The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2024 finalist heralds a comeback

Don’t count Nissan out of the picture just yet.

The automaker with one of the first mass-market production electric cars–the Nissan Leaf–seemingly let that Leaf wither on the tree. Turns out the automotive giant was just taking its time planning its future.

The Nissan Ariya arrives as not just a competent, but also desirable, electric crossover SUV. It’s more than worthy of being one of the nine finalists for The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2024.

With the Ariya, Nissan kicked off a new design direction with short overhangs, blunted front and rear ends, and broad design elements such as horizontal lighting that gives this crossover some visual width. There’s no goofy body cladding or attempt to be something it’s not. This is just a good-looking vehicle that makes a rolling design statement wherever it goes, especially on the inside.

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

The design and materials make it feel like a grade above Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti. Open-pore wood contrasts metallic trim and synthetic leather. The 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that zig-zags in the same housing towards the 12.3-inch touchscreen is a design statement all its own that doesn’t feel tacked on or like an afterthought. A low dashboard and steep windshield provide great outward vision, and the haptic climate control buttons can feel foreign, but in practice they are easy to use. This all feels like the Nissan we used to know and love, which is great.

Ariyas can be had with either a 63- or 87-kwh battery pack with either a single-motor front-wheel-drive or dual-motor all-wheel-drive configuration. Front-wheel-drive models are rated at either 214 hp or 238 hp, depending on which battery pack is optioned, but the 221 lb-ft of torque rating carries for both. Dual-motor models up power output to 335 hp and 413 lb-ft with the smaller pack and 389 hp and 442 lb-ft with the larger pack.

Performance ranges from not quick to quick enough, but no Ariya will accelerate passenger’s blood pressure. All models are smooth operators. Dual-motor all-wheel models feature sophisticated programming to vector the power to push and pull the Ariya through and corners. It’s impressive when driven with vigor. 

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

Nissan’s presented a value equation conundrum with the Ariya. Base models cost a reasonable $44,485, but that’s really not the model best suited for most consumers. Those seeking the larger battery pack and a few niceties such as a wireless charging pad and a surround-view camera system will need to shell out $51,485. That’s where the value equation starts getting rocky with this crossover. The loaded e-4orce Platinum+ model costs an all-too-much $61,485, putting it into Infiniti territory without the badge. While the interior might fit the luxury brand, the experience doesn’t, and it starts to fall apart when eyeing the looming, or even existing, competition. 

Part of the problem was timing, which is why we’re considering the new-for-2023 Ariya for our 2024 award. Had the Ariya arrived in 2022 as planned, it might have stood out more due to less electric competition.   

Is Nissan’s preview of the future with an over-achieving interior and sharp design, impressive driving dynamics, but shaky value proposition enough to take home The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2024 award? Our editors will decide the winner here as well as at Motor Authority and Green Car Reports and announce it on Jan. 3, 2024.

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