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Nissan is busily transforming the electric Ariya concept unveiled at the 2019 Tokyo Auto Show into a production model tentatively due out in 2021. It will be positioned as a bigger, more spacious alternative to the Leaf, and it will receive a dose of performance the cheerful hatchback has never benefited from.

The Ariya is an evolution of the 2017 IMX concept, and it's closer to production than it might seem. The sheetmetal hides the e-4ORCE twin-motor powertrain we recently drove, which promises to deliver acceleration and grip in spades. The Japanese firm hasn't released final horsepower and torque figures, but it hinted the Ariya will be quick.

"Electric motors have changed the world, because this idea of a pure 0-60 is less a differentiator. How you use it, how you deliver it, what it means, and, for the supercars, how many laps you can do, that matters. Naturally, it's exciting. Even the real version of the Ariya is fast — faster or as fast as a Z car," revealed Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan's senior vice president of global design, in an interview with Green Car Reports.

The 370Z takes 5.1 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop, so Albaisa's comments suggest the Ariya could slip under the five-second mark. He qualified the crossover's handling as "extremely good" thanks in part to the battery pack mounted under the passenger compartment, a configuration which lowers the center of gravity.

Hitting freeway speeds in under five seconds is less important than driving range, but the Ariya should deliver in that department, too. Nissan previously floated a 300-mile range, and Albaisa affirmed that's still the development team's goal. Whether it will achieve that number on the WLTP testing cycle or the EPA's isn't known.

We expect the production version of the Nissan Ariya — a name that might not end up on the tailgate — will reach showrooms in 2021. The company's American dealers got a preview of it in late 2019, so the project has reached an advanced stage. When it lands, it will compete in the same burgeoning segment as the Tesla Model Y, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Fisker Ocean, and the Audi Q4 E-Tron. Pricing will start in the vicinity of $40,000.

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