The Nissan Livina VL is banking on its distinctions

Much has been said about the Nissan Livina since the first sightings came out. By now you know that it’s based on the previous version of the Xpander and shares a lot of appointments from it thanks to the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. The question now is, why would you choose this over its mechanical twin?

The answer is simple, it’s more gorgeous – at least from the front. There are still sharp edges but curves were introduced as a contrast to these lines. Being a Nissan, there’s a V-motion grille that really makes the front end distinct. All else is usual – the DRL is separated from the low-position headlight and they even managed to sneak in a fog light by the bumper garnish.

Other angles of the Livina were a bit more subdued in their distinction. At the sides there’s a piercing line with subtle diagonal accents by the side mirrors. The rear has the familiar taillight design but with the Livina, it utilizes the LED pattern from the Almera, giving it distinction from its twin especially at night. Split faux diffusers also make the rear unmistakably Nissan.

The cabin is more or less a twin wearing different clothes. The seats, space, rear aircon vents, the cargo space, and dashboard amenities of the Livina are clones from its mechanical twin. The kicker is they’re from the previous iteration of the Xpander, given away by the arches on the dashboard. What’s new here are the dark wood veneers on the dash and door panels. Leather also hug the seats which is a nice touch that complements the more classy appeal of the exterior.

At first glance, this cabin is fine until you see the screens. The trip computer is small and looks dated, the rear camera is low in resolution, and the 7-inch touchscreen has an old interface that lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s a ‘Phonelink’ smartphone mirroring app but as expected, it’s not as fluid as modern head units. Even the bluetooth function is  because it won’t even show the title of the song and artist you’re playing.

If you can get past those, the Nissan Livina will reward you with a really nice road experience. The cabin is quiet with wind noise creeping in only around 90kph, which is not bad for this MPV’s price point. Steering is weighted well and firms up on higher speeds, while still being easy to handle in the city, especially 2 or 3 point turns.

The ride comfort is really good. It’s to be expected since, for the nth time, this has the same core as its mechanical twin. Deep ruts of truck lanes are not as jarring while common road imperfections are cushioned well to keep passengers very comfortable. This is complemented by decent space for all occupants which gives the Livina a very family friendly appeal.

Powering this MPV is a 1.5-liter gasoline engine that makes 104 horsepower and 141 Nm of torque, paired to a 4-speed automatic. It’s not the most exciting powertrain in the land, especially with a seemingly outdated transmission, but I promise you it’s better than what it seems to be. Again, one cannot expect great power at a slight press on the throttle, but the ‘matic is more responsive than the CVT of its rivals. It climbs up the rev without hesitation, has a strong engine brake when needed, and doesn’t shuffle between gears in stop and go traffic. The best part is its fuel efficiency. In the city, it still managed to get 9.6km/l while on the highway it returned 17.8km/l while cruising at around 85kph.

It might be a product of an alliance and a shared platform but the Nissan Livina has its own unmistakable distinctions inside and out. This particular VL trim comes in at P1,209,000 which is a tad more expensive than the twin. Still, it could’ve been a good comeback for Nissan in the MPV segment if only there’s a better unit in the 7-inches of space at the center of the dashboard. I, and many others, rely on our smartphones for our daily drives to avoid traffic hot spots in the city – which are plenty.

Then again, the Livina is an MPV for the family. The wants of the driver are just a fraction of the overall considerations. Looks will undoubtedly come into play because who can resist that V-motion grille? Add to that the comfort of the interior in terms of ride and space, combined with the fuel efficiency and the Livina becomes quite a nicely kitted MPV. Nissan’s signatures far outweigh the simple issue I have with this car. If you’re not deep into the utilization of the touchscreen, then the Nissan Livina will reward you with a very comfortable ride every single time.

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