LATEST UPDATE: Nissan Grand Livina 1.6 and 1.8 launched in Malaysia

Large families that can’t afford the likes of the Wish or Estima. There are so many of them in Malaysia, yet it’s baffling how a certain national car manufacturer has not addressed this need. For awhile, the only way Malaysians could get a cheap people movers was the Naza Ria, but while it was big and spacious people couldn’t really take the fuel consumption of the 2.5 litre V6 quad cam unit under the hood.

Then along came the Toyota Avanza and the Toyota Innova, but these were body-on-frame rear wheel drive designs, which were easy to design and provided good economies of scale because of platform sharing (Toyota IMV: Innova, Hilux, Hiace, Fortuner), however because it is essentially a truck-based design, comfort levels are not as high as they should be.

Enter Nissan’s Livina Geniss project. The Nissan Livina Geniss project spawned two MPVs – the 5-seater Livina and the 7-seater Grand Livina, and the latter will reach our shores sometime in the second half of 2007. It is an economical 7-seater MPV, much like the Toyota Avanza, however it has one key advantage over it. The Nissan Grand Livina is built upon a monocoque car chassis rather than adapted from a truck chassis. This means it is alot more comfortable.

Front wheel drive driving dynamics also mean it is relatively somewhat safer as most people are used to how a car handles when it is front wheel drive rather than rear wheel drive. A car-based chassis also means a lower center of gravity compared to it’s competitors. If you want to see what I mean, just compare the Toyota Innova to the Toyota Wish. Both are 7-seaters of similiar size, yet one is so tall, as if the Innova body was built on top of a generic frame, while the Wish is close to the ground, and looks like the whole body has been designed together with the chassis. The Grand Livina’s chassis is shared with other compact Renault-Nissan vehicles such as the Nissan Note, Renault Clio, and Nissan March.

Two engine options are available, the HR15DE (109hp at 6,000rpm, 148Nm at 4,400rpm) and the MR18DE (128hp at 5,500rpm, 174Nm at 4,800rpm), both now with CVTC Variable Valve Timing. The MR18DE comes with with a 6-speed manual or a 4-speed auto, while the HR15DE’s gearbox offering is similiar except the manual only has 5 cogs.

Based on paper specs alone, the Nissan Grand Livina looks like a much better choice than a Toyota Avanza or a Naza Citra, but let’s see how it really performs once it arrives on Malaysian shores with whatever specs Tan Chong decides to fit it with. For those who always desire a little bit more, you’ll be pleased to know that a bolt-on Impul supercharger for the HR15DE is already available, and will boost power up to 144 horsepower.