Average at best
When Nissan first launched the all-new Livina back in 2019, I'll admit I was quite excited. With the Grand Livina no longer available, Nissan now has a chance to rejoin the 7-seater MPV market with their own vehicle. And with the prospect that the automaker could bring it to the Philippine market by 2020 (at the time), it meant more choices for customers to choose from.
Unfortunately, it took Nissan Philippines Inc (NPI) three years to bring the Livina here due to the pandemic as well as several important factors. With the Xpander already receiving its first facelift, what can the Nissan Livina offer against its Mitsubishi twin, as well as the rest of the competition?
Most would say the Livina doesn’t look that different from the Xpander. If they were to first view the MPV from the back and on its side, it’s understandable. Heck, the only changes that Nissan did on the rear are a simpler-looking tailgate with fewer creases and a faux diffuser that has a split design instead of a one-piece look. And in case you didn’t notice it yet, the Livina comes with its own set of 16-inch alloy wheels complete with the Nissan logo on the center cap.
Once you take a good look at the Livina at the front, however, that’s when you’ll realize Nissan gave the MPV its own face. Gone is the Dynamic Shield from Mitsubishi and its place is the company’s signature V-Motion grille which is joined by an all-black grille. Even the LED daytime running lights, turn signals, foglights, and halogen headlights are unique to the Livina. In fact, if you squint your eyes, you can see some styling cues derived from the latest generation Nissan Juke, sans the circular LED headlights.
Some might prefer the Xpander’s pre-facelift and updated looks. Personally, I actually like Nissan’s design more since it’s not as flashy but is still eye-catching. The V-Motion grille looks simpler but still attractive. In short, the front end is not as busy compared to the Xpander, which is a plus point.
Hop inside and those familiar with the Xpander's interior will find the Livina's cabin similar. From the dashboard, the dials for the air-conditioning, the gauge cluster, and the multi-info display, as well as the center console, it’s essentially a carbon copy. Even the knob for the rear blower is the same as the one you can find in an Xpander.
As to be expected, it has plenty of cheap plastic all around which can be felt and seen on the dashboard, door panels, certain touch points, and parts of the center console. Despite its “plasticky” nature, the overall look of the hard plastic looks does not look cheap which helps give it a slightly more upmarket feel. The black leather seats (despite being leatherette) have a plush feel to them, including the one used on the steering wheel. Finally, it has neat touches of piano black trim which livens up the interior further.
While I like the fact that Nissan kept its cabin simple and familiar, I do wish Nissan actually tried to change things up a bit inside the Livina. Sure, one can only do so much redesigning an already existing vehicle, but maybe some neat changes to the dashboard, aircon vents, and maybe even the steering wheel. But since the Livina is also made in the factory that produces its Mitsubishi counterpart, it’s more likely to be counter-intuitive to put a completely different dashboard along with different interior bits.
Like most cars nowadays, a touchscreen infotainment system is pretty much a standard feature on almost any new vehicle. The Livina VL comes with one although I was pretty disappointed in the unit Nissan used. Just from the looks of it, the touchscreen system installed looks like it came out in 2015 or 2016. Not only are the graphics dated, but the system itself looks pretty old as well.
While it does come with Bluetooth, Aux, and USB connectivity, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available. Yes, it does come with Phonelink software but I still find it odd Nissan couldn’t get a more modern touchscreen. If Mitsubishi can install a high-tech touchscreen, why can’t Nissan get one?
Other interior features that I wish Nissan put are a front center armrest for the driver and passenger, USB charging ports for the second row (third-row passengers come with a 12V power socket), and cupholders on the rear center armrest.
A 1.5-liter inline-four drives the 2023 Nissan Livina. Despite the lack of an engine cover, the Livina is powered by the same 4A91 engine which can also be found in the Xpander. It makes a respectable 105 PS at 6000 rpm along with 141 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. Since this is the range-topping version, the engine is married to a 4-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels.
Despite still using what many would consider an archaic transmission, the 4-speed auto does its job to the letter, changing gears automatically with no fuss. It's actually quite smooth in switching between cogs and is easy to daily drive. Sure, it delivered a pretty noticeable shift shock when changing from first to second gear, but other than that, the rest of the gears were all smooth sailing.
The 1.5-liter engine may be lacking grunt but just like the transmission, it was refined and smooth. There’s nothing to write home about except for the fact that it delivers average performance and it’s pretty thrifty in the city. In fact, in light city traffic, the Livina can deliver up to 10 km/l if you’re easy on the throttle. In heavier traffic conditions, however, it tends to drink more fuel at around 7.5 to 8 km/l.
What’s the downside of just having 4 gears to play with? If you’re the type to frequently drive on the expressway, this is where you’ll see the Livina’s Achilles heel. While the Livina was able to average around 10 km/l in light city traffic at around 25 km/h, it was only able to muster around 15 km/l on the highway at an average speed of 85 km/h.
While it's still relatively frugal, its closest competitors like the Toyota Avanza can easily achieve 18.5 km/l on the highway. Even better are the Suzuki Ertiga Hybrid and the Hyundai Stargazer which can average upwards of 20 to 21 km/l. The 4-speed automatic may be simple and familiar to many, but if Nissan (or Mitsubishi) is actually serious about upgrading its fuel efficiency, they might need to replace the tried but archaic 4-speed auto for a CVT which other markets in Southeast Asia are already using.
Then there’s the lack of cruise control. This is rather odd as the range-topping GLS (and GLX) offered by Mitsubishi has it as standard equipment. On a long drive with the family on SCTEX, STAR, or TPLEX, having that feature will be a godsend as well as help keep fuel consumption reasonable since you won’t be constantly adjusting your right foot on the accelerator.
So its engine is average and fuel consumption could be better. But the Livina does have an ace up its sleeve, a soft ride. With an emphasis on ferrying 7 people in comfort, it’s no surprise the Livina delivers a comfy ride just like the Xpander. It does tend to be a bit bouncier in the third row (which I was able to fit my 5’7 frame) but that’s to be expected since the rear suspension is also tuned for cargo carrying. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right?
But with a soft suspension and a relatively tall ground clearance (205mm to be exact), the Livina is not exactly built for sharp turns. Turn the wheel too sharply and you feel the entire MPV leaning. I actually had to remind myself several times to take it easy around corners due to the body roll. The steering, meanwhile, is adaptive meaning it's light in the city and only stiffens up when you’re at highway speeds. But like most electronic power steering systems today, I wish it had more feedback as it felt numb most of the time.
With a sticker price of PHP 1,209,000, the Nissan Livina VL A/T is actually more expensive than the equivalent Mitsubishi Xpander GLS A/T which is selling for PHP 1,198,000. It’s PHP 11,000 more but comes with the old interior, has fewer features, and doesn’t have the much taller ground clearance of 225mm.
We’re not entirely sure why Nissan priced the Livina VL that way. However, the Livina does deliver a better ownership experience as Nissan only requires the MPV to be serviced every 10,000 km or every 6 months, whichever comes first. The Xpander, on the other hand, needs to be serviced more frequently than the Livina.
But in a cutthroat segment where value for money is of the utmost importance, the Livina VL is faced with several hurdles. Not only is it based on the pre-facelift version, but the rest of the competition is packed with more features, is more fuel-efficient, and offers better value for money. Still, there will be those that swear by the brand and that is perhaps where the Livina’s strength lies.
We’re still waiting if Nissan will actually refresh the Livina soon. And given that Nissan’s MPV is already due for an update, the automaker better launch it soon.