The Nissan Serena S-Hybrid facelift was launched in November 2014 and came a very attractive price tag by being among the few new vehicles which took advantage of the local auto policy’s excise duty exemptions for locally assembled (CKD) hybrid vehicles in Malaysia – a feat similarly achieved by the Mercedes-Benz S 400 Plug-In Hybrid to great success.
However, the hybrid nature of the car is a little different from what you might think, as there is no dedicated electric motor to drive the car. Regardless, the Serena S-Hybrid has always been a good family MPV that we all know and love, so let’s see what there is to gain with this facelift model.
Prices for the updated Serena start from RM138,000 (OTR with insurance) for a lower-spec Highway Star variant, and RM149,500 (OTR with insurance) for the familiar, but rebranded Highway Star Premium.
Take note however that the major difference between the two variants come in the form of optional accessories. So, if you only want the base version with a few premium add-ons, you can do so.
The closest competitor to the Serena S-Hybrid is the Mazda Biante at RM149,797. Raising your budget further brings the Peugeot 5008 into the fray at RM159,888 and the Honda Stream at RM159,010.
Driving a 2014 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid
After the launch event, Edaran Tan Chong Motor invited members of the media to take part in a drive to Melaka. Along the way, we got the chance to take the new Serena S-Hybrid along major highways and a few sections of B-roads.
On the highways is where the Serena excels as a family carrier. Cruising was easy and comfortable and the car easily handled small bumps without much fuss. The steering was accessible, considering you were manoeuvring a 1.7-tonne vehicle and didn’t feel intimidated by it. The driving position is high off the ground and provided good visibility aided by the car’s large windows.
PERFORMANCE: The 2.0-litre direct-injection engine is paired to an Xtronic CVT with Adaptive Shift Control, providing drive to the front wheels. It does a good job of getting the car going and at cruising speeds, the noise coming from the engine isn’t very intrusive. The addition of a transmission oil cooler is an improvement especially during sustained high speed driving, allowing the CVT unit to better withstand the higher temperatures brought on by continuous high-speed driving.
However, the Xtronic CVT was a little sluggish in terms of response, which makes rapid acceleration more an exercise of the hearing the engine roar rather than getting it going.
ECONOMY: As for the hybrid portion of the powertrain, it is vastly different from a conventional mild or full hybrid as we detailed here. This means that apart from a second or so in its initial movement, a lot of the propulsion duty is performed by the engine and our fuel economy during the drive came average around the 11 to 12-litres/100km mark.
Also highlighted in the detailed rundown of the new Serena’s hybrid system is the addition of a secondary battery that is powered by energy recuperation whilst coasting (you can see an indicator on the instrument display for when it does). The secondary battery helps to power the car’s electrical needs because an idling stop system is present as well, which automatically stops the engine when the car is stationary to help save fuel. However, the transition from a stopped engine to a moving one did result in an obvious judder. Thankfully, you can switch it off when you need to.
Living with a 2014 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid:
INTERIOR: We also had a chance to familiarise ourselves with the Serena S-Hybrid’s versatile and practical interior by taking part in various activities during a brief stopover in Melaka. Put simply, there is more than enough space in here for people and their personal belongings to fit sparingly, and with a few easy lever and strap pulls, 14 different interior configurations are available to you.
Clearly visible from the outside, the high roofline is an indicator of the ceiling space you can expect inside, and for a 170cm individual like myself, I could almost stand upright in the car.
As you can tell from the photographs, a barbeque pit was almost able to find its way into the rear if not for the set’s chimney attachment. More amazingly, a full-sized man on a bicycle was almost able to fit inside as well. Not only that, there are several cleverly placed storage holds littered throughout the car as well along with numerous cuphholders.
In short, the Serena S-Hybrid will swallow almost any cargo you need inside of it, and that’s admirable.
SAFETY: The Nissan Serena S-Hybrid facelift is exactly that. There are no changes to the mechanical bits (if you don’t count the hybrid portion), so as per the previous car, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS) are present along with hill start assist. It is commendable that Nissan offers VDC and TCS on all their recent models that include the Sylphy and Teana.
We did wish for more airbags though, because two seems like a shortcoming for a family transporter.
EQUIPMENT: Being the top spec variant, the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid we drove came with the 6.5-inch infotainment system which accepts numerous media inputs and features a navigation system as well. For the passengers’ entertainment, a 10.1-inch roof-mounted LCD panel streams from the media player up front.
Like we’ve mentioned earlier as well, you can purchase the base model and tag on the optional extras you actually want but if you’re just going to just pick all of them for the base model, you’ll save much more by just ordering the premium model.
Verdict: Here’s what we think…
As a family car, the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid is very capable in what it does. It seats eight people comfortably and when you consider the sheer cargo capacity it can haul, you’d be hard press to find anything that can match it within this price range.
The only downside here is the Xtronic CVT transmission, which is perfect when cruising on the highway but on hard acceleration, its struggles to respond quickly enough to your inputs. Then again, we don’t imagine anyone driving the Serena as hard to require such response, anyways. Where high-speed highway cruising is concerned, you are well accommodated for.
When you look to its competitors, the excise duty is the real benefit here as it undercuts the price of every other non-hybrid MPV out there today. Beyond that however, its powertrain isn’t assisted by an electric motor and the fuel consumption figures stipulated weren’t reflected during our drive.
On the flip side, if the hybrid portion isn’t of significant interest to you and space is, the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid is the perfect MPV for you.