A competent minivan with too many quality problems early on
The following are my experiences with the Nissan Serena within its first 1,800 km:
The car would experience hard-starting 2 out of 5 times.
The gear-shifter stalk feels like it belongs to a USD200 child's electric toy car than a USD21,000 minivan. It has quite a lot of freeplay for a brand-new vehicle.
The automatic transmission sometimes does not engage DRIVE securely from NEUTRAL. Although it registers on the dashboard display as being in D already, the car is still in neutral and thus refuses to move off unless the gear is re-shifted to N and returned to D.
The brakes emit a barking sound like a seal whenever I lightly apply them when going over a speed bump.
The suspension makes a thumping or dribbling sound as the car goes over less-than-perfect roads.
The left passenger door does not slide open or close as easily as the right one.
The rear passenger air-conditioning system emits a whirring noise whenever it has been working longer than 10 minutes.
The supplied Clarion audio-video system could use a more sensitive antenna for its radio.
Finally, the finishing of the interiors shows shabby details, like the bolt caps of the right B pillar passenger handle is forever sticking out and cannot seem to be positioned properly. The cutaways of the bolts that hold the included jumper seats in the rear are very roughly done--seems that the assembler just got a nail clipper to do it.
This is not one of your classically styled vehicles. It's either you like it or you don't--no middle ground here.
This minivan has a sufficiently powerful engine for most around-town applications. Its passing ability (overtaking) in highway situations is, as expected of minivans of this sort, slow, but manageable. You have to remember its bulk and make allowance for additional passing times when in the highway. I have never tested its performance on uphill drives, though, so this still has to be proven.
In general, this is a comfortable minivan. The seats are OK, though they do not provide sufficient support for long trips.
The ability of the middle row and rear seats to move along tracks is a useful feature to increase or adjust the cargo-holding capacity of this vehicle. However, the fact that you must move the middle row to gain access (ingress and egress) to the rear seats is inconveniently slow and cumbersome.
My family likes the ability of the middle and rear seats to fold completely down to form a long bed.
In mixed city and highway driving, I get around 6 kilometers per liter worth of fuel consumption, which is 14 percent more than my Nissan Sentra, a compact sedan. Not too bad, considering its added bulk.
Outward visibility is very good in front, though somewhat blocked rearward because of the headrests of the seats.
For its price, I would have expected the vehicle to come with the de rigeur front passenger air bag, fog lamps, and car alarm, but this was not the case. It does, however, come with ABS, which is good.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 27th May, 2004