Its attractive price of under RM150,000 for an imported mid-size multi-purpose vehicle, made possible with special tax exemptions for hybrid vehicles, added significantly to its appeal.
To carry the momentum forward when it came time to introduce the facelift model, ETCM has followed through with a locally assembled Serena S-Hybrid and laid claim to being the only country outside of Japan to introduce this Nissan model under this arrangement.
It is due to this special arrangement that the latest Serena S-Hybrid only has about 15% local content but more importantly, it gets to enjoy the special Efficient Energy Vehicle (EEV) incentive, thereby enjoying an even more attractive price range.
The Serena S-Hybrid Highway Star model is now priced at about RM135,035 on-the-road without insurance, a reduction of more than RM10,000.
And if you want a more exclusive version, the Premium Highway Star model is available for almost RM10,000 more (or about the same price as the imported model but with more features).
This Premium model comes with roof spoiler and door visors for a sportier look as well as V-Kool Elite Security, Armorcoat and Solar Gard tinting.
The interior is upgraded with combination leather seats, a 6.5-inch multimedia navigator with rear view camera, DVD player, iPod connectivity, and a 10.1-inch roof-mounted LCD panel.
These items can also be bought separately for the standard Highway Star model if the customer doesn’t want the entire package.
The Serena S-Hybrid facelift comes with a redesigned three-dimensional chrome plated front grille, a ‘first-in-class’ LED (light emitting diodes) headlamps and signature lamps; restyled front bumper design with fog lamps; rear LED combination lamps now with a distinctive S-shaped line; new side mouldings and fresh 16-inch chrome alloy wheels.
An important addition to the Serena S-Hybrid facelift model is the spare tyre, albeit a space-saving unit, that is located under the floorboard and accessed from the front passenger side.
It might be an unusual place for the spare tyre but Nissan engineers had deemed that spot as the best place for it as the other areas are fully utilised to maximise interior space or taken up for the location of other items.
This spare tyre addition is done due to the concerns raised by customers of the previous model who didn’t feel comfortable driving without such an item, although a tyre kit was provided to address punctures and allow the driver to get to the nearest tyre shop to have the problem fixed.
ETCM has invested RM60mil for the Serena S-Hybrid assembly line at its Serendah plant in Rawang, with the anticipation of the EEV incentive being extended beyond 2016.
Its Marketing and Product Planning director Tan Keng Meng expects the Serena S-Hybrid sales to improve by about 50%, from an average monthly volume of 200 to 300.
Having drove the imported Serena S-Hybrid at the beginning of the year and with the impression still fresh in the mind, our re-acquaintance gave an insight on its ‘long legs’ in the Petaling Jaya to Malacca media drive that ETCM had arranged.
We had four on board and the drive to Malacca took in a mix of largely highways and some B-grade roads, while the return leg was purely highways.
The interior has been left mostly unchanged from the previous model and there was no question of the merit in the spacious and highly flexible interior: the two rows of seats (middle and third row) could be configured in 14 ways, along with the sliding centre console, to accommodate accordingly.
As we had the luxury of space in the eight-seater interior to find the best way to travel comfortably, we were certainly glad for the flexible provision and even took a nap for part of the journey.
Ride was up to mark over the bumpy B-grade roads as the independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link torsion beam rear did a decent job of absorbing the impacts over road bumps and dips without tossing us rear folks around.
A salient feature was the good air flow around the aerodynamically efficient body, especially around the door mirrors, roof and sides, even above 110kph on highways.
We didn’t hear much of the air turbulence and the four of us could carry a conversation without raising our voices.
The Serena S-Hybrid (or smart hybrid) isn’t a hybrid with a large battery but it does come with an additional secondary battery and an electric (ECO) motor with generator to aid initial acceleration and recharge the batteries on board.
The latter is done during deceleration and braking, similar to that in full hybrid cars, and other fuel saving items include the automatic idle engine stop function on coming to a stop.
The engine is restarted in 0.3 second after lifting your feet off the brake pedal, which was quick enough for us to get moving again.
This feature can be switched off via a button on the dashboard if you don’t feel comfortable with the auto stop-and-start operation.
The 2.0-litre direct injection engine continues its job of moving the 1,699kg (kerb) Serena S-Hybrid MPV at a decent pace: the 147PS and 210Nm of torque was mostly enjoyed at a leisurely drive.
The XTronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with Adaptive Shift Control might be a little noisy when you want to pick up speed quickly but once you are at cruising speeds, the engine purred nicely along at low revs that should return good fuel mileage.
As we were rather robust with the accelerator while taking turns to drive the Serena S-Hybrid, we had to refill on the return journey as we didn’t want to be stranded by pushing our luck based on the computed mileage distance provided.
At the end of the day, the Serena S-Hybrid gave us the interior space and comfort to enjoy the ride while its quiet cruising and good body aerodynamics were other positives.
For its attractive price, the Serena S-Hybrid should continue to woo the family man with a need for a comfortable and spacious MPV.