As Toyota has illustrated very successfully with its Avanza, there is a large number of South African families that need an affordable, spacious and versatile people-mover. When the budget is tight, considerations such as sophisticated design and interior frills are banished to the third row seat.
Now Nissan has staked its claim with the arrival of the 5-seat Livina and 7-seat Grand Livina models, both offering high-value packages in a slightly more upmarket design than the Avanza. On paper the subject of this test, the Nissan Grand Livina 1.6 Acenta+, appears to be a particularly attractive offering. Does it live up to expectations?
Grand… as in largeBeing 240 mm longer than its smaller sibling, the Grand Livina certainly has more presence than an Avanza. Unfortunately much of the extra length has been added behind the rear wheels, creating a rather unfortunate “long-tail” look. Nevertheless, the Grand Livina is a largely inoffensively designed product, with only a very shiny grille, chrome door handles and attractive 15-inch alloy wheels to break the monotony. Importantly, however, it creates the impression of being more expensive than it actually is, which is never a bad thing.
The interior is its trump card, with the elongated body paying dividends in terms of packaging. Nissan has paid careful attention to the flexibility offered by the seating arrangements, resulting in a vehicle that should fulfil most owners’ needs. The middle row in particular has been cleverly designed.
The usual 60:40 split of the backrests has been extended to the base cushion, and Nissan has fitted individual sliding mechanisms, so the middle row “seats” can be individually slid fore and aft, either to create stretch out legroom for those seated on them, or to create more luggage space in the boot – or to improve knee space for those banished to the third row. As per usual, the rearmost seats really are only for smaller individuals, but certainly suitable for use on the school run.
With all three rows occupied, boot space is extremely limited. Fold down the rear seats, however, and you’ll have ample packing space for that family holiday. If even bigger items need to be transported, the middle row can also fold/tumble, leaving long, relatively flat floor. A full-size spare wheel is included.
In the front, the driver faces a surprisingly upmarket dashboard that boasts impressive levels of fit and finish. Unfortunately, however, Nissan has thought it wise to use a very light-coloured trim for the lower part of the cabin, and this will show use very quickly. The upper section is in a more practical brown hue, and Nissan has also added some fake wood trim, which the Grand Livina really could’ve done without… especially on the steering wheel.
There’s not much to criticise about the driving environment, but more adjustability to the driving position would have been welcome (the steering is only rake adjustable), and there are no remote audio controls on the steering wheel. The rest of the news is good – Nissan is offering a very decent standard specification level, with a radio/CD system, electric windows, air-conditioning and power steering all being part of the deal. Only two airbags are fitted, though.
Zippy performanceThe Grand Livina is powered by the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that does duty in the Tiida. It’s a sprightly performer, delivering 80 kW and 153 Nm of torque through a five-speed manual transmission that drives the front wheels.
At just over 1.2 tonnes, the Grand Livina is quite light considering its size, and this undoubtedly aids its sprinting ability. At the same time, it is nearly 200 kg heavier than an Avanza, and you can feel this extra weight on the road not in the performance, but in its significantly better stability.
The Grand Livina feels like a more substantial product, mostly because that is what it is. More good news for families on a budget is the fuel economy – you’ll struggle to match the figure of 7.2 litres/100 km, but even the more realistic consumption figure of 9 litres/100 km is impressive given the vehicle’s likely usage pattern.
On the road, the Grand Livina is far superior to the Avanza. There’s good grunt from low down, and the engine delivers its power in a linear, refined way. The steering, electrically assisted as it may be, offers reasonable weighting and certainly superior accuracy compared with the Toyota. And the long wheelbase aids ride comfort. The Grand Livina should be a very good long distance family car, and remains composed on poorer surfaces. ABS brakes further boost driver confidence.
VerdictWhile the Grand Livina isn’t going to win any styling awards and it is ultimately quite a bland product, there is also a disarming honesty about it. It does what it was designed to do in an impressively convincing way, and without feeling like it was developed on a tight budget.
The build quality is impressive, and the feeling of solidity on the road will please – and surprise – a lot of buyers. The standard service plan is a sweetener to a deal that already seems almost too good to be true.
Very spacious cabin
Value for money
We don’t like:
Light interior trim
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 80 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 153 Nm @ 4 400 rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual
Wheels: 15-inch alloy
Top speed: 180 km/h
0-100 km/h: 11.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 7.2 litres/100 km
Slightly cheaper, but it feels it. The Avanza is a more compact package but similarly packaged and with near identical power outputs. The Nissan feels like the classier, more solid offering, though.
Around R30 000 more expensive, but the Opel does represent a significant step up in terms of overall execution and sophistication. Importantly for a family vehicle, it also offers a more comprehensive safety package.
Similarly equipped to the Opel, this Toyota also offers a more sophisticated mom’s taxi solution, but at a significantly higher price. A comprehensive service plan is included in the price.