There was a time in our motoring history when MPVs were the obvious choice for anyone looking to move 6 passengers with some bags, or 4 passengers with many bags and a picnic basket (or any of the combinations in between). Over time, MPVs gave way to 7-seater SUVs which came in sleeker profiles, though it was generally at the expense of cabin space compared to the boxy MPVs. But through it all, the Nissan Serena remained the mainstay of the mid-price MPV segment since the 1990s, ever-ready to serve.
Despite MPVs having the reputation of being either a children’s ferry or a VIP barge, there is no doubt they offer cabin roominess that even those not in target buyer’s list could appreciate. The boxy profile of the Serena has its advantage, apart from the generous headroom and legroom for everyone, even in the last row of seats (an attribute that is usually compromised in SUVs). The boxy dimension means space is optimised for anything you fancy the Serena to do, like carry bulky items such as a bicycle (or 2) without dismantling the front wheel. Sure, you can do the same with a pickup truck, but the pickup can’t carry 7 people on other occasions.
The lower floor height of the Serena also means you can wheel a kap chai in using a short ramp, a feat that is more challenging to do with a pickup. Furthermore, the lower floor height allows easy ingress and egress for seniors and juniors alike.
And in the context of today’s leisure travels, the Serena goes beyond being a people mover. With car camping becoming a fast-growing trend, the Serena’s space functionality and versatility can also be appreciated here. True, it may not be able to tackle tricky terrain, but many leisure campsites are not in 4×4-exclusive areas. And once you unpack your tent and other equipment, the Serena’s cabin is freed up to double as either an extra bedroom or lounge when you fully recline the comfortable “Zero Gravity” seats.
By the way, not only do the backrests recline, the pair of captain seats can also slide closer to each other for a more comfortable area to relax in. Staying with the car camping theme, up to 2 persons can spend the night comfortably in the cabin so a tent isn’t necessary. Furthermore, in front of the captain seats are trays and cup holders so even your dining area is sorted. There are also plenty of hooks and cubbies to hold various items, not forgetting the 7 USB ports for your charging needs.
But this is just one of the many examples of the versatility of the Serena. The practicality continues with the sliding rear doors (with hands-free opening) which allows access in tight spaces. This is also applied to the rear liftgate which features 2 opening options. The smaller opening is useful when you are backed up too close to the wall or another vehicle, and allows you to access the rear cargo area without the need to drive the Serena further forward. On the other hand, opening up the entire liftgate in open space not only allows for easier access to the cargo area but also turns the liftgate into a canopy, enabling you to use the rear as a shaded resting platform.
Both variants of the Nissan Serena i.e. Highway Star and Premium Highway Star are powered by the same 2.0L MR20DD petrol engine that is paired with the Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission). This engine produces 150 PS @ 6,000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque @ 4,400 rpm. In addition, a 1.8 kW electric motor provides an extra 48 Nm to aid acceleration. While this set-up is not as sophisticated as some full-fledged hybrid vehicles, it is also not as complex and as such there is a degree of “best of both worlds” happening here.
Because of this electrical assistance, the Serena manages to achieve an average fuel consumption of approximately 14.2 km/L (UN R101), or up to 852 km per full tank, which is pretty good for a people mover. And because it is designed primarily as a people mover, it is set for a bias towards comfort rather than driving glee.
And as a people mover, safety becomes paramount. Besides the 6 airbags, which includes full-length curtain airbags that cover window openings, the Serena is equipped with Nissan’s 360° Safety Shield with enhanced Active Safety in both variants. The Safety Shield includes features such as Intelligent Predictive Forward Collision Warning & Intelligent Forward Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Additionally, the Intelligent Around View Monitor with Intelligent Moving Object Detection provides the driver with a surrounding view of the vehicle. Its sensors are able to detect moving objects and will alert the driver. Moreover, the Intelligent Driver Alertness feature monitors driving behaviour to determine if the driver is not paying attention, in which case it will send out a reminder to take a break.
Among the officially distributed MPVs in its segment, the Nissan Serena does not have a contender that offers this level of comfort, roominess and functionality, as well as the 5 years of warranty (with unlimited mileage).