2012 Nissan Evalia MPV First Drive Review
Team ICB spent half a day with the Nissan Evalia MPV, for a good 120 kilometers, across mostly good tarmac, with some twisties and a small bit of off roading thrown in for good measure. Nissan calls the Evalia, a.k.a. the NV200 MPV, an urban-class utility vehicle(UC-UV), in other words, as an MPV trageted mainly as urban India. The MPV has already earned its spurs as an able people and goods mover in many countries across the world, so much so that the iconic Crown Victoria taxicab was replaced by the NV200 as the choice of ferrying New Yorkers around. Oh, and London too is said to be contemplating the NV200 MPV as a replacement for the instantly recognizable TX4s. So, how does the Evalia MPV stack up in Indian conditions, where it might straddle an all new segment? Read on, to find out.
Straddling segments is what the Evalia is all about, what with the dimensions of the MPV that gives it a unique appeal, of that of squeezing between the Ertiga and the Innova, both big selling products. If Nissan India can indeed straddle this gap between the Ertiga and the Innova, it can definitely be onto something. While the positioning remains a big if given that the Evalia’s price hasn’t been revealed yet, we’ve been hearing some positive noises emerging from Nissan India about the Evalia’s pricing which could be between the Ertiga and the Innova.
Coming back to the dimensions, which incidentally put the Evalia in the position it finds itself, sample this: The Evalia measures in at 14.43 feet in length, 5.56 feet in width and 6.17 feet in height. Comparable figures for the Toyota Innova and the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga are 15.04-5.77-5.77 and 13.99-5.56-5.52 respectively. This essentially means that the Evalia is taller than both the Innova and the Ertiga, giving the MPV an imposing street presence. In fact, it is this very height that makes the Evalia seem bigger than both the Innova and the Ertiga when viewed from straight up or even from the front-3 quarters.
However, the height is the factor that makes the Evalia look more van-like than the MPVish stance that the Innova and Ertiga feature in good measure. In fact Maruti Eeco/Omni owners would actually find the Evalia to be a logical upgrade given the van like appearance of the MPV that Nissan chooses to imaginatively call UC-UV. Design wise, the Evalia is a plain looker, with its bread-box like design heavily tilted towards conservatism than radical-ness. Given that Nissan is looking to target 40 years olds, who’d want to buy a capable and highly fuel efficient people mover, the kinds of people who’d value function over form, the Evalia could perhaps strike just the right chord.
Talking of form over function, the Evalia has practicality written all over it, right from when you step into the tall driver’s seat. The tall driver’s seat give the driver of the Evalia a superb view of the road up front, and visibility is something that is quite excellent in this MPV. The driver’s seat, which can’t be adjusted for height though, is a comfortable place to be in, with all the controls falling easily to place. For instance, the gear lever is integrated into the dashboard for easy access. The steering, with a van like driving position is thankfully adjustabable for tilt. The instrumentation is large and easy to read, with the odometer dominating proceedings, while the tachometer is a digital item.
The other thing that strikes you in the Evalia, is the sheer headroom that this MPV offers. Despite having just two windows which roll down, the airy interiors in beige trim banish any semblance of claustrophobia in the middle and the rear seats. Talking of which, the middle seats can seat three abreast while the rear is good for two more adults. Funily enough, the rear seat will be where most Indians smaller than five foot ten would love to encsonce themselves given that the rear most seat reclines and has dedicated AC vents. The middle seaters though will have to make do with the effect of the AC from the dashboard and the rear.
Yes, roof mounted AC vents for the middle seat are absent on the Evalia, with Nissan seeming to rely on the front and the rear blowers to bring tenmperatures down in the cabin. The Evalia’s van underpinnings come to the fore as the MPV does not have middle row windows that can be wound down. All said, the Evalia is quite spacious and comfortable for seven moderately sized adults with a bonus being the capacious luggage space the MPV offers behind the third seat. In fact, this is a big brownie point in favor of the Evalia, which also has a lower loading lip for easy access to the luggage area behind the rear seats.
The sliding doors in the middle means that access to both the middle and the rear set of seats are extremely comfortable. So there, the Evalia’s design is utilitarian across the spectrum and this is something that family MPV buyers will certainly come to appreciate. Talking of utilitarianism, the plastics on the Evalia are of the hard wearing type, right from the stuff on the dashboard to the stuff that clad the panels on the door and everything in between. Cubby holes for bottles and other knick knacks are dime and dozen on the MPV while the driver gets an additional underseat storage bin. Even though the MPV doesn’t come with a cooled glovebox, cooling down a drink or two can be ably achieved with the bottle holders on the dashboard right in the path of the AC vents.
So, that’s a thoughtful touch there which made us wonder why other cars don’t come with very interesting and effective feature. The glovebox on the dashboards can swallow quite some stuff although it misses a shutter. The power window switches though, seem like an afterthought. Cost cutting is glaring in a few areas like a lack of a anti glare mode for the inner rear view mirror, absence of roof mounted AC vents, the missing vanity mirror and a single lamp for the entire cabin. So premium, the interiors certainly aren’t by any stretch of imagination with function dominating form all across even as the beige trim does manage to keep things together by making the aesthetics of the interiors a tad more appealing and livable.
So, how does it drive?
Starting the engine is an affair that will take the uninitiated a spot of luck along with some sharp thinking no we’re not joking. The Evalia comes with a keyless entry function but makes do with a engine start knob placed on the steering column, just where a conventional key hole will usually rest. The knob won’t budge until you press the brake pedal and for those who don’t know how it works, you’re in for some fidgeting. Owners though should be guided by the sales folks at Nissan showrooms. Joke on the house: Nissan Evalia comes with an anti-theft feature as standard.
It is easy to slip into a comfortable driving position with the A-B-C pedals being comfortably spaced out so that even the taller drivers would find driving the Evalia a breeze. Oh, and the large dead pedal means that the driver’s left foot would be a happy highway cruiser. Though van-like in demeanour, the Evalia drives like a car and is a pleasure to drive in the city, mainly due to the excellent visibility all around and the terrific tractability of the 1.5 K9K turbo diesel motor, an engine that puts out 85 Bhp of peak power and 200 Nm of peak torque. The engine is mated to a five speed gearbox with a short first gear, ostensibly to aid bigger loads.
The best part of the engine is the sheer turbo-lag free nature of it, especially in the lower gears where the engine feels like a petrol motor in terms of driveability right from idle. The clutch is very light and makes driving even in peak hour traffic stress free. The torquey engine means that second gear will be more than enough for taking off after braking at the various speedreakers and potholes that dominate most Indian cityscapes. The engine is extremely flexible throughout the rev range and does a fantastic job on the Evalia, which is quite light by MPV standards at 1,400 kilograms.
This light weight, a front wheel drive layout and the highly acclaimed K9K turbo diesel engine means that the Evalia is quite fuel efficient, with an ARAI certified fuel economy number of 19.3 Kmpl, besting the competition by a big margin. This will be a major selling point of the MPV, with family MPV buyers and the cabbie crowd alike loving this aspect of the Evalia. The MPV even gets a gear shift indicator that tells the driver to upshift once the revs exceed the peak torque range of the engine. However, the motor, while being smooth across the rev range is quite audible right from idle. Yet another hint of cost cutting? You bet. The lack of insulation under the bonnet and on the firewall means that the 1.5 K9K diesel motor’s makes its presence felt all along. While the vibrations remain well damped, the sound of the engine simply isn’t.
That said, the engine note isn’t intrusive enough to become a major bother and turning on the volume of the stereo by a couple of notches should help matters wholly. Though quite large, the Evalia is a breeze to drive around town and the highway. As long as you take things easy on the twisties, the Evalia does quite well with negligible body roll. The independent suspension up front and the leaf spring layout at the rear made us a little apprehensive about the ride quality, the fears turned out to be largely unfounded. While the ride isn’t as pliant as the Innova, the Evalia rides very well given the leaf springs at the rear.
The well sorted suspension means that the irregularities on the roads are dismissed quite ably and handling is very car like at city speeds, many thanks to the monocoque construction. On the highway too, the Evalia will be at its element cruising at 100-120 Kph. Roll-Ons and overtaking moves are quite effective with the lighter kerb weight and 200 Nm of torque aiding matters. In hustle mode, the Evalia will see a 140 Kph on the of speedo pretty quickly before things decidedly go into steady mode. With the height of the Evalia though, you’d be better off south 140 Kph.
Safety features on the Evalia are par for the course with twin airbags and ABS making for standard piece of equipment, with ABS and driver side airbag available even on the base variant. A reverse camera that displays on the instrumentation console is a particularly useful touch as the Evalia is quite large and requires the visual aid for reversing in tight spots. To sum it up, the Evalia comes across as an MPV that is fuel efficient, extremely driveable with a well sorted handling package along with performance that is very adequate.
* Superb driveability
* Easy of driving in heavy city traffic
* Great visibility all around
* Good fuel economy
* Well sorted ride and handling
* Spacious and airy interiors
* Utilitarian design
* Average interiors
* Cost cutting
* Conservative and looks
* Only two openable windows
Now that Nissan has come up with the Evalia, a very capable and utilitarian MPV, the next step for the Japanese automaker would be to price this MPV just right so that it manages to straddle the segment in between the Ertiga and the Innova, to make for a excellent bet for the urban MPV buyer. A good starting price would be well south of the Mahindra Xylo, which is also a very capable rival. If indeed Nissan India can come up with a cracker of a price tag, the Evalia could be one more success for the Japanese brand in India. Nissan demonstrated that it can price its products well, with the Sunny sedan. A similar approach could make all the difference in the Evalia’s case.