You’ve probably read about it. So much have been reported about this new entry in the Malaysian mid-size MPV category. I’m intrigued about what this vehicle can offer, especially since it will be the direct competitor to Malaysia’s still-under-development first national multi-purpose vehicle.
The exterior styling is not ground breaking nor avantgarde but definitely practical. I’m sure the designers had a difficult time exercising their creativity as I can sense a lot of emphasis for manufacturability, workability and cost reduction in place as a design constraint. At least proportionately it isn’t as oddly styled as the Innova or Avanza. Good wheel to body relationships makes all the difference in how the car sits on the road.
Like most MPV’s the interior should be the main centre of attraction. Especially since most buyers in this segment are family oriented and practical people. Space utilization and flexibility is key in people mover design and this is where the Livina meets expectations. The high rear roofline gives good headroom, even for my height. Head roll and pitch is not constrained negatively when seated upright. Having said that I do feel the bench type 3rd row is a turn off. Also, the pull strap to system for the interior is largely overdone i.e. too long at places and positioned at odd angles at others. Call me old skool but I still feel traditional plastic levers are best for quality and image.
The 2nd row has an almost exact seat folding mechanism as the Toyota Wish (tumble & fold) but one will notice an obvious gap between the 2nd and 3rd rows. I feel this is due to the light colour interior as well as the use of normal headrests; unlike pillow type as in the Mazda5 and Wish. With the 3rd row up there’s just enough space at the rear for one mid-size luggage and an overnight bag (although this is typical for this segment). However, lift the rear floorboard cover and you’ll see the use of el-cheapo corrugated board as the floor lining. This board also covers the spare tyre. Now, I don’t know about you but I think this is cost reduction extreme. Imagine how it’ll look after a few visit to the supermarket or, god forbid, the wet market! Utter mess I say!
The front row is typical and conventional. Nothing outstanding catches your senses and grabs you. From a technical point of view I have to applaude them for being able to matt down the plastics and achieving the soft look while still using hard polypropylene. There’s no 3rd row airconditioning so the engineers have included a central blower to channel cool air to the rear. I use the term ‘central blower’ and not ‘booster’ because I don’t think it can deliver its promise. This vent is located just above the small central airconditioning louvres, and it is a tiny one. The one on the Wish is at least 3 times larger and that features a dedicated booster.
The overall interior is refreshing primarily due to two main things:- a light beige interior, and plentiful of carry over items from the Nissan family inventory. Look at the inner door release, steering column + control stalks, and switches. Familiar parts from the Latio and Micra abound. The light coloured interior will not please many people (historically Malaysians are more in favour of neutral greys or blacks) but I’m sure the Nissan brand will play its role to influence potential buyers. I believe in our market practicality still rules the day in the end.
There are 3 variants available; the cheapest being a 1.6 Manual (RM82,450.78 OTR/Metallic), followed by a 1.6 Auto (RM86,971.68 OTR/Metallic) and the high line is a 1.8 Auto (RM95,684.70 OTR/Metallic). All engines are DOHC 16 valve 4-cylinder in-line for fuel efficiency but only the 1.8 features continuous valve timing (CVTC).
In summary, a great effort by Nissan to bite into the lucrative MPV segment currently monopolized by the likes of the Toyota Avanza, Innova, Wish, Honda Stream and Mazda5 aka Premacy. A very safe approach to design with minimal eye candy to wow the consumers. Having said that, the spacious interior and good build coupled with the Nissan brand will surely pull in sales, albeit not by the droves.