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The 2023 Nissan Ariya.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Nissan jump started the electric vehicle revolution with the world’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle, the Leaf, in 2010. Since then, more than 550,000 Leaf hatchbacks have been sold globally. But the Japanese auto maker has been slow in introducing new EVs. Until now. Nissan’s second pure-electric vehicle, the 2023 Ariya compact crossover SUV, is finally coming to Canada this fall with preorders opening Thursday. So what took so long?

“Quite frankly, we wanted to make sure we had it right from a consumer perspective and a product perspective,” said Steve Milette, President of Nissan Canada at Nissan Studio, a pop-up location at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto, where the Ariya made its Canadian debut on Wednesday. “Honestly, with the Ariya, we’ve hit the sweet spot.”

When the Ariya arrives this fall, it’ll face tough competition from existing electric SUVs including the Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4 and Mustang Mach-E plus a host of new players such as the Subaru Solterra, Toyota bZ4X, and the Imperium SEV coming this year. But Milette isn’t worried. “We’ve made a lot of investments and obviously learned a lot from the Leaf,” he said. “Ariya is super competitive from a technology perspective, autonomy, and its class-leading exterior and interior design.”

When the Ariya arrives this fall, it’ll face tough competition from existing electric SUVs including the Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4 and Mustang Mach-E.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The Ariya is built on an all-new EV platform. It’ll be available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. Two battery choices will be offered – a standard 63 kilowatt-hour and a longer-range 87 kilowatt-hour battery pack. Depending on the trim, power ranges from 214 to 389 horsepower and 221 to 442 lb-ft of torque. Likewise, range varies from 328 to 482 kilometres. Charging times also differ depending on the battery. Using a Level two charger, the standard range, or 63 kilowatt-hour, takes 10.5 hours and the long range, or 87 kilowatt-hour, takes 14 hours. A DC fast-charger cuts the time drastically – from 65 minutes at 50 kilowatts and 35 minutes at 130 kilowatts with the standard range and 90 minutes at 50 kilowatts and 40 minutes at 130 kilowatts with the long-range battery.

The Ariya’s design is sophisticated and sharp; it represents Nissan’s new design language for EVs moving forward. The display model is a pre-production Japanese-specification vehicle – hence the double fins, dual charge ports and right-hand drive configuration. At the front, Nissan’s brand logo stands out from a dark, solid grille, flanked by slim LED headlamps. At the rear, a steeply sloped C-pillar, a high mounted rear wing and a thin one-piece rear LED light blade adds sportiness. Unlike many competitors, there’s no front trunk, or frunk – instead the space is filled with items such as the climate control system. But there’s still decent trunk space in the rear – 413 litres for the AWD version and 467 litres for the FWD model. The second-row seats recline and fold flat for extra cargo capacity. The back seats are spacious for three adults. The wide-opening rear doors make it easy to enter and exit, but the long doors might hit parked vehicles nearby.

The 2023 Nissan Ariya's electric motor.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Because the battery pack sits under the centre of the vehicle, at the base of the chassis, it creates a flat cabin floor, which creates excellent legroom for front and rear-seat passengers. The dashboard design is minimalistic with two horizontal displays – a 12.3-inch instrument monitor and a 12.3-inch centre screen to access everything from the battery information to the navigation system. There are few traditional buttons and dials – instead capacitive haptic switches for the climate control are integrated into the wooden dashboard. Instead of pressing a physical hard button, touch-sensitive symbols with sensors detect your fingertip, allowing the driver to change the temperature without taking their eyes off the road. But I’m not a big fan – the systems are often fickle. An adjustable centre console is motorized so it can move forward or backward for the driver’s comfort. That’s where you’ll find a small, new gear shifter with similar haptic drive mode controls nearby. Cubical patterns, a large panoramic sunroof and blue leather upholstery add a modern, upscale feel.

Connectivity and technology are at the heart of the Ariya with Amazon Alexa, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, a colour heads-up display, and over-the-air updates – the first on a Nissan. Another first is ProPILOT Park, which can steer, accelerate, brake and shift gears to guide the vehicle into a parking spot. Active safety features such as Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, High Beam Assist and Rear Automatic Braking are standard.

An adjustable centre console on the Ariya is motorized so it can move forward or backward for the driver’s comfort.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

While EVs may be Nissan’s focus moving forward, it isn’t giving up on the internal combustion engine (ICE) yet. Across from the Ariya sits Nissan’s iconic sports car – the new 2023 Z. “The industry is not 90 per cent EV and 10 per cent ICE – it’s the other way. There is a market for ICE vehicles,” said Milett.

This seventh-generation Z, which incidentally drops its numerical prefix in North America, has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 with 400 horsepower – up 68 horsepower from the last version, and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission or a new nine-speed automatic transmission is available. The rear-wheel drive sports coupe is a stunner, with a beautiful combination of modern touches like a new Ikazuchi Yellow colour and retro design cues that date back to the original 1970 Datsun 240Z.

Prices for the Nissan Z haven’t been announced yet; they’ll be released closer to its summer launch. The Ariya will arrive in dealerships this fall.

This seventh-generation Nissan Z has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 with 400 horsepower.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

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