Poor old Nissan, the sometime Japanese carmaker that is heavily influenced by its French strategic partner, Renault, has taken an extraplanetary leap, reports Iain Robertson, into the space age, by launching its ugliest crossover ever.
Some motorcars can divide opinions so vehemently that they become memorable fixtures in their carmakers’ firmaments. Allow me to provide you with a smattering of examples, such as the final version of Ford of Europe’s large car, the Granada. While I found its appearance to be challenging at least, the polarising impact on the new car scene was such that, whatever expectations its manufacturer may have held dear, succeeded in creating a perfect ‘love:hate’ view, which led to its early demise.
More recently, Land Rover launched the latest version of its once popular Discovery model. Once again, the design graphics that may have seemed to be developments of previous generations morphed into a lofty barge that split opinions, all the way from the Solihull plant, to its dealers and potential customers. Capability had nothing to do with it; this Landy was just badly designed. Nissan has already indulged in a new model that looked as though it had struck every branch on its fall from the ugly tree, in the form of the original Juke, which, to be fair, became a real success story in the compact SUV sector (there is no accounting for taste). For it to introduce Ariya, as its latest entrant to the slowly-but-surely developing EV market suggests that it has not learnt a lesson on the design front.
However, when its introductory blurb contains descriptive words such as ‘spatiotemporal’, ‘timeless Japanese futurism’ and describes the cabin as ‘a sleek café lounge on a starship’, it does leave this observer wondering about the cost of non-prescription unguents consumed by its creators. While it is perfectly acceptable and understandable for a marketing department to become florid and expressive about its new product, when it stretches the bounds of logic and sensibility to breaking point, the implications can be scary indeed.
Japan has become most adept at educating the ‘West’ in its cultural nuances. Somewhat akin to Eskimos having fifty words for snow, the Japanese language that is so difficult for European tongues to contend with can turn up some elucidating novelties, such as Kodo, which Mazda uses to describe its present car design language. Nissan has chucked up a couple of newcomers: ‘ma’ is the first one, which refers apparently to spatiotemporal openings and defines the cabin design of Ariya. The second is ‘Akatsuki’, which refers to the two-tone copper colour scheme (for which potential buyers can expect to pay more!) that represents the moment just before dawn, as the sun marks the start of a new day. All very airy-fairy and mildly lunatic. However, when Nissan starts to refer to its seating as ‘zero gravity’, because they are slim in construction and enable easier interaction between front and rear seat occupants, you just know that something worryingly deeper is at play.
Ariya represents a new type of EV construction for Nissan, a firm already proficient in producing EVs. The drivetrain, well, battery pack, is located amidships and low down in the chassis, which promotes safer handling and a lower centre of gravity. In reality, there is nothing new here, as all EV manufacturers are following a broadly similar pattern in an attempt to lessen the effects of hefty componentry that can make their vehicles unwieldy.
However, Nissan has adopted a ‘cabin-first’ attitude with Ariya, in which maximising the amount of space available to occupants is the priority. As Tesla has already proven to excellent effect, the lack of an internal combustion engine allows packaging to take a fresh direction. By adopting a minimalist approach to the relative convention of a dashboard, in a car that has been designed to be ready for autonomous motoring (i.e. no driver involvement), Nissan has achieved its aim.
Two power options will be available: 63, or 87kWh. They will power both two and all-wheel drive variants, the latter designated by a tongue-twisting ‘e-4ORCE’ description that is said to introduce the spiritual effects of the ATTESA system employed on Nissan’s Skyline GTR, combined with the off-road competence of the Nissan Patrol. Note that the emphasis is on ‘spiritual’, not ‘actual’, as twin electric motors will provide the 4WD capability in this pseudo-SUV, or, as Nissan prefers to call it, an SUV-coupe.
Intriguingly, performance is central to the Ariya project. Even the most sluggish version will despatch the 0-60mph sprint in 7.3s, while the punchiest ‘Performance’ version can manage it in 4.8s, with maximum speeds ranging from 100 to 124mph. Of course, the longest range of around 310-miles is only feasible with the base model. Digging into the power trough reduces expectations to around 240-miles, which is still respectable for a plug-in motorcar that can be fast charged in the usual way, or trickle charged domestically overnight.
Sadly, Nissan can do very little about the Ariya’s weight, which ranges between 1.8 and 2.3-tonnes, as a result of that chunky battery pack and still heavy electric motors. It would be advisable to note that the standard wheel offering is 19.0-inches diameter, with 20s available optionally. The aerodynamic wheels look good but will introduce a lot of road rumble and ‘nuggety’ handling, despite the copious applications of sound deadening materials.
As the first Nissan to feature firmware over-the-air updates, which updates automatically various software aspects inside the vehicle, such as that which controls the multimedia system, electric and electronic architecture, chassis, climate system and EV settings, dealer visits will become less crucial. With periodic real-time updates, the Ariya is said to be always operating at its full potential. A dual-bank memory system even allows for updates while on the go.
Conclusion: Despite its challenging appearance, the Ariya is not really that revolutionary in known technological terms. It is, in reality, more of the same again but slightly enhanced. Prices and launch schedule are yet to be agreed but Ariya is likely to cost from around £38,000 and arrive on our shores by September this year.