DRIVEN: 2014 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid – better value?


Let’s say you’re an up-and-coming sales executive, and you just got word that there’s yet another bun in the oven. You’ve bought the clothes, refurnished the smallest room in the house and sold off your nameless D-segment sedan for a decent coin to a trader named Sam. With money in hand, you’re ready to ply the new route as a family person with a comfortable, dependable MPV.

Trouble was, until recently there was a rather large chasm between the basic, utilitarian sub-RM100k people movers (Toyota Avanza and Innova, Nissan Grand Livina) and the posher European alternatives (Peugeot 5008, Volkswagen Cross Touran) costing upwards of RM150k – just a little too rich for both your blood and your wallet.

The respite came last year in the form of the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid – with duty exemptions afforded by its CBU hybrid vehicle status, it snuck in at just under the RM150k mark (since then, its biggest rival, the Mazda Biante, slotted into the market at around the same price). With the tax breaks set to end at the conclusion of 2013, however, many people wondered if its space in the marketplace would last.

Well, it has, and then some. Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) bit the bullet and assembled the now-facelifted S-Hybrid locally at its plant in Serendah to take advantage of the incentives the government continues to dole out for CKD hybrids. As such, the Serena is now even more affordable than before, but has the lower pricetag spoiled the car in any way? We drive it to Melaka and back to find out.


Revisions brought on by the facelift are almost entirely limited to the Serena’s exterior. At the front, there are new LED headlights, split by a chrome accent that drops to frame the revised slatted chrome grille. The look is fairly reminiscent to that of the also recently-facelifted Elgrand, although it definitely is less brash and in-your-face without the latter’s full-length grille. The front bumper has also been reprofiled with new fog light surrounds.

Along the sides, the lower rocker panels now feature a kinked character line, while the rear has been graced with new S-shaped internal graphics for the LED tail lights. The 16-inch wheels have a new diamond-cut multi-spoke design. Overall, the improvements bring a more premium aura, but there’s no escaping the fact that the Serena is still pretty much a box-on-wheels.

One major improvement is found underneath the car, under where the front passenger sits. There, you will find something the pre-facelifted model never had – a spare wheel. Nissan says that it added a fifth tyre in response to customer feedback, and it would certainly bring far higher levels of reassurance and peace of mind to owners compared to the tyre repair kit of old.

Built on Nissan’s C platform, the bones of the last-generation G11 Sylphy (the latest B17 Sylphy has been moved to a stretched version of the Almera‘s V platform), the Serena is one of the longer cars in the segment. At 4,770 mm long, it’s 55 mm longer than the Biante, 240 mm longer than the 5008 and a massive 364 mm longer than the Cross Touran. It is also the tallest by some margin at 1,865 mm.

Nowhere is the impressive dimensions and boxy looks more evident than in the cabin, where the Serena offers acres of head- and legroom – even the third row, usually as spacious as a pet cage on smaller MPVs like these, is plenty serviceable on most journeys. The boot is also a fair bit more capacious than you’ll find on the European cars with all the seats up.

However, at 1,735 mm, it is the narrowest in the segment, compared to the Biante (1,770 mm), Cross Touran (1,799 mm) and 5008 (1,837 mm). This does mean that centre passengers on the second and third row will find it rather cramped in terms of elbowroom, but it at least makes manoeuvring the Serena through confined city streets much more manageable than its rivals.


Nissan advertises that the Serena’s seats can be configured in 14 different ways, including being able to recline the backrests of either the first two or last two rows of seats flat. You can also fold the third-row seats and tip them up against the van’s bodysides to create a tall, flat load bay with a low sill.

The sliding central second-row seat is particularly ingenious – folding it flat turns it into an armrest with a lidded cubby hole and a cupholder that can also be slid forward to be used by the driver and front passenger. Doing the latter will also enable the left second-row seat to be slid inboard, greatly easing entry and egress for those in the third row. That seat can then be slid forwards, allowing, for example, a child to be closer to their parents in front.

Coupled to that, there are a myriad of cubby holes (including two glove boxes) and cupholders scattered around the cabin, as well as two flip-up picnic tables behind the front seats. Brightening up the slightly dour interior design is a natty, almost sci-fi digital instrument cluster, which sits above the steering wheel (à la Peugeot 208) and features an Eco-drive Navigator that guides drivers to achieve better fuel economy.

Interior fit and finish is best described as robust – there are hard plastics pretty much everywhere you look, but everything feels solidly screwed together and will no doubt withstand the test of time and everything children will be able to throw at it.

Coming in at RM138,800 for the regular Highway Star model, the new Serena comes with a lot of kit for the money, retaining virtually the all the standard equipment of the old CBU model. There’s twin power-sliding doors, i-key keyless entry and push-button start, cruise control and leather-wrapped steering wheel. About the only thing that had been changed was the digital rear climate control unit on the outgoing car, which has been replaced by a more basic slider-type item, but retains automatic blower control.

As is typical on recent Nissan models sold here, the Serena is also available with a host of optional accessories at extra cost. These include the familiar TCAT Multimedia Navigator with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, DVD playback, Bluetooth and a reverse camera (RM3,300), a 10.1-inch roof-mounted LCD panel (RM700), combination leather seats (RM2,800), a rear spoiler (RM800), door visors (RM400) and a choice between V-Kool Elite Security (RM4,600), Armorcoat (RM2,950) and Solar Gard (RM1,500) tints.

If you like the sound of all of these items, you would be better served by opting for the Premium Highway Star trim instead, which nets you all the above (including the most expensive V-Kool Elite Security tint) for what the previous fully-imported Serena S-Hybrid Highway Star was retailing for – RM149,500, a RM1,900 saving over buying the accessories separately.

Given that the Serena is advertised as an eight-seater, it’s perhaps a shame that it is only offered here with two airbags. Families with lots of smaller children may also be disappointed to hear that Isofix child seat anchors are only fitted on the two outer middle row seats, down on some of the Serena’s European rivals, many of which can fit three kids abreast safely secured (and sometimes even another two in the third row). However, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) is at least fitted at standard.

Under the bonnet resides the same MR20DD 2.0 litre direct-injected twin-CVTC four-cylinder mill as before, mated to an Xtronic CVT equipped with Adaptive Shift Control (ASC), which detects corners or hills through the vehicle’s lateral acceleration sensor, matching the ratios to suit different driving conditions. Maximum power is rated at 147 PS at 5,600 rpm, while torque output is a decent 210 Nm at 4,400 rpm.

Supplementing the engine is an upgraded version of the regular Serena’s ECO motor, itself a beefed-up starter that controls the car’s Idling Stop function and serves as an alternator during deceleration. On the S-Hybrid, the motor’s capacity has been increased from 1.0 kW/150 A to 1.8 kW/200 A, enabling it to provide a “torque assist” function – a 50 Nm boost for up to one second when moving away from a standstill.

A separate 27 Ah battery that powers the car’s accessories like the radio, wipers and lights has also been added alongside the regular 64 Ah cell that energises the motor. With the engine no longer having to run the electrics and move the car at the same time, the S-Hybrid manages a respectable fuel economy figure of 15.2 km per litre on the Japanese JC08 driving cycle, which is said to be best-in-class.

The first thing you notice when you set off is how smooth and quiet the engine at anything other than full load. In regular driving, all you will ever hear is a low, monotone hum that steps up or down as you modulate the throttle (which sort of reminded me of the engine sound of an eight-bit racing game), accompanied by a distinct lack of vibration. This is matched neatly to the buttery CVT, which helps the Serena whisk itself off with nary a jerk or forceful pull.


There’s little in the way of urgency when stoked, however – the leisurely responses from the transmission mean that the engine can struggle to cart along all 1,660 kg at a reasonable pace, and makes itself heard quite a bit when pushed. Once it gets going, however, the S-Hybrid does manage to pile on speed rather effectively, surging past the national limit on highways with ease.

Four-up (including Izwaashura Sadali of our sister site, we managed an average fuel consumption figure just shy of 12 km per litre, but that included large stints of fast and spirited driving. We suspect that a much lighter-footed driver can get fairly close to Nissan’s claimed figure. The start-stop system is one of the better ones out there both in terms of speed (0.3 seconds) and smoothness of startup.

With such a tall, narrow body, the Serena wasn’t bound to excel at roadholding, and our drive confirmed it as such. A hurried approach will invariably result in a lot of body roll, while the steering is neither particularly quick, precise or feelsome, making it fairly difficult to accurately place the car through a corner. There’s also a shortage of grip from the low rolling resistance Bridgestone Ecopia tyres – you’ll definitely want to take things a bit easier.


But of course, this being a large, efficient people carrier, that’s exactly what most Serena drivers will do. Besides, driving this Serena down a winding road at considerable speed will quicker get your toddler completely carsick than provide you with any sort of satisfying driving experience.

Instead, drop back and enjoy the ride, because it’s here where the Serena regains some sense of dignity. It glides over bumps and surface imperfections with aplomb, transferring very little of the harshness of our roads to the occupants. It’s not perfect, however – sometimes the suspension can feel a bit too soft, with larger undulations causing the ride to be a little bouncy.

Being slab-sided in appearance, it’s not surprising to find that the Serena can feel a little wayward at speed and vulnerable to crosswinds, as well as creating some wind noise around the A-pillars, but it’s not too bad at a cruise, with engine and tyre noise kept to a minimum. The seats offer excellent support – if not quite as comfortable as the Teana‘s zero gravity-inspired seats on longer journeys – but little in the way of bolstering.


Seeing as the facelift has changed very little of the Serena S-Hybrid, this practical and comfortable MPV is very much the same machine as before, and buyers will have to temper their expectations to suit. Those seeking a stylish, funky people mover with a modicum of verve and driver appeal will want to look elsewhere, because in these areas the Serena is bound to fall short.

If, however, you’re looking for something more serene (pun unintended), something that will carry you and another seven people across journeys long or short in the least intrusive way possible, then this car will warrant a closer look, what with its smooth and refined way of going about its business.

The outgoing S-Hybrid has been a minor sales success for Nissan over here, and on this instance we can really see why. Coupled to the fact that this new car’s sticker price is even more attractive than before, all while keeping the high levels of kit offered the last time around, and it is clear that the new Nissan Serena S-Hybrid will continue to appeal to many more households throughout the country.

Looking to sell your car? Sell it with Carro.

Certified Pre-Owned - 1 Year Warranty

10% discount when you renew your car insurance

Compare prices between different insurer providers and use the promo code 'PAULTAN10' when you make your payment to save the most on your car insurance renewal compared to other competing services.

Car Insurance

Jonathan Lee

After trying to pursue a career in product design, Jonathan Lee decided to make the sideways jump into the world of car journalism instead. He therefore appreciates the aesthetic appeal of a car, but for him, the driving experience is still second to none.



  • Jimmy on Nov 28, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Estima is a bit ‘milo milo anda jadi ee, sihat dan kuat’, this is gonna be worse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 43
    • MINUM milo la bro, not MILO MILO!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2
    • Nissan Junk on Nov 29, 2014 at 10:40 am

      very POOR build quality

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 18
      • toyota is shit on Nov 30, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        Better Than ToyoJunk

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
        • Same L0rrr on Dec 01, 2014 at 1:53 pm

          Not happy enough with Toyota? you can go for Lexus, Infiniti, Acura… Sushi cars will never let you down.

          But you claim Toyota is junk because you can’t afford one and still driving your Proton. Go ask Proton why foreign cars in Malaysia are so expensive!!

          With sushi car, you get build quality and RV. For this Serena S, you get fuel saving also.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 14
  • Here’s my take.

    It was slow to pick up. I am not sure this is the CVT or an underpower problem. But this meant pulling out of junction with incoming traffic was a bit.. well a bit inadequate. This becomes a bit of concern to me especially no curtain/side airbag. Another thing is, the width is really quite sempit.

    What i really really like is the seat configurations tho.

    The price tho, i felt could be cheaper. Without all the usual duties, why its at 138/150k. I think TC can price it cheaper to get better market share. The CBU unit used to get all the entertainment things thrown in FOC as well with leather seats. But i dont see that many on the road til today. When the hybrid tax-incentive was taken off all the toyota prius/honda insight and other hybrid models are sold out within weeks. The serena hybrid on the other hand had stocks left. In terms of hybrid cars this was one of the slowest selling model in malaysia.

    How was this a success?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 8
    • benck on Nov 30, 2014 at 12:23 am

      This is a tall and heavy Mpv,I repeat Mpv,not a sedan car. Not much of people favor to drive such big mpv as their daily car,that’s one of the reason small hybrids selling fast. You can go for abit more powerful one by add on alot more. Every different car suite different people,I think this serena is target for mid level of big family. Hope this clear your doubts.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1
  • Obviously (Member) on Nov 29, 2014 at 4:22 am

    I really liked that intro write-up, Jon Lee!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
  • isuzuki on Nov 29, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Came back from osaka/kyoto few days ago.

    Saw quite some Serena, new and old on the road..esp in Kyoto, as compared to others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • kangkung rebus on Dec 01, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Serena in Japan is top selling MPV.
      Coz it’s price cheap.
      The hybrid variant even could sell cheaper than the petrol.
      The serena sempit, because it can gain road tax incentive with this size.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
      • Don’t think so. The car has to be narrower than 1.7m to get tax incentive, but Serena is 1735mm wide

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • oopslala on Nov 29, 2014 at 8:06 am

    the irony is the article about the recall on cbu serenas right before this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2
  • bongeks on Nov 29, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Why you did not mentioned alternative like the latest Ssangyong Stavic? Bigger, cheaper, powerful and less tech same as this Serena except for its electric motor and stability control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5
  • sudonano (Member) on Nov 29, 2014 at 11:45 am

    The Serena S Hybrid make sense. For the price, you get the Japanese ingenious seating configurations (something the Conti ones don’t get), decent practicality, sliding doors and a very airy cabin. Only disappointment is the lack of side and curtain airbags (considering kids are going to be in the back seat), but it is much better than the pick up truck derived Innova (which now comes with a horrid grille at no extra cost yay) since this at least has VDC.

    The biggest trump card the Serena has is the looks, it looks pretty expensive, before you see the price tag. And with the sub 140k price point, it is not bad….

    Though I hope Nissan considers introducing a variant with curtain airbags. Till then I’d probably recommend the 5008, only thing, if it is a Peugeot, you are better off servicing at a Peugeot dealer not owned by Naza, since those are significantly better. However, I must say, Peugeots are actually pretty reliable, as long as they are properly maintained, but hey, that applies for all cars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 8
    • kangkung rebus on Dec 01, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Under current Gomen scheme
      Serena its the best value auto sliding door MPV.

      However, Tanchong should offer better price.
      Not 150K
      CBU selling 150K
      CKD also 150K?

      CBU got incentive,
      CKD also got tax incentive what..
      Tanchong, you are too much.
      You know that CBU estima, Alphard brand new is 200-300k.
      So selling this serena in such high price.

      For Pug, its good on spec,
      but reliability its not its forte.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
      • jolinn on Dec 01, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        Er… actually they are sold at the ‘same’ price if you consider the discounts and if free gifts is being put into the equation, it’s more expensive now.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • Sam Loo (ori1) on Nov 29, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Anything better than kimchis

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 13
  • ben yap on Nov 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    better than perodua alza and proton exora.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 28
  • Nissan Serena S-Hybrid recalled for faulty fuel pressure sensor – CBU units in Malaysia affected

    Read more:

    CKD model not affected ehh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
    • RicoT on Nov 30, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Probably the problem is not affecting the newly bought units yet as the problem is caused by vibration through driving over a long period of time. Hence, newer CKD models could afford to wait till first 1000km or 5000km service to tighten the fuel pressure sensor.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • transformer on Nov 29, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    My first impression of this MPV last year when i send my car to Nissan Service, is looks too tall and not width enough spells trouble in sudden crash avoiding situations.

    Even when my G.Livina drives, its track width felt narrower than a Wira(which is way lower).

    Nissan should make next G.Livina & Serena wider & shorter than current. Learn it from Honda Oddysey(2nd & 3rd Gen).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0
  • seancorr (Member) on Nov 29, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    My only gripe with this MPV is the lack of airbags as pointed out by the writer. It’s a family mover so safety has to be on top of other creature comforts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0
  • yet another child in the oven? aiyoyo, you are getting your metaphors all mixed up. bun in the oven, my friend. another child in the oven suggests a serial cannibal who feeds on his own. tsk tsk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
  • submarine on Nov 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    If TC has done the same to serena as it did to the new teana and sylphy – standardising 6 airbags across the variants – then it could be a seller. A buyer looking for an MPV will obviously use it to fetch loved ones, to me the lack of side and curtain airbags is the deal stopper.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
    • Nissan see Toyota Noah not around yet…! If Noah or NAV1 for that matter do arrives, TCM will straight away put 6 airbags on the premium version. By the way, do uncles who form the bulk of the buyers really drawn on the current premium package that includes a sport spoiler? What?… Noah not coming?!!…then TCM will rule the bolehland with 4 less airbags :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
    • kangkung rebus on Dec 01, 2014 at 11:27 am

      fully agree…
      CKD selling on 150k
      it should equip with 6 bags at least.
      I think even in Japan, this car maybe only 2 bags.
      Coz serena is economy MPV..

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • kangkung rebus on Dec 01, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I think serena only rival is Mazda biante.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • krishna on Dec 01, 2014 at 11:36 am

    The shape doesnt appeal to me. Tall and thin. Cant help but wonder if it will fall on its sides when taking a sharp corner. Wider wheel base would have made it look better to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  • Rally driver on Dec 01, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Saw this car next to Toyota FJ Cruiser and I realized this car was very tall…….high centre of gravity gives a connering so this car not intended for Spirited driver…….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Biante on Dec 06, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Biante no duty exemption can sell rm 150k
    Serena with duty exemption rm150k
    Biante in Japan rm80k
    Serena also around rm80k
    Where is the duty exemption????

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  • Biante lov on Dec 06, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    nissan and biante price almost the same in Japan 80k
    Nissan duty exemption
    Biante no duty exemption
    Both sell 150k

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • TheRealMalaysian on Dec 10, 2014 at 9:33 am

    At least It’s cheaper and nicer than VW Cross Touran.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
  • Matthew on Dec 10, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Well.. It’s just your personal preference.
    For me, I like the VW Cross Touran because it has nicer exterior and interior look.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
  • alan ong on Dec 25, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Interior of serena is comfortable
    exterior is japan car look. Acceptable.
    biante seat is small.
    exterior depend on your eye.

    Very satisfied on serena. Good family and personal car.
    Drive so fast for what? But it can drive quite fast.
    Cornering and handling is acceptable.

    No point to compare this car with 200k car?
    but drive a new mpv better than a recon mpv.

    Hey. U will not consider recon estima again after your family ride on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 0
  • blaster88 on Dec 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Family mover only 2 airbags??? Life is cheap in Malaysia or what??? More so its an MPV hence it a people mover plus MPVs usually more prone to crashes and when it does its usually mre severe…for obvious reasons.. Why with incentives still RM138k onwards??? I have surveyed the MPV market, the Biante is the Serena biggest rival but sama sam only 2 airbags!!! The 5008 is actually quite nice and well equipped (eg. 6 airbags), that is if you can tolerate the crap Naza aftersales service….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4
  • ricky chan on Feb 28, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    *hi folks. I’m deciding between a Nissan Serena & Toyota Noah, looks & interior materials aside, mechanically which in your opinion is more reliable of the 2? as I’m worried that Nissan being a sister Co. to Renault, will be sharing one part too many between them ie. I don’t rank french cars too highly.

    many thx

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • Mohd Hilmi Hasan on Jun 14, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Is hybrid battery a concern? I read toyota/honda hybrid batt costs around rm8-10k and it should be replaced every 8-10 yrs. How abt serena’s? One salesman told me serena’s hybrid batt cost only rm800. Is ot true? How come nissan batt costs only 10% of toyota/honda batt? Can anyone share the info? Tq

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • Serena using micro-hybrid technology, which will do battery charging when accelerator is released and discharging only at idling condition. The battery will only be used to power fans, lighting and head unit when engine stops while idling.

      RM 800 is true as their battery is much smaller than Toyota’s full hybrid and smaller than Honda’s mild hybrid.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • OptimusPrime2015 on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    The Serena battery is RM1700. 1st year 100% replacement, 2nd year 50:50 battery replacement cost sharing and 3rd year 30:70 cost sharing with TCM bearing 30% battery cost

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • budlee on Feb 25, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Our company just changed our old Serena into this. Quite comfy, the HUGE windows allow you to see everything. The start stop is ok, but the aircond just blow regular air in my experience

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Fadzil on Nov 14, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    How much is the battery again??? Any comment from owner please..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Cocoi on Jan 11, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I am owner serena hybrid. Bought nov 2014 facelift design. Compare with my friend using others MPV (alza, exora, innova, wish, biante, starex)
    As my experience and also review from my friends, serena more better and satisfaction for buying this mpv.
    when you drive or being passenger, you feel more comfortable and satisfy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
  • Inoue on Jul 09, 2019 at 1:22 am

    Where is the full specification of the car???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Add a comment