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Designing the Nissan ARIYA from the ground up

How Nissan embraced its Japanese DNA when creating the pure-electric crossover for 2022

Nissan Ariya

Nissan has strength and longevity in the electric-car market thanks to the LEAF, and the brand will begin the next chapter in its electrification journey with the introduction of the ARIYA this year.

It’s an all-electric crossover created entirely from the ground up. Nissan has dubbed the ARIYA’s sleek look ‘Timeless Japanese Futurism’, representing the firm’s heritage DNA and a fresh perspective on how we’ll be driving in an electrified automotive future.

A close collaboration between Nissan design teams in Europe and Japan, the ARIYA is a blend of industry-leading craftsmanship and innovative technology, both in its electric powertrain and in-cabin driver features.

Chetan Chohan, Design Manager at Nissan Design Europe, helped spearhead the project from Nissan’s London office, working with a team spanning 18 nationalities to bring a wide range of viewpoints on what the ARIYA could be. “My role is to keep the team together, to bundle ideas, to inspire people – from the first brainstorms to initial sketches to the first model,” Chohan explained. “All of us were really excited because we were giving shape to a new generation of electrification.”

Nissan Design Europe’s Alessandro Messale oversaw the sketch creation, from the digital to physical stage of the design process, and worked with the Japanese team to help ensure the final ARIYA design could move through to engineering and manufacturing.

Finding design inspiration

Designer Messale and his team visited Japan in the early days of ARIYA’s development to gain an understanding of the country and form a picture of the car. “We had an opportunity to travel to Japan and really experience the country, the culture and the architecture,” he explained. “It inspired us to create a new living experience for motorists and to create something that has never been done before. It’s not just about styling the car, it’s about creating an experience for drivers and passengers the moment they enter the vehicle.”

Nissan Ariya design sketches

Going from initial sketches to the final ARIYA model meant the design team worked with digital models, clay sculptures and a state-of-the-art five-axis milling machine on the way to creating the first physical model. For Messale, the process relied on close collaboration with the engineering team “because without the feedback from engineering, the design is unrealistic as ultimately, it’s all about ergonomics”. He added: “The production model is really close to what we designed. To see the technologies that we proposed in real life, it is absolutely fantastic.”

Outside, the ARIYA boasts clean, aerodynamic lines and a distinctive closed grille, which is flanked by large LED daytime running lights, making up what Nissan calls a ‘shield’. Housed within the grille are sensors to help the ProPILOT driver-assistance systems. The roofline tapers away towards the rear, and a single arch of chrome helps to give the car an even more dynamic appearance.

Matthew Weaver, Vice President, Nissan Motor Corporation, noted that building a fully-electric vehicle from scratch had a significant impact on the design approach. “[The] aerodynamics for the exterior had to be super-efficient,” he said. “We also had a flat floor and smooth surfaces everywhere meaning we could design something that feels very seamless. We paid a lot of attention to achieving a harmonious look – as if the car just cuts and slices through the air.”

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Colour was also a vital element in bringing the car to life. The ARIYA will come in 10 different colour options – including two, Akatsuki Copper and Aurora Green, developed especially for the car. The latter features a special pigment that switches between green and purple. Copper can also be found inside the car, with a horizontal line running through to lend a sense of width and warmth.

Created with space in mind

For the interior, the designers put an emphasis on maximising space. The battery (ARIYA models come with 63kWh or 87kWh units) is located under the centre of the vehicle, keeping a low centre of gravity and near-equal weight distribution. This means that the flat floor creates more room inside for the driver and passengers.

According to Chohan, the vehicle was made with space in mind as opposed to building around fixed points for components. “For example, we moved the air conditioning unit into what usually would be the engine bay,” he said. “As a result we had all this openness to play with and created something that is more like a living room. We left all the constraints of the traditional car structure and architecture behind. We were able to truly focus on the design and explore how we could capture this new dynamic feeling of driving an electric vehicle.”

The ARIYA is bursting with cutting-edge technology, too. The two curved 12.3-inch display screens are immediately noticeable. These are positioned for maximum visibility, and are shared equally in the front between the driver and front passenger. The screens are simple and easy to interact with; for instance, the passenger can swipe a new navigation instruction across to the driver’s screen or take control of the music playlist.

Nissan Ariya digital model

Haptic touch buttons throughout are in keeping with the clean and straightforward feel. They’re viewed as an extension of the digital infotainment screen display, and are able to control basic features like air conditioning.  Plus, the haptic buttons are seamlessly integrated so they’re only visible when the car is turned on and running.

The ARIYA is, notes Weaver, Nissan’s “most advanced car and it combines two things that we are really good at: electric vehicles and crossovers”. But what of the name itself? Weaver explained that ARIYA derives from an ancient word that has appeared in languages like Sanskrit and Pali. “It means noble, dependable and something to be respected. At Nissan, we always try to find a name that reflects the character.”

Available to reserve online in the UK now with deliveries starting in summer 2022, the ARIYA builds on Nissan’s long-standing success with the LEAF, taking the manufacturer forward into an electrified future. Its creation involved a group of designers and engineers, each bringing unique talent and attention to detail to a highly-anticipated electric vehicle. “We had a vision for how cars should be powered, driven, and integrated into society and ARIYA is the purest representation of this of any of our vehicles,” Weaver said.

Discover more about the Nissan ARIYA and reserve onlineDownload a free guide for more on electrified vehicles.

Richard is editor of DrivingElectric, as well as sister site, and a regular contributor to Auto Express. An electric and hybrid car advocate, he spent more than five years working on the news and reviews desk at Auto Express and has driven almost every new car currently on sale.


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