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The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Nissan adds some Livina X-factor

2008-09-17 07:58

Lance Branquinho

Nissan have given its Livina range something you’d

Nissan have given its Livina range something you’d not be completely embarrassed to park at the Gym. This is the Livina X-Gear, and if you need robust space for a family of five its does quite neatly without looking too much like a MPV.

Nissan’s Livina range has been bolstered by the addition of a lifestyle oriented X-Gear variant.

Despite Livina’s utilitarian market positioning the X-Gear has been aesthetically polished to add a sense of style beyond the seven-seater practicality of Grand Livina.

With severely adjusted local market conditions, lifestyle buyers have been forced to be more price sensitive, having to forgo stylish frivolity for keen price entry points, essential features and spaciousness.

Some buyers previously considering an entry level MPV have had to consider purchasing in a price bracket lower down; many would like to retain the spaciousness associated with SUV packaging though.

Livina dressed up in activity wear

With the X-Gear you essentially get a Livina with featuring distinguishing interior trim and an exterior adorned with plastic embellishments.

Nissan says the X-Gear benefits from SUV styling elements and sets itself apart from the rest of the Livina range. We say some choice plastic mouldings have made the uninspiring MPV styling nearly palatable.

Featuring roof rails and matt black fenders, door guard finishers and side sill protectors Livina X-Gear is not only more stone-chip resistant, but much better looking to boot.

The presence of attractive six-spoke, 15-inch mags as standard are slightly at odds with the door guard finishers and side sill protectors, as they’ll scratch up beautifully on dirt roads – in mitigation so does nearly any other SUVs mags.

Viewed front-on, Livina X-Gear features a mercifully redesigned radiator grille and front bumper that cleans up the gawky standard Livina styling considerably. Behind the rear axle styling benefits from a reshaped rear bumper.

It’s hardly a facelift, more an exterior garnishing. It works particularly well too, as the black wheelarch trimming and roof rails break the elongated standard Livina shape quite neatly, rendering the illusion of a better proportioned car. The effect though, goes to waste on X-Gear models finished in black though…

Trimmed out

Interior design has benefited from the lifestyle orientated makeover too, with the horrid Japanese ‘Teak’ trimmings banished and replaced with black and silver plastic finishes.

The cheaper X-Gear variant (designated Visia) rolls onto the showroom floor for R140 000 equipped with a driver side airbag, air-conditioning, powered windows but no audio system. If you’re able to stretch the family budget to R152 500 you can have the Acenta model adding a passenger side airbag, audio system with front loading CD-player and ABS modulated brakes benefiting from EBD and BA.

Unfortunately both Visia and Acenta models only have a space-saver spare wheel on hand if you run into trouble, and we can all imagine just how much fun one of those could be with a fully loaded vehicle on a long dirt road in the middle of the Karoo.

Driveable, loadable, loveable?

Dynamically the X-Gear is powered by the same willing 1.6-litre, fuel-injected engine found elsewhere in the Livina range.

Even at altitude it’s quite perky with only 80kW and 153Nm on tap, and though the five-speed manual transmission is typically awful in that quintessentially Nissan front-wheel drive tradition, drivability is not entirely utilitarian.

At parking speeds the over-assisted power steering makes effortless work of three-point turning manoeuvres, although it is a bit too light as speeds build. Suspension comprises struts up front and an H-shaped torsion beam layout at the rear with internal rebound springs and ripple-control shock absorbers.

Lacking multilink rear-suspension renders comparisons to more traditional hatchbacks void (though Nissan would like to imagine this as X-Gear market territory); yet the simple X-Gear underpinnings combine well to provide a fair compromise between family pleasing ride-quality and highway stability.

Driving from Parys in the Free State to Johannesburg, we were severely buffeted by pre-frontal Highveld winds and the Livina was essentially unbothered, exhibiting no drunken-date highway-swaying behaviour.

Beyond its very keen pricing X-Gear options include a host of audio upgrades, mud-flaps for those real rural weekend adventurers, tow-bars and leather seats – which you’d be mad to have in something which lends itself to such robust family use.

Something I would really like to have seen either standard, or at least as an option, would be a multifunction steering wheel. It’s something I consider a key safety feature as it keeps eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel – where they should be, not fiddling with an audio system.

The other minor bugbear is the 52l fuel tank. It's not miniscule, but with the 7.2l/100km claimed consumption a 60l capacity would give you that extra 100km range; which you'd never consider until you’re running on the fuel warning light between Calvinia and Sutherland.

Stylishly utilitarian?

Nissan has a curious mix in the Livina range, offering strong value in a driveable package. Aesthetically though, the range has rather garish styling properties, both inside and out. With X-Gear this has been thoroughly redressed.

As much as I despise the whimsical dressing up of vehicle ranges with pseudo-activity pack styling add-ons, in the case of the Livina it serves a curiously noble purpose. It gives a thoroughly decent, value-for money family vehicle some style, which should ease the buying-down decision many South African SUV buyers are current faced with.

If a standard small hatchback is not capacious enough for your family requirements– or perhaps not robust enough for dirt road bound weekend away sojourns – the Livina X-Gear offers a good value alternative. You’d have to be mad to even consider an Avanza over the Livina, either in seven-seater or X-Gear form.


Livina X-Gear Visia R140 000
Livina X-Gear Acenta R152 500



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