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Nissan Livina – First impressions


Competition in the automotive industry is important because it keeps the industry alive and vibrant. In fact, the more competing cars and brands there are, the more options customers have. Example: the local MPV segment, which includes the Toyota Avanza, Suzuki Ertiga and Mitsubishi Xpander. Hyundai has announced that it is bringing its competitor this year, the Stargazer.

But before that happened, Nissan took the first step and introduced the Livina to Filipino car buyers. Born of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, the Livina is based on the Xpander and that should explain the undeniable similarities between the two.

But why would you choose the Livina over the Xpander? There may be compelling reasons, which may not be valid for everyone. The new Livina is a great vehicle, just as the Xpander was great when it hit the market four years ago – and that’s not exactly a good thing.

Exterior design

If you’re familiar with the Xpander, then the Livina should be no stranger to you. The new Nissan MPV shares the same shell as the Mitsubishi, but with minor deviations apart from badging.

Up front, Nissan brings out its distinct V-Motion grille on the Livina. The MPV retains the split lamp configuration, with the upper section reserved for the LED daytime running lights, while the middle and lower sections house the multi-reflector halogen headlights and fog lamps respectively. Only the top-spec VL variant comes with silver accents, including chrome side mirror covers.

From the side, the Livina looks almost exactly like an Xpander, save for the 16-inch alloys and character lines on the front doors. The rear is where the Livina seems to be a little quirky. It retains the vertical taillight housing, but Nissan changed the LED graphic to match what you’ll see in the Almera subcompact sedan.

For what it’s worth, Nissan has made the Livina its own, at least front and rear. I like the styling, although I wish Nissan had gone LED, especially given the price.

Interior oh so familiar

If you think the Livina looks too much like the Xpander on the outside, wait until you see the inside. The layout of the dashboard, the display of the instrument cluster, the layout of the seven seats, the multitude of plastics used, even the climate controls and the odd location of the parking brake lever – all of these things have been removed from the Xpander when it first arrived on our shores.

Of course, there are a few differences such as the badges, the faux wood trim on the dash and the touchscreen head unit differ a bit. That’s not entirely a bad thing as the Xpander’s practicality, ergonomics and durability have made the Mitsubishi model popular among those looking for a seven-seater MPV.

That said, you’ll never run out of storage and cubbyholes inside the Livina, although the second row can still use a pair of cupholders on the fold-out center armrest – something that’s present in the Refurbished Xpander launched this year.

Dated technical and safety information

With the adopted Xpander come the technical and safety features… also from 2018. The Livina’s head unit lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but at least it has Bluetooth and a function smartphone mirroring that never worked in my tests. Plus, the head unit surprisingly still has a CD drive (time to blow dust on your favorite CD collection).

No automatic headlights here, the wipers are only set to intermittent mode, only dual front airbags are fitted and there’s no rear defogger on the HVAC – it looked like the Livina was a little dated, especially compared to the mainstays of the segment. Even for the high-end VL, cruise control is not standard, which will be a bit of an inconvenience for those looking for this feature at this price (like me).

But at least the Livina VL and VE are equipped with rear parking sensors right out of the showroom, as well as vehicle dynamic control, traction control and a reversing camera. The latter, however, does not have the best display on the planet.

Ride, handling and initial fuel economy

The Livina’s only power plant option is also shared by the Xpander, which is the normally aspirated 1.5-litre DOHC petrol engine, capable of producing 104 brake hp and 141 Nm of torque. This is connected to a 4-speed AT (with OD switch), sending power to the front wheels.

Apart from the powertrain, the Livina uses the same oily elements as the Xpander, such as the McPherson strut with coil spring suspension at the front and the torsion beam at the rear. The braking power is also the same: discs on the front wheels, drums on the rear.

That said, the Livina’s on-road handling was pretty much what you’d experience in the Xpander. Finding the right driving position was child’s play, thanks to the tiller’s tilt and telescopic adjustment. The wide driving visibility made the small minivan easy to maneuver through the claustrophobic lanes of Metro Manila, while the power was enough to easily move seven occupants. Acceleration needed a bit of refinement, but I wasn’t expecting much from the aging torque converter box.

On the bright side, the Livina is stable on the highway despite the somewhat vague steering feel at mid and low speeds. It was also able to absorb road imperfections within reason with minimal jerkiness.

In less than 100 kilometers of driving to and from the office (and for filming), I got 11.7 km/l. Take note that I live in the infamous Bicutan area of ​​Parañaque and my office is located in Ortigas, so I’ve covered all the bases – bumper-to-bumper traffic, fast speeds on Skyway and an inevitable fate on the famous EDSA.

Initial verdict and price

The 2023 Nissan Livina starts at P1,029,000 for the base E MT variant. The EL AT is priced at P1,109,000, while the VE AT has a list price of P1,149,000. The top-end VL AT I tested here can be had for P1,209,000.

Bringing the Livina here to compete with the hugely popular Mitsubishi Xpander might sound like Nissan going Livina Vida Loca. It may even seem crazier that Nissan has priced its competitor relatively higher – at least with the top-of-the-range VL (compared to the Xpander GLS), while being less equipped.

But from a business perspective, it makes sense. It’s a way for Nissan to cover its bases in hopes of selling more into the market. Simply put, if you’re wondering why Toyota is number one in the Philippines, it’s because there’s basically a Toyota for every type of vehicle buyer – that plus the esteemed reputation it’s built. over the years, but I digress.

However, there will always be a Livina buyer despite its drawbacks and flaws. Whether that’s for the distinct V-Motion grille or because of the Nissan badging is entirely up to the market. Whether you opt for the Xpander or the Livina, it’s a win-win for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in which the two brands are part. Business within dealerships, however, is another story.