Established Player or Talented Rookie?
When it was originally introduced as a taller, more versatile version of the popular Model 3 sedan, the Tesla Model Y immediately shot to the top of the electric-vehicle sales charts. Americans love crossovers and SUVs, and the Model Y’s compact footprint, high seating position, roomy interior, and excellent performance made it an almost irresistible choice for drivers looking for an electric family car.
But the Model Y is no longer the only player in the electric crossover game. Many brands, luxury and mainstream alike, have introduced new crossover electric cars. Ford has been the most successful at challenging Tesla’s dominance with the Mustang Mach-E, but other brands have been active too. One of the most intriguing new entrants to the class is the Nissan Ariya, a capable and attractive new crossover from the makers of the Leaf.
How does the Ariya compare to the best-selling Tesla Model Y? Read on to find out.
Design and Interior
The Model Y’s high-tech face has become a familiar sight on our roads, but it’s still a good-looking and distinctive vehicle. With no “face” and very little jewelry on its sides and rear, the Tesla looks almost like a crisp smart phone on the road. Its compact wheelbase and large wheels make for an aggressive, sporty stance, and its teardrop-shaped side window tapers aggressively toward the rear. Even though it’s tall, the Model Y looks fast – and quality has improved significantly since the first models were introduced a couple of years ago.
While it’s also smooth and aerodynamic, the Ariya looks distinctively different. It leans heavily into Japanese design themes, and the exterior features a new Nissan face with a tinted plastic shield that hides its various sensors and cameras. The Ariya’s aerodynamic roofline doesn’t taper quite as much as the Tesla’s, which means it sacrifices less interior space. Our favorite part is the availability of two-tone paint options, which give the Ariya a very upscale look. The copper and gold finishes are particularly beautiful.
Inside, the Ariya is just as cool and progressive. The overall look is high-end – beautifully finished, and with matte-finished synthetic wood housing touch-sensitive controls. These look a lot better than the glossy black surfaces used in most electric cars. The Nissan Ariya’s seats are a very comfortable “zero gravity” design, and the center console has a large storage area and can be moved back and forth with the touch of a switch.
Both the Tesla and Nissan are roomy and versatile inside. Thanks to its spartan dashboard, which has just one touch screen housing all of the controls, the Tesla feels more spacious and roomy up front. The windshield sweeps up and over the front seats into a panoramic glass roof, providing lots of natural light. In the rear, though, the Nissan turns the tables, with larger side windows, easier ingress and egress, and better seats.
The two vehicles’ cargo areas are about the same size, but they’re different shapes. The Tesla’s sloping roof compromises how high you can pile cargo, but it has a much bigger opening, making it easier to load. Ultimately, the Ariya is the more versatile of the two, with a boxier rear end and back seats that fold to create a flat floor.
Driving and Charging
The Tesla Model Y and Nissan Ariya share the best characteristics of all electric cars: instantaneous torque; smooth, seamless acceleration; and silent running along with zero emissions.
However, the Tesla definitely the sportier and faster of the two. It will beam to 60 mph from a standstill in less than five seconds, and it has wider, fatter tires that create more cornering grip. On the downside, the ride quality is quite stiff, making it less comfortable than the smooth-riding, luxurious Ariya. Model Y drivers will have to get used to “one-pedal driving” – its regenerative braking is very aggressive, while you can adjust the Ariya’s sensitivity to your tastes.
The Ariya is not quite as fast as the Tesla. In 238-hp front-wheel drive form it takes 7.5 seconds to get to 60 mph, although the 389-hp all-wheel drive versions will hit the same speed as the Model Y. But it has impressive 50:50 weight distribution – a hallmark of purist sports cars. The perfect front-rear balance and a low center of gravity make the Ariya very stable in corners as well as smooth-riding.
Equipped with a standard 82-kwh battery, the Tesla Model Y Long Range (there is no longer an entry-level version) offers an EPA-estimated range of 318 miles, which eclipses the 304 miles of EPA-estimated range from the front-wheel drive Ariya models. All-wheel drive Ariyas have 270 miles of EPA-estimated range.
Neither the Tesla nor the Nissan are standouts when it comes to charging. The Ariya’s DC charging is not great, with a maximum 130-kW fast-charge ability, meaning a 10-80% charge in about 35 minutes. The Model Y can charge at a faster 150 kW – about average for modern EVs, but far off the peak charging speeds of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. That said, most Level 3 chargers around the country deliver electricity at 150 kW or less, including most of Tesla’s Superchargers.
The Supercharger network is one of the Model Y’s advantages if you do a lot of long drives. There’s nothing as convenient on the market yet – you simply plug a Tesla into a Supercharger and it starts charging. The Ariya access almost any charging network, but doing so often requires downloading an app or creating an account. Most owners of both of these electric cars will be able to charge at home, however, and they have more than enough range for daily duties.
Costs and Conclusions
Tesla has streamlined its offering of Model Ys to just a long-range and performance model. Now, the cheapest Y you can get is the Long Range, starting at an MSRP of $65,990 before incentives with the 82-kwh battery. 20-inch wheels are standard, and Tesla’s technology suite is impressive, with a battery of sensors and cameras to help keep you safe and provide some semi-autonomous driving functions on the highway.
The most comparable Ariya to the Model Y is therefore the Ariya Platinum+, priced at a $60,190 MSRP before incentives. It’s the only Airya that comes standard with Nissan’s E-Force all-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is standard on the Model Y). The highest-performing model in the Ariya lineup, it’ll dash to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, keeping up with the Tesla, though its EPA-estimated range is significantly less. We love its luxurious interior, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and superb stereo system.
Is the Model Y’s extra 50 or so miles of extra EPA-rated range worth the $6,000 or so price premium? That depends on how much you’ll be using your electric cars on long trips. The more pertinent question might be whether a less-expensive Ariya might suit your needs just as well as a high-end model.
The Ariya Venture+ FWD, with the larger battery, has a starting MSRP of just $47,190 before incentives, and over 300 miles of range. You give up a couple of luxury features, but you still get an electric crossover built on a brand-new platform with all of the latest features and a gorgeous interior. The Venture+ FWD is our pick of the Ariya lineup at the moment – and it might just be our pick of the electric crossover litter.