The Nissan Serena has quite a long history in Malaysia. In fact, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) can trace its roots to the ever popular, ever-reliable C22 Nissan Vanette.
The Serena nameplate started with the C23 commercial van-based chassis (engine compartment below the front seats) in the late 1990s. As market demanded more space and better driving ergonomics, the C24 was designed as a two-boxed shaped MPV from the ground up.
In 2013, the C26 Serena S-Hybrid was launched and received a tremendous response due to its competitive pricing in the era when imported vehicles with hybrid powertrains were given duty exemptions.
Enter 2018, Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) finally introduces the all-new Serena S-Hybrid, maintaining its exterior size but equipped with many more features, many of which are first in the segment!
Shortly after the all-new Serena’s launch in Malaysia, we were given the privilege to sample the all-new Serena, taking turns driving from KL to Penang and back again.
Specifications for 2018 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid
- Engine: 2.0-litre, direct injection, 4-cylinder, micro-hybrid with starter-generator torque assist: 2.6 PS / 48Nm
- Power: 150 PS at 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 200 Nm at 4,400 rpm
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic, front-wheel drive
- Safety: Six airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), Hill Start Assist, ISOFIX (2x, rear), Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD)
- Origin: Locally assembled in TCMA, Serendah, Selangor
- Price: RM127,875 for Highway Star, RM139,196 for Premium Highway Star (excluding insurance, GST or SST)
The main highlight of the all-new Serena is definitely the dual-opening tailgate. All of us appreciate the large opening (the rear windscreen is designed to be large to allow better visibility) as well as the relatively low loading height.
Manoeuvring the Serena is also easier thanks to the clever “stitching” of the four cameras to display Around View Monitor (AVM). This AVM is also upgraded with Nissan’s Moving Object Detection (MOD). Should an object enter any of the camera’s field of vision, that segment will have a yellow frame (projected in the 7-inch multi-information display) and audio alert to inform the driver.
The new dashboard in the Serena has been designed to be lower, while still offering a large 7-inch multi-information display. With this new layout, the forward vision has improved, while the touchscreen for the audio system is also closer to the driver’s left hand. The sum it up, the dashboard is definitely one of the best designed in terms of ergonomics as well as the plentiful storage spaces.
The soft-touch trim panel with contrasting double stitching further adds a touch of quality to an already well-designed panel.
Connection to Apple CarPlay is also easy. We are also happy to report that the audio unit is easy to use with large icons and very responsive to touch and voice. The controls for the audio system is missing from the steering wheel though, a feature that ETCM is trying to improve later.
Moving the second row, the captain seats now offers armrest at both edges of the seats. They also incorporate the ‘zero-gravity’ design that reduces fatigue. Both captain seats can slide inward, to allow for better access to the third-row.
Placing the seat side-by-side also allows parents to be closer to their children.
The third row of the Serena is still one of the best in this price segment. Now with the added feature of forward-sliding (while still maintaining the side-folding function), users can improve the luggage area by a good 50 millimetres.
Occupants at the third row are also treated to USB-charging ports (two ports) and a power door switch that opens the left sliding door. Even with the newly added dual-opening tailgate, the wind noise at the third-row is still kept to a minimum at higher than usual driving speeds.
The Serena continues to use the two-litre engine with a micro-hybrid system, called S-Hybrid. Nissan reports that the powertrain has been improved to deliver better power and response. Driving around Penang traffic confirms this, but only at a very marginal level of improvement.
Being a micro hybrid, the electrical assistance is only provided when the Serena moves off from a standing start. This assistance is also minor, 2.6 PS or 48 Nm that is transmitted to the engine via the alternator belt. There are no changes to the output of this ECO motor, which is basically a clever alternator.
Overall, the new Serena does feel better off the line thanks to its lighter kerb weight combined with the more responsive powertrain. On the highway, keeping pace with the faster moving traffic is also a non-issue. We also have plenty of confidence when braking at the higher speeds, as the brakes were strong and easy to modulate.
The new suspension components definitely provide much better ride comfort as well as body control. The suspension soaks up irregular road surfaces in a more controlled manner, giving the impression that there is more travel. On the highway, the new Serena definitely felt more planted, even while taking long-radius corners above the legal speed limit.
On the North-South Highway, the significantly quieter cabin can be felt immediately. The road noise is better muted and wind noise is impressively blocked off given how large the windows are. Only when pushed, the engine becomes vocal which is no surprise.
The Nissan team informed us that the firewall has been designed with thicker metals to cancel out more unwanted noise and vibration. The rear wheelhouse has also been lined with noise insulating mat for better soundproofing.
The new Serena has definitely improved in all areas. Better equipped with unique and practical features are its major talking points and competitors cannot just be equipped with them in response. The Toyota Innova X also offer captain seats, but it’s the third row that is nowhere near as spacious. Being a ladder frame chassis construction, the Innova has a busier ride which does affect the occupant's comfort.
Meanwhile, the Mazda 5 is a product that is near the end of its life cycle and is only equipped with two airbags. The third-row, despite having s a longer sliding range, is not able to fold to accommodate large items.
The new Serena has definitely moved its own benchmark as one of the most accommodating family vehicle, and now with the GST/SST tax-free holiday period, the retail price is ever attractive from RM127.9k