge level) range.

The 33 Electric Cars We’re Most Excited to Drive in the Future

the 2023 nissan ariya review: a stylish, electric rogue
Mercedes-Benz AG

The next few years will be packed with new EVs. These are the ones that have us jazzed the most.

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