Seven seater multi-purpose vehicles (MPV) is a popular segment of automobiles in Malaysia, more so the sub-RM100k ones. So much so, Malaysians seem to lap up practically all of the affordable MPV models being dished out to them.
This brings us to Nissan’s answer to Toyota’s low cost Avanza, and to a certain extent the Innova. However, unlike the Avanza, the Latio-based Grand Livina is more akin to the Honda Stream 1.8 and the Toyota Wish 2.0, possibly just a few inches shorter but returns some RM50k in spare change!
Read a test drive review of the Nissan Grand Livina after the jump.
At the time of writing, the Nissan Grand Livina waiting period is an average 4 to 6 months down the road (depending upon variants), with 16,000 customers logged by Edaran Tan Chong Motors (ETCM) since launch in December last year.
So what makes the Grand Livina so desirable and worth waiting for? Ask any buyer out there the answers will invariably be its 7-seating capacity and its sub-100k pricing. The purposeful lower slung, sedan-like or more appropriately station wagon (SW) stance has enhanced its aesthetics appeal over its competitors.
Truth be told, the Livina’s dashboard is also better looking than the Latio’s, and better made (multi grade textured plastics et al) than the other van-type budget MPVs out there. Though not a fan of fake wood inserts in a car’s cabin, Nissan’s non-glossy items are pretty convincing and somehow nicely accentuating the Grand Livina’s 1.8 interior.
In addition, utilising Latio’s monocoque platform did lend some credibility towards better ride pliancy, lower centre of gravity and therefore more responsive handling. Driving the Grand Livina is a light and easy affair, with the Renault-Nissan’s MR18DE a peppy little 4-pot paired with a feathery and responsive throttle. The MPV can breach highway speed limits easily, with cruising a calm and serene affair at triple digits speed.
On full load, the Grand Livina 1.8 did not disappoint with its load hauling ability. For figure heads (no pun intended) who are turned on by numbers, Nissan’s 1798cc block with CVTC churns out 126ps at 5,200rpm and 174Nm of torque at 4,800rpm. Incidentally this is exactly the same engine specs as the Latio 1.8.
Though softly sprung, throwing this Nissan into corners is met with good confidence i.e. progressive roll and understeer as you become more ambitious around bends. Typical of any electric powered steering (EPS) system, the Livina’s rack is light and easy to manouvre, albeit a little vague at times. Braking is never an issue with its disc-drum combo for the front and rear axles respectively.
The leather seats are reasonably comfy for short drive (perhaps to destinations within an hour or so), with the arch for lumbar support a little lacking and the seat bottom a tad too flat. Passengers comfort may be compromised on those long interstate jaunts. There are also no ISOFIX points for child seats at the 2nd row.
The numerous tug strips or synthetic fabric bands meant to flip and tumble of the 2nd and 3rd rows can be quite a pain to use, conveying a flimsy and cheap execution of things. You need to really tug or pull quite hard and they don’t seem too ergonomic and tactile to use. Something tells me that the good old lever and handles would be better.
Absence of 3rd row back rest split folding also hampers flexibility and practicality should one decides to seat 2-3-1 with half of third row space used for some baggages. Having a wheelbase that’s 100mm or so shorter than C-segment platforms based MPVs (Stream and Wish) does have its shortcomings in cabin space for the 2nd and 3rd row passengers. Leg rooms do get a bit tight for the back passengers and fitting three abreast in 2nd row is definitely snug for three full-grown adults. Thankfully the 2nd bench is adjustable fore/aft for more leg space, applicable when the 3rd row isn’t occupied.
Air-conditioning for the interior cabin is adequate, with the 3rd row occupants not feeling stuffy on hot-sunny days provided they are not BMI challenged (plus sized). After all, this place is mostly meant for kids below 12 years of age. The 2nd row mini A/C vents worked reasonably well as an adjunct to the main A/C vents at the centre of the dash up front. Cabin ambience is airy mostly with expansive glass areas and two-tone interiors.
The front doors don’t close with the “industrial-standard” reassuring thud as the rear and this is likely attributed to the thin upper-portion only (half-cut) rubber door seal on the body. On the tester unit a couple of door hinges’ mounting nuts was found to have rusted and this may point to lapse in QC in the interest of cost-cutting for this Indonesian sourced MPV (CKD pack).
Lack of cubby holes aft to the gear shift lever, with only two measly water-bottle holders serves to limit the family utility appeal somewhat. The door pockets are rather slim with no bottle holders mould, not even in front. After having owned a Toyota Innova 2.0G Auto back in 2006, I found the lack of a centre console box cum armrest (just aft and above hand brake lever) disabling, while the glove box was quite hopeless in holding down stuffs like keys and small personal items – they get flung about noisily in that boxy little thing! Then again, perhaps I am more used to the drop-down parcel type of glovebox.
All in all, despite some perceived shortcomings in the Grand Livina 1.8, it is very much a value buy with strong practical points, a trusted brandname, a decent drive and most importantly, relatively affordable. It is with this, that possibly the Grand Livina could have used the tag line “The Ideal MPV”, taking a leaf from the marketing caption of another recently launched midi-SUV.
Story by Dr. Max Long