The new Nissan Serena MPV has rather suffered from being launched just before the super new Micra hatchback and as a consequence it has rather been overwhelmed by the huge publicity campaign for the diminutive city car.

A pity really, it may never sell in the huge numbers that the Micra is expected to as it's a rather more specialised vehicle but the Serena is worthy of serious consideration by anyone contemplating buying an estate car or venturing into the rapidly growing MPV market. The car has many good features yet is smaller, cheaper and, perhaps, for those reasons, more readily acceptable by a wider audience than some of the well established but larger, costlier and more sophisticated MPV's already in the market place.

The Serena is very aggressively priced by Nissan, offering a comfortable and capable 8 seater or huge load stowage for a price around £5,000 less than the market leaders, a vehicle as at home on the school run, a trip to the DIY shop, as a support vehicle for those with outdoor pursuits - it would easily take several mountain bikes - or simply as a practical family runabout. It is as easy to drive as a mid-size saloon car and about the same size. All of these capabilities for a tad under £13,000 has to be a bargain.

The bulbous body may never be called elegant but it's not unattractive, looking rather like an over-inflated Micra, a strong Nissan family resemblance and a surprisingly good CD factor for such an upright vehicle.

I drove the LX, the bottom of the 3 trim, 3 engine, range fitted with the reliable Nissan double overhead cam, 16 valve, injected, engine and a five speed manual gearbox. Above this are two more trim levels and a choice of 2 litre petrol and diesel engines, surprisingly the diesels attracting no premium being priced the same as the 1600 cc petrol engine. The very well equipped top of the range model still has a price tag of only £17,750.

The basic 1600 cc engine provides reasonably nippy performance, capable of over 90 mph and an 18 second 0-60 dash and it cruises happily and quietly at 70 mph on the motorway yet I suspect for serious people carrying or load lugging the extra power of the 2 litre is going to be more desirable.

Inside, the cabin is bright and airy, loads of head and leg room for all passengers, lots of glass, 8 full and comfortable seats in 3 rows, the rear two rows with a 50/50 split, the middle row folding forward and the last row folding up to the sides, leaving a huge load area.

One the great selling points of the Serena has to be it's driveability, it's really as easy to drive as a family saloon but with better visibility, the light power steering making for easy parking and the large truck mirrors making manouvring easy. The other great selling point has to be it's versatility with the wide range of seat and load combinations, the seats even folding to form a double bed.

The controls are simple, well placed and clear. The steering is tilt adjustable and the seats are widely adjustable for a good driving position. A minor grumble is that for all that space oddments stowage is fairly minimal and the car cries out for a decent set of door pockets.

The engine is slung under the floor between the front seats so the gear shift is rather higher than usual but this is soon got used to. Despite this low slung engine position in- cab noise is quite low as is wind noise although the tyres rumble a little, particularly over cats eyes. Access for servicing is easy, all of the main service points being brought forward and tucked under the slim bonnet.

Such a high riding position gives an excellent view of the road and the wide doors make for easy access. On the LX there are only 4 doors - 2 front, 1 rear and a nearside sliding door - but on the other two models there is also an offside sliding door.

The Serena is very much a car for the mid nineties, of a type that will become much more common as the decade rolls on. In a small footprint it offers great space, flexibility and versatility, all at a very reasonable cost.


Fact File
  • Price £12,950
  • Top Speed 93 mph
  • 0-60 mph 18 seconds
  • Fuel Consumption 25 mpg ( Urban Cycle )
  • 36 mpg ( Constant 56 mph )


First Published 1993 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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