The Livina is a familiar name in the MPV segment because we had it locally until 2008. Back then, it was a slim five-door unit that exclusively had Nissan’s DNA.
Today, it is bigger and bolder but borrows its platform from one of the members of the Alliance, Mitsubishi. Yes, the Livina is a rebadged Xpander, albeit with several minor differences.
Even if the overall structure is the same, Nissan designers did an excellent job of making the surface look distinctly Livina. It is shapelier with a rounded hood and the chrome V-Motion grille. The lighting system starts with sleek daytime running lamps at the top, big multi-reflector halogen headlamps below it, and foglights at the bottom. A silver accent finishes off the front bumper.
It has the same dynamic lines and creases as the Xpander, including the chrome trims by the daylight opening and the silver trim on the rocker panel. This VL variant has 16-inch alloy wheels.
At the rear are a roof spoiler and an underbody garnish.
Nissan did enough to make it stand out as a Livina in a parking lot instead of getting mistaken as an Xpander knock-off. Removing any traces of Mitsubishi’s ‘Dynamic Shield’ – lines, shapes, etc. – helped it get its look.
However, I did wish Nissan made more apparent changes at the back. Sure it gets a split-type diffuser and a slightly altered tailgate, but it still looks too much like an Xpander at the back. But then again, you can only do so much in changing what is essentially a rebadged vehicle.
Open the doors, and the top-spec Livina L invites you into a pretty loaded cabin. It has leather six-way, manually-adjustable seats that have thick cushioning, giving a firm feel for fantastic support. The seating position is high from the floor, which gives drivers a great view of the road.
I’m glad it has a tilt and telescopic, multi-function steering wheel. Push down the lever and adjust to get into the proper driving posture.
It also has an intelligent key, a start/stop button, dial-type aircon controls, a seven-inch touchscreen display (that serves as the monitor for the reverse camera) with six speakers, and a color LCD instrument panel.
Techie drivers and passengers will appreciate Bluetooth, (two) USB ports, and AUX connectivity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it does have the Phonelink software.
While it has plenty of amenities, the dashboard is a bit of a letdown because it is the same one from the pre-facelifted Xpander. It still looks good, but Nissan could have made their own inspired by something like the Terra, just so it doesn’t have Mitsubishi ‘feels’ inside. I like that it has plenty of storage spaces and aircon vents in the second row.
I like how light the tailgate is and how easy to drop down the rear seats to increase cargo space. Pull the strap on the backrest, and it falls flat to the floor.
Its 1.5-liter inline-four engine has a valve timing electronic control system and an electronically controlled multi-point injection system. The 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque it makes go to the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission. The response is pretty quick at city speeds. Coupled with light steering, it makes the whole vehicle feel very responsive.
It is on the highway that it will struggle a little bit. It can go as fast as 100 km/h but taxes the engine at close to 2,500 RPM. The four-speed AT just does not have enough ratios to accommodate the power. Nissan should give it a CVT soon. 80 km/h is the sweet spot for best efficiency and low engine noise.
The suspension is soft, which works well versus potholes, humps, etc. Unfortunately, it also makes the Livina dip when turning corners at speed, which results in increased body roll.
Safety features include hill-start assist, vehicle dynamic Control, traction control system, and parking sensors. It also comes with dual front airbags for extra peace of mind in an event of an accident.
One thing that will get the market thinking is the price. This range-topping Livina VL goes for PHP 1.209 million. That is slightly more expensive than the top-of-the-line Xpander GLS but with the latter’s older dashboard.
Will the new features and amenities inside the Livina make up for it? We’ll find out when we get a full review of this vehicle.