September 06, 2014 @ 04:17 PM

Nissan Livina X-Gear - Crossing over many segments

Can adding bigger bumpers and blistered fenders change the character of a car? Asks Arvind Kumar

Can adding bigger bumpers and blistered fenders change the character of a car? Asks, Arvind Kumar

Ever played a game of spot the difference? That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve got the sales brochures of both the Nissan Grand Livina and the car you see here, the Nissan Livina X-Gear, and instantly I’m struggling to make a case for it. The brochures are quick to point out that the X-Gear is a rugged and versatile lifestyle tool for the young at heart, the adventurous and the intrepid canoeist. So let’s give the X-Gear the benefit of doubt, and investigate further.

In terms of similarities first, both the Livina and X-Gear have exactly the same wheelbase, tire size and ride height so if you plan to purchase it as a mudslinging rock crawler, you have been advised. Other similarities shared with the 1.6-litre Livina include the engine, suspension, steering, brakes and gearbox but I digress. Maybe I should not even compare it to the Grand Livina.

Prices start from RM86,798 for the bog standard issue; and I can understand Nissan’s strategy of trying to lure you away from other non-Malaysian offerings such as the Fiesta, Jazz maybe even the Honda City. And for the price, you do get a spacious five seater, generous cargo space and a spanking good paintjob. However, specify the full options list; and you’ll get a car as featured in these pages valued at RM95,398. Yikes!

However, the hovercraft skirt likened front bumper, side moulding and rear bumper are not optional; and how can I put this nicely, probably designed by a committee. Tacking on dinky panels does not grant the X-Gear any off-road credibility and instead adds weight and dilutes the car’s clean cut lines.

Otherwise, the X-Gear does look handsome, with a refreshed front grille and headlamps which looks sharp and purposeful. A clean shoulder line now graces the sides, flowing from the front arches before neatly tucking into the rear quarters. The freshly designed tail lamps look macho too. Roof racks come as standard, they’re functional and give the X-Gear’s roof a load bearing capacity of up to 25-kg, in addition to the 383-litres of boot cargo space.

Five colour options are on offer but this sparkly Garnet Red is superb and the others look staid in comparison; if you’re going to buy a crossover, why not stand out right. 

Inside, cabin space is abundant, as is legroom and shoulder room replete with seats draped in nicely padded black leather; which allows you to chug down the long drives with ease. Useful cubby holes and cup holders are everywhere you need them to be. The dash feels well-built, but door panels do feel low rent and plasticky, however I feel the interior will put up with the years of child’s abuse most cars like these will be subjected to.  

All round visibility is great; few blind spots intercept your view of the outside which makes parking and lane shifting a breeze. NVH levels are pleasing except for a slight resonance like vibration you’ll encounter in the footwell between 2,800 rpm and 4,000rpm.

Power comes from the long serving 1.6-litre HR16DE mill pumping 104bhp @ 5,200rpm, and a peak torque of 150Nm @ 4,400rpm connected to a surprisingly talented electronically controlled four speed auto. The shifts are seamless and react well to throttle input, especially on downshifts. This translates to good economy figures. My stint with a full tank revealed 420km on mostly urban driving, extra urban under a careful right foot should return high 400’s.

Acceleration is not scintillating, as you might expect, but the torque delivery is punchy and the powerband belies its humble heart. It rarely requires effort getting up to speed and if you need to overtake, the four speeder exhibits surprisingly tactile and urgent response to get into a lower ratio. 

The X-Gear’s electronic steering system is, well, plainly boring and lacks any feel. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Steering is light and quick, and inputs are well modulated to the connected hardware, furthermore, it actually serves to make the car’s footprint seem smaller. 

On the road, the Continentals fitted offer good grip levels and almost nonexistent road noise. Having two seats and 145mm of bodywork less than the Grand Livina, makes the X-Gear more eager to turn in and hold its line during the bends. Stomp on the X-Gear’s brakes, which is complemented with the usual offerings of ABS, EBD and brake assist, it comes to a halt swiftly and with minimal judder. Please note however that only a measly two airbags come with the car. 

Back to the game of spot the difference, flip through to pages three and four of both brochures and you’ll find the answers. While trying to entice you with rugged bumper car looks and roof rails, the X-Gear has lost out on the intrinsic value and functionality the Grand Livina can offer, for largely the same price. However, if you absolutely must carry your canoes…  

To the point
Love Spacious leather interior, great engine-gearbox combo
Hate Everything plastic and black on the outside
(3 stars)
If you want five seats. Almera, if you need seven, Grand Livina

Price RM86,978.00 (RM95,398 as featured)
Engine 1598cc, 4 cyl,EFI with Drive by Wire, 104bhp@6000rpm, 150Nm@4400rpm
Gearbox Four speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance N/A
Weight 1140kg
On sale Now

Connect to Car Magazine : Malaysian Edition! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Editor's Choice