Just only a few days after the momentous 14th general elections, the Malaysian automotive scene ushers in an all-new MPV from Nissan, where Edaran Tan Chong Motors (TCM) – A company that is as old as the independence of Malaysia – launched the all-new fifth generation Nissan Serena MPV in the Country with a host of new features and functions, which are catered towards the modern family. Changes are a plenty and are mostly positive.
The fifth generation Serena doesn’t look drastically different than the one it replaces. Of course, it is still has the hallmarks of a Serena, but plenty a lot more sharper in terms of appearance the previous model. The new sharp grille finished in a combination of chrome and gloss black, added with pseudo carbon-fibre weaves at the lower half, which adds textural dimension to the exterior design. It has been overly used by now, but it’s pretty easy to ignore.
Flanking the shiny new grille is the new automatic LED Projector with auto levelling & LED signature lamp makes the all-new Serena recognisable. Personally, I feel that the headlamps do have Vellfire look to them. Likewise, the rear combination lamps are definitely modern; with an LED lighting accent adds a contemporary touch to the rear light clusters when the headlamps are turned on. Other than that, it’s all bulbs in here.
There are five doors that grant access into the Serena, where there are two regular doors in front, two automatic sliding doors on each side, and the new dual back door. And no, it is not separated by use of a retractable blade cutter. As explained by the advertisement, the new dual back door is the first to be featured on an MPV, where not only enabling access into the rear compartment in tight spots, this also makes it easy for those quick grabs out of the storage compartment.
The whole rear main tailgate is made out of aluminium, while the secondary door is constructed from lightweight carbon fibre, which is hidden behind the plastic interior mouldings and the glass that it is attached to. This also makes the secondary door light to make opening and closing easy.
The interior is a huge improvement over the last model. Now you’ll find soft touch areas on the dashboard and on the front door inserts. The clever us of good quality plastics in the interior is a huge welcome and you’ll know immediately that Nissan has spent time in the visual and material aspects of the interior.
Being a family oriented vehicle, the Mk V Serena is great for motorists who focus on practicality. There are plenty of useful cubbies in front of the front occupants, a large glove compartment, 14-cup holders and 7 USB ports located around in the interior. With that much USB ports around, there’s no need to worry about the lack of charging ports for the passengers onboard.
The Nissan Serena comes with a feature that is very Malaysian; the “the-tarik” or “tar-pau” hooks located on the outer side of the retractable centre front cupholders, and two at the front seat backs to safely carry take-away food items in plastics bags under 3Kg.
The front seats offer good lateral support and comfort for long distance driving, and are manually adjustable in the entry-level Highway Star trim, which allows a great degree of adjustments to suit drivers of many shapes and sizes.
There are retractable armrests for the front occupants. However, for the driver, the armrest can be intrusive when turning the wheel to the left. No complaints from the front and second row passengers though.
Cockpit ergonomics are pretty good, where the driver’s field of view is clear and unobstructed. The front quarter windows do add more room and light into the interior, which also helps drivers to look around their surroundings easier. The Serena does have a tall and wide windscreen, which is great for visibility, but does allow too much light to get into especially in the late mornings and early evenings.
The second row passengers will get their own captain seats with two armrests, retractable crab claw cup holders – which are pretty cute – and a tray, seat back pockets which you can store snacks on one side and the other big enough to fit a smartphone in. The captain seats are six-way adjustable where passengers can adjust the seats backs, slide them forwards and backwards and side to side. The second row passengers will get retractable sunblinds when the sunlight gets a little too intense.
The captain seats are a joy to sit in, especially on long distance travels. These seats provide adequate lateral support and comfort when the ride gets a little bumpy, and are great for short naps during transit. The Highway Star trim gets fabric seats all-round while the Highway Star Premium gets two-tone Truffle Brown and Chestnut, or single-tone black leather seats all-round.
Speaking of the third row seats, both comes with sliding feature which you can push it in front to let up additional space for the boot space, and slide it backwards to allow more room for the passengers. The third row seats gets two cup holders on each side with USB charging ports. In addition, there is a power sliding door control on the left hand side for third row and second row passengers to slide their way out. The third row seats are not bad, there’s enough room for smaller framed adults for long trips. They’re comfortable, and as mentioned pretty spacious.
When there isn’t anyone sitting behind, these seat backs can be folded down flat, or can be hung aside to allow more room for storage, which can be done by simply tugging of the blue stap underneath.
With the capacity to sit six or seven people onboard, the C27 Serena cools down the large interior with a dual zone auto climate control with air-conditioner ducts at each row. The front passengers gets to dictate their own climate zone, while the second row gets to adjust their own fan speed, air temperature and air distribution to either above their heads, or at their feet each or simultaneously. The third row only gets two air vents on each side.
When it comes to onboard entertainment, the Highway Star gets a 6.75-Inch Clarion Advanced Display Audio with Smart Device Link (SDL), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latter requires Android users to download the APK installer from the Play Store to use Android Auto, as the official app hasn’t made its Malaysian debut. Despite that minor setback, the Clarion head unit features Bluetooth connectivity, USB, Auxiliary and CD.
Recreating the sound is a six-speaker system consists of two twitters on the dashboard, two mid-range drivers at the front doors and two more at the sliding doors. Delivery for what it is isn’t too shabby, where the sound reproduction is on par with most common systems in most Japanese cars.
Tested with various music genres via Bluetooth with Spotify playing downloaded acoustics, electronic, jazz, soundtracks and vocals in Extreme Quality, the six speaker system did a pretty good job in relaying sound to all three rows, but with focused sound around the driver’s seat. However, the audio system struggles at higher volumes, where the lower frequencies can get overwhelming and the twitters sound strained. Turning the loudness mode off does help a lot.
Providing the motive force of close to a hundred and fifty horses is a naturally aspirated, four-cylinder engine, with DOHC and CVTC (Continuously Variable-valve Timing Control) and Direct Fuel Injection. The MR20DD makes 147hp at 5,600rpm and 210Nm of torque at 4,400rpm. Basically, this two-litre engine makes marginally more power than the one fitted in the X-Trail SUV.
Now, many would know by know that the Serena S-Hybrid is what many in the industry refer to as a soft-hybrid or mild hybrid. This means that unlike a regular hybrid, soft hybrids feature a larger starter motor which functions as a toque assist motor especially aids the petrol engine during take off, and functions as an electric power generator that sends back power to the secondary battery. Besides that, the 2.5hp and 48Nm ECO motor also assists with the Serena’s Idling start and stop system. Also the Dual Arm Tensioner keeps the belts taut to reduce friction, power loss and improve fuel efficiency.
Mated to the energy efficient engine is a XTRONIC CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with Adaptive Shift Control (ASC). This new transmission is a big improvement over the last CVT transmission with lesser noise with a little more bite from the belt. Many would think that the rubber band effect is not a good thing, but it is an inherit characteristic of a CVT transmission.
Nissan claims the Serena S-Hybrid consumes 7.04L/100km (14.2 Km/L), which is believable as the EEV certified MPV consumes an average of 11.8Km/L (8.47 Km/L) throughout our trip, which includes hard throttling and constant high cruising speeds.
Speaking of driving, ETCM had invited us to try out the all-new C27 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid Highway Star on a 480km trip to Pulau Penang along the North-South highway. The driver’s seat puts you up in a tall and commanding position, which allows the driver to see what’s going on around and ahead. The instrument cluster is well within sight and only requires a quick glance to check the travelling speed and other current vehicle information.
The power steering is electrically assisted like in all modern vehicles, and features Variable Assist Electric Power Steering, which lighten the steering effort at low speeds and increases effort at higher speeds, the differences is near unnoticeable as it adjusts accordingly to the travelling speed. Basically, the faster you drive, the heavier it becomes.
Centre stack is minimal with very little to tinker around, while the 6.75-inch screen’s position is something to get used to. It’s not much of an issue, but more of a convenience where the driver’s left hand is able to reach the screen and air-cond controls without the left hand straying too far from the steering wheel. And as mentioned, the driver would need to fold up the retractable armrest from time to time when turning left into corners. But when you’re not turning, the armrest is a welcome feature.
With its tall greenhouse, the Serena S-Hybrid allows plenty of visibility all round, with minimal blind spots which makes it easy to look out for side curbs when navigating through tight and narrow streets. But, if you aren’t sure, there’s the Intelligent Around View Monitor (I-AVM) with Intelligent Moving Object Detection (I-MOD). This comes useful especially being in high traffic areas, spotting out for you pedestrians and motorcyclist before backing out or navigating through busy towns.
Being a passenger at the second row, the ride is pretty good, where driving over bumps and ruts isn’t an issue as the vibrations are pretty well isolated from the occupants.
Performance is not the Serena’s strong suit, but good enough for a family MPV. Cruising at speeds above 150 Km/H is pretty good, considering driving a vehicle with an enormous frontal area. It’s stable during crosswinds and strong turbulences from buses and lorries don’t affect the Serena’s lateral stability too drastically.
At high cornering speeds, the Serena handles pretty well. The handling is predictable and allows some slack for the regular driver. However, from my personal experience, the variable assist system is something to get used to. The steering feels vague and unnatural slightly off centre without any form of feedback. With more steering input applied into the corner, the feedback grows up gradually.
The 15-inch eco tyres not only aids ride comfort but they also contribute to the Serena’s fuel economy. Eco tyres however may not offer the best of lateral traction, but adequate for an MPV of this size and weight. Suspended by MacPherson struts in front and torsion beam axle at the rear, the MPVs balance is predictably understeery and by letting the accelerator briefly brings everything back into order.
To sum things up, the all-new Nissan Serena S-Hybrid Highway Star is one of the nicest non-premium MPV to travel in. There’s plenty to practical features in the interior and USB ports able to charge seven smart devices at a time. The driver and captain seats feel pretty much the same, with good lateral support and comfort on long journeys, just that the latter is comfortable enough to have a quick nap.
Inside, the dashboard and interior trims are well put together with minimal NVH, creaks and rattles which contributes to the heightened refinement to the new Nissan’s new MPV.
The two-litre four-cylinder engine provides good amounts of power enough to propel you up to 191km/h limited without much drama, just that the engine noise does intrude into the cabin space, but not as loud as the outgoing model. Thanks to its direct injection, 16 valves and variable valve timing, the Serena is pretty frugal with fuel, which it earns its EEV status.
Performance wise, never bet on it. It is fast, yet, but getting there will take sometime. Cornering, well if you need to get to somewhere really, very really urgent, then the Serena can handle, just that you need a lot of patients and a good sense of balance to make the best out of it. Other than the above, the all-new Nissan Serena S-Hybrid Highway Star is a good all-rounder, which you can ferry people around in comfort and entertained during the long hauls.
+ Fresh new design
+ LED headlights
+ Ride comfort
+ Frugal engine
+ Big interior
+ 14 cup holders
+ 7 USB ports
– Unnatural steering feel
2018 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid Highway Star
Price Msia: RM 135,500 (Peninsular, OTR incl. GST W/O Insurance)
Type: 1,997 naturally-aspirated four-cylinder
Power: 147 Hp
Torque: 210 Nm
Fuel Economy: 11.8 L/100km (Tested)
7.04 L/100Km (Claimed)
Transmission: Continuous Variable Transmission