Cars > Driven

Nissan Livina VL AT: Rejoining the MPV segment with a familiar shape

The Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is evident with this model

We welcome the return of the Livina nameplate, even if it comes in a very familiar shape. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

The Nissan Grand Livina came at a time when MPVs with three rows weren’t mainstream as they are today. It had uncomplicated station wagon-like styling, and was actually a good car. A few years into the market, the Grand Livina Highway Star edition was launched in 2012 in an effort to lengthen its lifespan. With the coming of aggressive crossover styling in the segment, however, the Grand Livina’s days were numbered.

As far as the Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is concerned, the question was when would we see a shared platform for our market? Here it is. The second-generation Livina is based on the Mitsubishi Xpander. Both offerings roll off the Mitsubishi Motors plant in Indonesia. The Livina badge is sensibly carried over for continuity. This VL you see here costs P1.209 million.

We wouldn't be surprised if there are aftermarket kits that can make a Livina look like an Xpander (and vice versa). PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Profile-wise, both cars look the same. Conveniently, an Xpander parked beside me on the first day of my test-unit loan, and I just had to walk around both cars and compare. The side mirrors, for instance, are the same. Interestingly, the Livina’s character line is softer than the Xpander’s.

It’s at the front and rear sections where the necessary redesign is apparent. Nissan’s V-Motion grille is the most prominent, followed by the headlights and the turn signals, as well as squinty rectangular fog lights as opposed to the round ones on the Xpander—all encased in a new bumper. Makes you imagine an updated Juke, which would look something like this.

If you ask us, the Livina looks pretty mean for an MPV. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

For the rear differences, the Xpander’s taillights illuminate in a horizontal “T” while the Livina’s are more of a horizontal “V”. The Livina’s diffuser design at the bottom of the bumper also distinguishes both models: a split design for the Nissan, and a single one for the Mitsubishi. Another difference are the reflectors: vertical for the Xpander and horizontal for the Livina. Overall, the Livina has a more conservative look, echoing the Terra.

Seems familiar to you? Unfortunately, the Livina does not get the updated Xpander's tech goodies like smartphone integration. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Inside, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the gauge cluster, which is clearly Mitsubishi (though that’s not a bad thing). It does make sense to make use of existing parts. The approach here is likewise subtle. The steering wheel is more typical compared to the Xpander’s sportier design with perforated leather. The leather seats on this VL variant are also understated; there’s no seat-surface pattern like in the Xpander.

Yes, that is a Mitsubishi motor underneath. Get over it already. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Under the hood is the proven 4A91 1.5-liter MIVEC engine, delivering 104hp and 141Nm. An interesting discussion with Japanese Mitsubishi executives when I was in Indonesia for the global launch of the Xpander in 2018 was this particular engine being the basis for other models. Of course, no direct mention of Nissan at the time. Benefiting from the developments, the Livina’s low end feels torquier. It’s coupled with the familiar four-speed automatic.

The Livina truly can expand its comfortable interior to fit all your needs. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Along with the responsive low end, the steering is nice and weighty, adding a bit of fun to the drive. My wife and I went for a three-and-a-half-hour drive to San Remigio (north of Cebu) via Transcentral Highway, a mountain pass that leads to Balamban, followed by a 79km stretch via the provincial highway.

The Livina yielded 10.7km/L. On the way back, we took the more conventional route—the provincial highway throughout. Traveling around 75km/h, the Livina returned 13.7 km/L.

With contrasting design language from both brands, it has been intriguing to see the respective interpretations. I guess the next question is: Will we see Nissan’s take on the Xpander Cross?


Engine1.5-liter in-line-four gasoline
Transmission4-speed automatic
Power104hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque141Nm @ 4,000rpm
Dimensions4,510mm x 1,750mm x 1,700mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideThe Livina is based on the already proven Xpander.
DownsideWith that comes the stigma of being an Xpander copy.

Jason Dela Cruz

Jason is a veteran member of the motoring community, having worked as an automotive journalist and a car industry executive. He is now based in Cebu, where the car culture is vibrant.