The first hybrid MPV in Malaysia is here and it’s the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid (‘S’ for ‘smart’ or ‘simple’) imported by Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM). Thankfully, the size of its petrol engine is not more than 2000 cc so it can be exempted from import tax and excise duty and be priced at a very attractive RM149,500, inclusive of insurance and roadtax in Peninsular Malaysia. For now, the exemption is available only till the end of 2013 so if you want one at the price royalty and diplomats would pay, you should buy one now.
So what’s so ‘’smart’ about the hybrid system in the Serena? For starters, its operation is not the same as the hybrids we already know. The hybrid systems in the Toyota and Honda models give the electric motor a more significant role in propelling the vehicle but Nissan’s S-Hybrid system is a much simpler system that offers the benefits of a hybrid system at a lower cost.
Basically, the hardware involves integrating an electric motor or ECO Motor, as it is referred to, with the conventional 2-litre petrol engine. This ECO Motor is really the main element of the S-Hybrid system as it acts not only as an alternator to recharge the battery but can also be used for propulsion. It can provide up to 50 Nm of torque which is used in the initial phase of moving off, assisting the engine for acceleration. By providing the extra torque, stronger acceleration is achieved without a fuel penalty and better still, the engine doesn’t need to burn so much fuel each time it starts off.
You may think that it’s no big deal but think of how many times you stop and start on a journey each time. In cities like Kuala Lumpur, that could be hundreds of times so reducing the power needed from the engine to start off each time can have a cumulative effect of saving fuel. Add to this an Idle Stop feature which switches off the engine when idling for long periods and you have a 1,660-kg MPV (excluding passengers) which can go 15.2 kms per litre when tested using the Japanese JC08 cycle. For even more fuel-saving, the driver can active an ECO mode.
Because the ECO Motor will be subjected to high-frequency usage, it is robust and gets power from a compact auxiliary battery which is also located in the engine bay. This battery is a lead-acid type (like the conventional battery used in all vehicles) but has been specially designed for high-frequency recharging. Should it need to be replaced, the price is said to be less than RM1,000 so that too is another plus point.
As for the petrol engine, this is the 2-litre MR20DD which has the usual variable valve timing control (CVTC), 16 valves and twin overhead camshafts. Fuel delivery is more efficient as it is by direct injection. The power output is 147 ps at 5600 rpm with 210 Nm at 4400 rpm. Power delivery to the front wheels goes through a XTRONIC CVT with Adaptive Shift Control.
Being an imported CBU model, the Serena S-Hybrid gets quite an extensive equipment list. This is usually the case with CBU models, partly because the cost of the extra features is less than if they were included here in locally-assembled models. One of the reasons is that in the factory where they are made, the volumes are much, much bigger so accessories and optional items cost less as they are ordered in large volumes.
Those who know the previous generation of the Serena (still available in Malaysia but mainly sold to fleet operators) will know it has a very practical and spacious interior. The new generation improves on this and like most MPVs, you can arrange the three rows of seats (for up to 8 persons) in numerous configurations depending on your needs. In the case of the Serena S-Hybrid, there are as many as 14 different layouts for the cabin with one configuration that even allows a baby stroller to be inserted inside the cabin.
With so many people on board, it’s obvious that there will be a great need for storage space for everyone. Here too there’s some smart thinking in creating storage compartments all around the cabin. Even the inside of some seats have compartments and the centre armrest can also double up for storage. Children will be happy to find ‘airline tables’ behind each front seat with holes for their cups and yes, teh tarik hooks are also present for those packets of nasi lemak.
The biggest storage space is right at the back where four bicycles can be stowed. The third row folds to the sides, creating a large open area with a flat floor. Under the floor is yet another storage compartment, this able to take a golf bag or a folded stroller.
One of the strong point of this MPV is its sliding side doors and they are electrically-operated. Opening and closing can be done either at the handle or the driver can press separate buttons on the remote control unit or the dashboard. When the door is fully open, the aperture measures 802 mm wide and 1308 mm high which is said to be the largest in its class.
The instrument panel is quite an eye-catching item the way it is shaped and with the oval-shaped displays for the tachometer, temperature gauge and ECO Navigator, it sure looks like something from the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Though some may say it is too fanciful, what’s important is that the information it conveys is quickly and easily understood by the driver. The two most important – gear position and road speed – are clearly shown while all the warning lights are lined up in a row where they can’t be missed.
With an Idles Stop system, the air-conditioning system tends to shut down when the engine stops running, not so good in our climate. However, if the stop is not long, then there is usually enough coldness in the blower box fins to continue keeping the air cool as the blower does not stop running. Incidentally, the rear occupants get lots of cool air too from four overhead vents (two on either side of the ceiling).
The Serena S-Hybrid imported by ETCM is the Highway Star version which is a sporty version. As such, it comes with 16-inch wheels and a sports suspension said to give better handling.
The Serena S-Hybrid also comes with a comprehensive list of safety features and standard equipment. Besides airbags and ABS, there’s also Vehicle Dynamic Control which helps to neutralise instability on slippery surfaces. VDC, like ABS, is something you would probably use often though you may not realise it.
ETCM also offers some accessories for the Serena S-Hybrid such as a Multimedia Navigation System with a 6.5-inch screen, a 10.1-inch roof-mounted LCD panel and leather upholstery. For a limited period, the Multimedia Navigation System which includes a rearview camera (worth RM3,300) is being offered free to buyers.
To know more about the Serena S-Hybrid, visit www.nissan.com.my