New Nissan Grand Livina: Fresh Face Family Fun

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Nissan Grand Livina has fulfilled the local need for practical and economical family motoring for quite a few years without asking for too high a price. Its strong sales numbers over the years clearly attest to its popularity. Available in 1.6 and 1.8-litre model variants, there was good demand for both, with the smaller displacement (and more affordable) model taking a bigger share of the pie at more than 60 per cent.

It has weathered the onslaught of rival models reasonably well but with increasingly more choices in this segment of the market to draw customers, the issue of price comes further to the fore. Malaysian car owners are also attracted to the new ‘faces’ in the MPV market, especially when they come with even more affordable prices.

Against this scenario, introducing a ‘fresh’ face for the Grand Livina couldn’t have come at a better time. It had to spruce up to revive flagging interest or lose further ground to highly competitive rivals. The visual changes may not be dramatic but enough had been done to the nose with a more prominent grille in chrome, flanked by new swooping headlights and underlined by a lower apron with foglights (1.8-litre model only).

The door mirrors now come with LED indicators (again the bigger displacement model only) and new side body mouldings. At the rear, the light clusters are arranged in a horizontal fashion and the bumper comes with reflectors. Summing up the change are the new design 15-inch V-spoke alloy wheels that are shod with 185/65 R15 tyres.

Adding to its novel status is the i-Key keyless entry and keyless start facility. The open and lock feature is done via a button on the door handle while the keyless start is not the push button type but a turn-knob facility, much like using a key except that you turn the knob instead. All this is done with the key fob on you and it’s a feature available in the Grand Livina 1.8 only to shore up its premium status.

What is common to both models are the two-tone interior with new fabric materials for the seats, a new design steering wheel with audio and controls for the multi-information display (MID with fine vision meter) on the centre dash area. When reverse is engaged, you get a rear view on the large MID but the audio goes off. After reversing is done and you slot the gearshift to N(eutral) or D(rive), the audio function returns. This MID is part of the optional Navi package.

We had the Grand Livina 1.8, which only comes with a four-speed automatic (the 1.6-litre model is available with a four-speed automatic and five-speed manual) for a weekend. The keyless entry and exit put the latest Grand Livina on par with the times as it is such a convenient feature. Turning the knob to start and kill the engine wasn’t too bad either.

With three rows of seating, it fulfils its MPV role nicely accommodating seven adults for urban drives. For weekend holiday jaunts, the third row will have to be folded down to provide space for luggage. This flexibility is also extended to the second row seats, the split-folding back supports of which can be laid down to extend space for sizeable items after a visit to the hypermarket or Ikea.

It is roomy enough for comfortable travel although those who prefer better support for their thighs might have a bone to pick with the slightly short seat squabs. Other than that, there wasn’t much to pick on: there are cupholders for everyone on board and enough pockets to stow small items here and there.

In the engine bay lies the same power unit as before, this being the MR18DE engine, which is mildly oversquare with a big bore (84.0mm), short stroke (81.1mm) configuration. It delivers 93kW (126PS) at 5200rpm and 174Nm at 4800rpm, enough to take off fairly quick from the lights, even with a fair load on board.

Basically, it has a nice and easy flow of pace to meet most family motoring needs. On the highway, the engine turns easily at about 2700rpm to cruise at the legal speed of 110km/h, which should return good fuel mileage. If you want to push your luck, it will cruise just as effortlessly around 140-150km/h with the slightly higher wind noise being easily tolerable.

For its 4485mm-long body (its wheelbase is quite good at 2600mm), the Grand Livina is not a heavy MPV, weighing at 1280kg kerb for the 1.8-litre model. Its body aerodynamics is smoothly flowing enough to provide a stable and quiet ride on the highway at a quick trot.

Independently sprung all round with a MacPherson strut front suspension in front and a torsion bar rear with springs and dampers, its ride is decent. Impacts over bumps are reasonably well absorbed, even over a bad stretch, although the clunkiness of the suspension did come through on really hard thuds.

The electric power steering (EPS) was a bit light at some point but the directional feel was generally good, especially when taking to winding roads. There was a bit more roll than expected and thicker anti-roll bars may counter that. Then again, the Grand Livina is meant more for family motoring than for fast and exuberant driving through corners. It will hold its own when driven sensibly.

Safety-wise, the Grand Livina is adequately provided for with ABS, EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution) and Brake Assist, as well as two front airbags and pre-tensioned seatbelts with load limiters. Its zone body construction also helps to divert crash impact from vulnerable areas in accidents.

As the top model, the Grand Livina 1.8 automatic commands a premium price of RM96,068.00 on the road without insurance, which is slightly higher than before. The Grand Livina 1.6 is available at RM84,406.00 for the manual model and RM87,328.00 for the automatic: A fair price to pay for some ‘fresh face’ family motoring fun. And there are three new colours to consider in Graphite Blue, Diamond Black and Bronze Gold.

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