Nissan Philippines has just announced that it is stepping into the ring of the MPV segment with a contender that is actually the twin from another brand. Twin with whom, you might ask. Well, its twin is the Mitsubishi Xpander–the pre-facelift one to be precise. Alright, before you call me a fool who knows nothing about cars, for those of you who may not know, there is a Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance (feel free to use Google.) which explains a lot behind the similarity between the new Nissan Livina and the Mitsubishi Xpander. However, does this Nissan Livina have enough separation to justify its existence next to the Xpander?
Up front, you will see the distinct Nissan V-Motion grille sporting LED park lights on each side but on the bottom split of the configuration, you will find multi-reflector halogen headlights and fog lamps, which is a shame considering that all of its rivals are now using LEDs. Below that is a silver faux skid plate. Across the variant line, everything is the same except for this top-of-the-line VL model, which comes with silver accents and chrome side mirror covers. Moving to the side, the Nissan Livina stands on alloy wheels, 15-inches for the lower trim levels and 16-inches for the VE and VL. Lastly, the rear Nissan Livina looks quite streamlined, and though it shares the same taillight housing as the Xpander, Nissan managed to infuse it with their signature boomerang pattern.
Overall, the Nissan Livina manages to carve its own design identity over the Xpander. The V-Motion front end works well with the Xpander’s side and rear fascia, but there are a few weird omissions. The Livina is probably one of the only few cars in existence to come without a rear defogger, which is a hassle especially on those days that your rear windshield gets filled up with moist.
Stepping inside, the Livina features a familiar interior layout, lifted from its sibling, save for some unique design touches such as faux wood trims found on the dashboard and door panels. The steering wheel has tilt and telescopic adjustment, perfect for drivers of all shapes and sizes. The top-of-the-line VL gets leather seats. And the car has an assortment of storage options and cubbyholes for those that need to bring a lot of things yet stay organized. To add to the storage capability, the 2nd and 3rd-row seats of this seven-seater can be folded down.
The infotainment system uses a 7-inch touchscreen unit that has smartphone linking, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. It also comes with 12-volt power sockets and USB ports to keep all your mobile devices happy and charged. This VL variant comes with a six-speaker sound system. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available, which is very strange considering that all of its rivals have these smartphone integration features.
The new Nissan Livina is powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 105 horsepower and 141 Nm of torque which is more than enough to move a car filled with 7 passengers. Depending on the variant, you either get a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual. If these power figures sound familiar, that’s because it’s the exact same engine that’s also in the Xpander.
In terms of the driving experience, the Nissan Livina drives pretty much like the Xpander–albeit the pre-facelift model. That’s not such a bad thing the Xpander hits the right notes when it comes to the driving experience. Don’t expect it to be a sporty MPV though. The steering is light and easy, but it doesn’t offer any form of communication to the hands. The suspension soaks up the bumps really well, but its tradeoff is body roll. The powertrain and 4-speed automatic of this VL variant are tuned mostly for efficiency, yet it manages to carry the MPV’s structure well enough. It also shares the same trait as the Xpander, which is its lack of pull at high speeds. Treated sensibly, the Livina is a comfortable and serene MPV.
Lastly, as for safety, dual SRS airbags and ABS with EBD are offered on all variants. If you want electronic stability control, hill start assist, rear parking sensors, and a reverse camera, you have to at least step up to the VE. No Nissan Intelligent Mobility advanced driver-assistance tech, here, since the Xpander is mostly Mitsubishi’s R&D effort. They’re even produced at the same plant in Indonesia.
When an automaker creates a new car–whether that’s a joint-venture project to simply fill up a bottom line or not, they always think of what will be its unique selling proposition (USP). Unfortunately, that’s a very hard question to answer for the Nissan Livina. Where the Livina could stand out, in this case, is with its ownership experience. What the Livina has that its rivals (including its Xpander twin) don’t is its 5-year warranty. Nissan’s servicing inverval is also six months/10,000 kilometers, whereas the Xpander and Avanza are twice more frequent. If vehicle ownership matters to you, that’s one reason why you would probably choose the Livina over its key rivals.