Expert Insights

Long-Term Test: Nissan Ariya

Michael Bettencourt
April 26, 2024
After four months of driving, we discover an electric crossover that has fine value, comfort, space, and refinement. Recent price cuts make it even better, but don’t trust the navigation system to find quick charging.
Nissan Ariya on the road

Torture Testing Nissan’s Electric Crossover

Given the relatively mild winter in many northern areas this year, our timing to test a fully-loaded all-wheel drive Nissan Ariya for a full month of chilly Canadian winter worked out great, as we managed to have it for the one week of polar vortex around the Toronto, Canada area area, where temperatures stayed consistently below freezing, and briefly dipped far below that mark.

Having driven the Nissan Ariya multiple times, in both front-wheel drive and e-4orce all-wheel drive form, I’ve always appreciated its origami-inspired styling, refined comfort and carsickness-inhibiting brake regeneration – even if some hardcore one-pedal types prefer more forceful deceleration that’ll bring you to a complete stop.

Nissan Ariya charging at gas station

Value Improves With Price Cuts, but No Federal Tax Rebate Unless You Lease

Plus the 2024 Ariya became much more appealing in March, as Nissan dropped its MSRPs on all Ariya models from between $3,000 to $6,000, depending on the trim. This fully-loaded Ariya Platinum+ e-4orce now starts at a suggested list price of $54,190, compared to $60,190 when it was introduced last year (before the slightly increased ‘24 destination fee of $1,390). That puts this Ariya smack dab into the same price window of longer range versions of Tesla’s all-wheel drive Model Y and Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, after both companies also cut prices in the past year or so.

Unfortunately, the Ariya is still not eligible for the federal $7,500 tax credit, since it’s not built in North America – unlike the Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4, Chevrolet’s Blazer EV, and the upcoming Chevrolet Equinox EV. For a better deal, Ariya buyers should consider leasing, where dealers can take advantage and pass along the incentive in the form of lower payments.

The base front-wheel drive Ariya Engage now has a starting MSRP of $40,980, with a smaller 63 kWh battery than the more commonly-equipped Ariya’s much larger 87 kWh pack. This provides the base front-drive Ariya with 216 miles of EPA-estimated range, or 205 miles with all-wheel drive ($44,980 starting MSRP, including destination).

Nissan Ariya Trim Levels and Range

Both battery sizes offer a max charging speed of 130 kW, which Nissan says translates to a charging time of 40 minutes for a 10-80 percent charge with the larger battery in ideal conditions. That’s about double the time of the best in this class, partly because the Nissan’s 87 kWh pack is notably larger than the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which can charge at 350 kW.

On the plus side, this large battery means more range, the Ariya’s front-drive model being capable of a bladder-stretching 304 miles, or 267 miles for this AWD loaded version with 19-inch, according to EPA estimates. That’s right in the same range as most rivals, but well back of Tesla’s 330-mile official rating for its dual-motor long-range Model Y.

Nissan Ariya charging in the winter

How Does the Nissan Ariya Perform in Winter?

But these are all range ratings and charge time estimates based in near-ideal conditions. I hadn’t yet driven the Ariya in the middle of a cold northern winter, tried to DC quick charge it in sub-freezing temperatures, or had a chance to use its remote heating and charging capabilities with the MyNissan app. As EV owners well know, cold winter conditions reduce driving range, can slow down DC fast-charging speeds, sometimes dramatically.

We were able to keep close tabs on how much of a range hit the Ariya took in both frigid and cool-ish spring temperatures (spoiler alert, the colder it is, the worse the range hit), and how varying temperatures affected DC charging, which was more annoyingly inconsistent.

The Ariya hit its peak 130 kW DC charging speed only once, with temperatures just above the freezing mark, and about 20 minutes of battery warming on the way to the public charger. But its quick-charging speeds varied from a low of 37 kW (at a 50-kW max station) to a more usual 70- to 91-kW peak, even with battery pre-conditioning for up to an hour beforehand.

And keep in mind, at 50 kW, Nissan estimates that a quick charge of the Ariya’s larger battery from 10 to 80 percent will take a foot-tapping 90 minutes – and that’s in ideal conditions, not at northern winter temperatures.

Nissan Ariya Charging Performance

Most of these attempts were at a Shell station where the two DC quick chargers are listed at 180 kW, but at least one of the stations has been off-line often, and perhaps continuously, for months at a time. I had never crossed the 100 kW threshold with the Ariya at the remaining station, either early in this winter test or in near-ideal temperatures in early fall with another Ariya, to the point where I suspected an issue that slowed down the one working DC quick charger at this location.

So I contacted Shell to ensure it was indeed putting out the full 180 kW promised on the big sign. After a few weeks, a Shell spokesperson replied, and confirmed multiple charger issues throughout their network, without confirming specifically the issue(s) at this particular charger.

“We discovered select charge points in the network are not performing as expected. We are actively working with our supplier and vendors to address this issue where necessary and as efficiently as possible.”

In the meantime, it was here that the same single charger managed to briefly push to the Ariya’s 130 kW max DC charging speed, so clearly the Ariya can achieve this max rating, which is not the worst in its all-wheel drive, mid-size electric crossover SUV class, but definitely closer to the bottom than the top.

This makes it even more painful to be connected to 150+ kW stations and sip electrons at an average of 80 kW, as we did – though to be fair, we spent most of this charging time inside the Ariya with the heat going, which also tends to slightly slow down charging speeds in all BEVs.

The Ariya does have a manual pre-conditioning function, which warms up the battery on the way to a public DC charger to help the driver charge up – and then leave – faster. Not all BEVs offer this function, and many that do can only be activated by going to the native GPS, and navigating to the charger, which is not helpful if you’re using Apple CarPlay, Waze, or Google Maps.

Pulling up this battery warming feature is a couple of menus too deep (Home/Settings/EV, then scroll all the way to the bottom option), but it’s a super-useful feature to have when you know where the charger is located, and don’t want to have to put it in the nav system. The Ariya does offer over-the-air updates to both software and firmware, so this will hopefully change in a future update. But it wasn’t the most problematic feature that needs updating.

dashboard showing all charging stations are out of range

Don’t Trust the Navigation to Find Charging

Whatever you do, as an Ariya driver, don’t trust the native navigation to find any public charging stations, or plan any route that includes DC quick charging. No matter the weather conditions. Unless you want headaches or frustration. At least near me, the suggested EV stations were brutally out-of-date, with the first five listed EV chargers near my home all inaccessible, not working or non-existent.

I spent a full afternoon purposely but fruitlessly chasing the next “nearest fast charger to me,” and the first four were not there at all. Knowing the area, two had been removed, two were never there, and one with a “generic restriction” notation was a dealer where you needed an access card. Finally the sixth one was working, but it was an old and super-slow 25-kW max unit.

This is another pain point with the app and its navi system: neither indicates how fast these DC chargers are, simply that they are CCS units. Nissan can’t switch to the NACS (Tesla) connector fast enough, which is planned for 2025. Current Ariya owners will have CCS-NACS adapters available to them by the end of 2024, barring any adapter distribution delays.

Perhaps the navigation system is better in other areas, but if you’re an Ariya driver and seeing similar issues, just use Plugshare.com or the app to check where the nearest chargers are, which the standard wireless CarPlay and Android Auto can provide more easily while on the move.

Nissan Ariya Driving Experience Is Supreme

From the driver’s seat, the Ariya feels supremely refined and quick no matter the season, more like an Infiniti than a Nissan, though winter tires gave this one extra grip in the white stuff, and likely a bit less range.

But as I charged it regularly at home on a Level 2 station, the lower winter range never became an issue. There’s a reason EV owners have dubbed EV range estimates as “guess-ometers,” since how you drive it can impact as much or more as the weather, but a full charge on the Ariya showed anywhere between 196-233 miles, or 180-ish miles if I charged to 80 percent.

Power-wise, any e-4orce model outside the Engage trim offers an impressive 389 hp, and 442 lb-ft of torque that give his electric family hauler a 4.8 second 0-60 mph time. Any ‘+’ sign on its tail means it is a full-zoot model, while the Engage AWD model still offers a worthy 335 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive models are all significantly lower, and slower, but as noted, offer the most driving range.

Some Charging Caveats in a Very Good Package

There’s a lot to appreciate about the Ariya, but there are some caveats to it as well, mostly about its EV charger routing and DC charging abilities. While the price cut makes the 2024 Nissan Ariya more price competitive, the lack of access to the federal tax rebate for buyers holds it back on the value front.

Unlike some other EVs, the Ariya in its current form is ideal for long-time EV owners already familiar with the ins and outs of using apps like Plugshare and familiar with strategic route planning, who just want more range and space out of their next EV.

The appearance of 0 per cent financing offers for 72 months already appearing on some 2023 Ariya models, along with the 2024 price cuts, suggests that it may not only be lease deals that interested Ariya buyers may want to consider, while perhaps waiting for the upgraded native NACS plug as well.