Expert Review - Nissan Serena S-Hybrid C26 Facelift (2014-Present)
4 November 2014
The Nissan Serena S-Hybrid is a spacious, comfortable people mover with an impressively versatile and practical cabin. No, it's not the most stylish ride around, but it does exactly what it is asked of it commendably well. The fact that this locally-assembled facelifted model is priced even lower than the previous CBU car will make it an even more tempting choice for families, although the safety conscious may think twice, no thanks to it having just two airbags.
The 143 hp 2.0 litre direct-injected four-pot can struggle to haul the 1,660 kg Serena off the line, with response blunted by the slightly lazy if buttery CVT. Once it gets going, however, the car piles on speed rather effortlessly. Start-stop system is relatively unintrusive, with little judder at start-up.
Ride & Handling
Roadholding is not one of the Serena's strong suits. A tall, narrow body coupled with a comfort-oriented suspension setup results in noticeable body roll in the bends, with grip slightly lacking due to the low rolling resistance tyres. The steering is also slow and inert, while brake pedal feel is a little mushy (although stopping power is just about adequate). The upshot of all this is a supple ride that shrugs off road surface imperfections with aplomb, but things can get a bit bouncy over sharper ruts and bumps.
Mated to a CVT, the engine can get quite raucous when throttled, but otherwise it remains pleasantly hushed. Tyre roar is kept to reasonable levels; you can, however, hear some wind noise as speeds climb due to the tall, boxy body, but it's not excessive. Seat comfort is impressive, with minimal fatigue setting in even on longer journeys, but the flat side bolsters offer little in the way of lateral support.
Nissan advertises the Serena as an eight-seater MPV; to then hamstring it by only offering two airbags is a little stingy, but at least stability control is fitted as standard and all occupants get three-point seat belts. Isofix child seat anchors are only on the outer two second-row seats, which can pose a problem for families with lots of smaller children. There's now finally a spare wheel that replaces the previous repair kit – it's awkwardly placed under the front passenger seat, but the fact that it's there at all will be a huge relief for owners.
The Serena is one of the longer and taller cars in its segment, and it shows inside. There's lots of head- and legroom on offer, and even third-row passengers will find it comfortable enough for most journeys. The seats can also be configured in a myriad of ways to suit differing occupant and cargo requirements. The novel sliding middle seat/armrest/console box is a nice thing to have, as is a sideways-sliding left second-row seat that aids access to the third row of seats.
This facelifted Highway Star variant is over RM10k cheaper than the previous CBU model and retains almost all of its predecessor's impressive kit count, with only the digital rear air-conditioning control module swapped for a basic slider-type unit. If you want, there's a Premium variant that adds a navigation system, a rear LCD panel and leather seats, among others – if you don't require these extras, the standard model should be plenty good enough.