Nissan flexes its EV muscle harder with the 2021 Ariya all-electric crossover

In the wake of the success it had with the LEAF EV, Nissan is extending its ambitions in the crossover segment with the futuristic-looking Ariya, an all-electric crossover based on the Ariya prototype shown in 2019 in Tokyo.

As you’d expect, the styling cues flaunted by that Ariya - inside and outside - have a clear correspondent in Japanese tradition. The Ariya is available in 2WD and 4WD guise. Customers can also pick from one of the two available battery packs. We’ll get into more detail below.

2021 Nissan Ariya - Design

  • Futuristic look
  • 3D-pattern grille
  • LED Nissan logo
  • Rear lightbar
  • 6 two-tone paint jobs, 3 full-color colors
2021 Nissan Ariya Exterior
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We know from Lexus and Mazda that there’s a lot of tradition that goes into the way their cars look. The same goes for the Nissan Ariya.

Sharp-edges, a seamlessly-integrated front grille imbued with the kumiko traditional 3D pattern and the front Nissan logo made of 20 LED lights - this is the sort of treatment Nissan’s designers had in store for the Ariya.
2021 Nissan Ariya Exterior
- image 920982

Although not the most original of choices, the LED lightbar that replaces the more conventional taillights balances out the sporty vibe given by the integrated rear wing. On the color front, the Ariya can be had with six-two tone paint combos (each offering a black roof) and three full-body hues. The highlight here is the Copper and Black two-tone pack - a nod to Akatsuki, which in Japanese corresponds to the moment just before the crack of dawn.

2021 Nissan Ariya Exterior
- image 920949
2021 Nissan Ariya exterior dimensions
Wheelbase 109.3 in.
Overall length 182.9 in.
Overall width 74.8 in.
Overall height 65.4 in. – 65.7 (depending on roof rack)
Wheel size 19-inch or 20-inch
Tire size 235/55R19 or 255/45R20

2021 Nissan Ariya - Powertrain

  • Standard 63-kWh battery
  • Optional 87-kWh battery
  • AWD and 2WD configuration
  • 300-mile range
  • Nissan e-4ORCE all-wheel-drive system
2021 Nissan Ariya Exterior
- image 920987

Two battery packs are available for the Nissan Ariya. The standard one is rated at 63 kWh, while the large one offers 87 kWh of juice. Nissan doesn’t say how much range you can get on a single charge with the smaller battery pack, but should you opt for the 87 kWh one with the AWD configuration - its range is 300 miles.

Speaking of AWD, this is where Nissan is bringing all the lessons it learned with torque splitting inside the GT-R (yes, that GT-R) via the so-called e-4ORCE setup (you can pronounce it e-FORCE, by the way).

Essentially, it is a twin-motor, all-wheel drive system that optimizes traction and control on wet surfaces during cornering. On top of that, the system can also recuperate energy through regen braking.
2021 Nissan Ariya Exterior
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Unfortunately, there’s no word on specs such as horsepower or torque, but we do estimate that the AWD Nissan Ariya can go from zero to 60 mph in about five seconds. Everything else remains to be seen when Nissan sees fit to release such data.

2021 Nissan Ariya specifications
Drive configuration Front-wheel drive or e-4ORCE all-wheel drive
Platform Newly developed Alliance CMF-EV
Powertrain Single (FWD) / dual (e-4ORCE AWD) electric motor, Externally Excited Synchronous Motor (EESM)
Battery capacity 63 kWh / 87 kWh usable (total 65 kWh / 90 kWh)
Thermal management Active battery management system
Estimated range Up to approximately 300 miles (preliminary Nissan estimate)
Level 2 charging Up to 7.2 kW
DC charging type CCS standard up to 130 kW
Output 160 kW – 290 kW
Torque 221 lb-ft – 443 lb-ft

2021 Nissan Ariya - Interior and Tech

  • Lounge-style cabin
  • Flat floor
  • No buttons and knobs
  • Haptic controls on the center dashboard
  • Two 12.3-inch screens (multimedia display and instrument cluster)
  • Nissan PilotPro Assist 2.0
  • Nissan Safety Shield 360
  • Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa
2021 Nissan Ariya Interior
- image 920961
Nissan took the café lounge approach with the Ariya’s interior, perhaps in an attempt to get us ready for the arrival of self-driving cars, which is still some years away.

It helped that the electric powertrain and its bits and bobs occupies less space than the ICE setup, which allowed Nissan to fit the climate control system under the hood and design a flat floor for the cabin.

As with every modern car these days, there are no physical buttons or knobs inside the Ariya. Climate control features are grouped into a wooden center dashboard as capacitive haptic switches. Screen-wise, there’s a central 12.3-inch display mounted on the dashboard as well as a digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster feeding the driver with relevant info. Otherwise, the cabin is uncluttered with useless lines and trim elements that would otherwise take a bit out of the intended relaxed cabin atmosphere.

2021 Nissan Ariya Interior
- image 920973

In charge of the wellbeing of drivers and passengers is Nissan’s ProPilot Assist 2.0 suite of features and safety systems already available on the likes of LEAF, Altima, and Rogue, but further improved. For example, 2.0 can perform multi-lane highway maneuvers such as lane changes, passing, and exiting.

What’s more, the system can detect the road type (highway, A-road, B-road) based on the navigation setup and the 3D map data. This allows the car to auto adjust its speed when passing through various road sections with different speed limits. At the same time, a driver monitoring system makes sure whoever sits behind the wheel is paying attention to what’s happening around the car even when his or her hands are not on the steering wheel.

2021 Nissan Ariya Interior
- image 920975

Of course, the Ariya does feature more pedestrian safety features, too, as part of the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection
  • Blind Spot Warning
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • High Beam Assist
  • Rear Automatic Braking

Those interested in connectivity should know that the Ariya supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Amazon Alexa is also present, letting you play music, place calls and whatnot with nothing but voice commands.

2021 Nissan Ariya - Competition

Volvo XC40 Recharge

2020 Volvo XC40 Recharge Exterior
- image 869399

Scheduled to go on sale in late 2020, the XC40 Recharge hopes to lure EV nuts with an all-wheel-drive electric powertrain good for 408 horsepower. That’s enough to let the crossover zap from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds at the expense of 200+ miles worth of range.

A 78-kWh battery pack allows the all-electric XC40 to charge to 80-percent in 40 minutes when plugged in to a 50-kW a fast-charging outlet. There’s no word on how much the XC40 Recharge will cost, but the starting sticker should be in the ballpark of $40,000+, with better-equipped versions demanding north of $50,000.

Read our full review on the Volvo XC40 Recharge

Tesla Model Y

2020 Tesla Model Y
- image 830417

The Model Y is the champion of range in this segment. AWD Long Range and Performance Model Ys return 316 and 315 miles, respectively, on a single full charge. So far, Tesla is only offering a dual-motor setup on the Y, but single-motor variants are incoming, we’re told.

The Long Range ($51,190) makes 384 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of twist, while the Performance ($61,190) ups the ante with 456 horsepower and 497 pound-feet of twist, performances which are good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. We know Tesla makes a strong selling point from its cars’ performance credentials, so customers can also pick the Performance Upgrade Package for the Model Y Performance. This lowers the suspension, adds 21-inch wheels, performance brakes, and bumps the top speed to 155 mph. Mind you, though, range takes a plunge from 315 miles to 280 miles in the process.

Read our full review on the Tesla Model Y

Audi Q4 e-tron

2022 Audi Q4 e-tron Exterior Spyshots
- image 918001

The Audi Q4 e-tron isn’t quite here yet, but when it finally arrives, it will be a direct competitor for the Nissan Ariya. This is Audi’s fourth EV and it’s slated to go into production by the end of 2020. The Q4 e-tron will pack a two-motor powertrain - which each electric motor powering one axle - for a grand total of 300 horsepower.

As a result, 0-60 takes 6.3 seconds, while the 280-mile range is possible with the help of a 82-kWh battery pack. Not much else is known about the Q4 e-tron, but expect a tech-ladden interior that’s also bound to ooze minimalism and top-notch material quality. Prices should range between $45,000 (the base price communicated by Audi) and $55,000 (our estimate), depending on trim levels.

Read our full review on the Audi Q4 e-tron

Final Word

2021 Nissan Ariya Exterior
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Make no mistake, the EV crossover segment is developing rapidly and before anything, it is bound to become the same cutthroat arena that is its ICE-powered alter ego. People still love SUVs in all shapes and sizes and this is where carmakers are applying pressure to make sure their EVs are well received, at least until the movement gains even more momentum.

Coming back to the Ariya, it’s nice that Nissan went with a wacky design instead of settling for bland cues. On the powertrain front, its experience with the LEAF should prove quintessential in the hunt for new customers and EV adopters, but the competition will be stiff. We’ll know more about the segment’s winners and losers in a couple of years, though, when the first relevant sales figures will be out.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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