Owner Review: A Dad's take on a Soccer Mom's Car - 2013 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid

Owner Review · Jul 15, 2020 08:00 PM

** This article is the personal experience of a 2013 Nissan Serena S-Hybrid C26 owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar.

Facebook: EZ Wong


About My Car

It's actually my CFO’s car & I will narrate it as my own :)

The Nissan Serena S-Hybrid was originally registered at the end of 2013 & we bought it at a very good price as a Nissan Pre-Reg unit in February 2015.

The C26 is powered by a MR20DD 2.0-liter engine with 147 PS and 210 Nm (figures are from the engine alone, excluding 54 Nm from the electric motor). This direct injection twin-CVTC unit is paired to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT gearbox with Adaptive Shift Control.

The S in S-Hybrid stands for “smart” and this Serena is actually a “micro-hybrid” of sorts. What Nissan did was beef up the ECO Motor, the Serena’s starter motor that controls Idling Stop and functions as an alternator during deceleration. The main 12V-64V-Ah battery drives the motor, while the sub battery powers electrical components like the radio, wipers, etc.

Selecting the right car for the CFO

As all family man; the saying of - Happy Wife, Happy Life; I too followed that mantra. With 2 young kids & elderly parents living with us, we were looking for a people mover that not only suited for city runs, but monthly balik kampung highway drive. Back then MPVs were still relevant & the SUV craze had just started.

Before the Nissan Serena, the CFO was driving my Nissan Slyphy; while I got downgraded to her Kia Spectra 5 hatch. We made that switch as the Nissan Slyphy was a much better car in terms of reliability & cost of ownership in the long run; a piece of mind to me as she fetches the kids & elderly parents more.

So the criteria were set; budget of < RM 150k, practicality & able to fit 7 people comfortably with decent space for luggage at the back, low maintenance cost & external size matters for manoeuvrability. It took us 6 months+ in this journey of getting the “right” family mover.

Back then the usual “budget-friendly” family MPVs came into the picture: Nissan Grand Livina, Toyota Wish (recon) & Proton Exora - all failed the “practicality & able to fit 7 people comfortably with decent space for luggage at the back” criteria. We have even toyed the idea of a 7 seater SUV back then; Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Captiva, Nissan X-Trail, and SsyangYong Stavic, and also slightly upmarket MPVs: Nissan Serena C26 S-Hybrid, Mazda 5, Mazda Biante, and Mazda 8 (used) - all failed the budget criteria & some failed the external size criteria.

So it was back to the drawing board; we know we can't always have the cake and eat it without any compromises to the criteria. The final 2 cars were the Mazda Biante & the Nissan Serena. Budget & external size was an issue.

The size issue was an easy fix, using our Nissan Sylphy as a benchmark - both the Mazda Biante & the Nissan Serena is aesthetically just slightly longer & wider but with great packaging inside & taller only; check! So with that, we went out again & test drove both the Nissan Serena & Mazda Biante back to back. We finally settled for the Nissan Serena as it has better space & practicality in the last row, a hidden boot compartment, better throttle response in the CVT compared to the Mazda Biante’s auto box & how it rides - less floaty & bounce.

With the mindset on the Nissan Serena, we made calls to different dealerships asking the best value for the Kia Spectra 5 (to trade in) & discount to make the budget work. That time, the C26 CKD facelift was introduced at RM150k ++.

Finally, we found a Nissan dealer in Ara Damansara (through my colleague then) that checked all boxes & for RM120k; as it was the C26 CBU pre-facelift unit. We weighed the difference of the facelifted model vs the CBU Pre Reg unit; the savings of over RM30k made more sense:)

We considered it for 1 week & paid the deposit without seeing the actual Pre Reg unit that we are getting & the dealer threw in lots of extras for us; tinting, upgraded player & roof monitor, spoiler & leather seats.

2 weeks later we collected the Nissan Serena on a late workday evening, after a whole day of rain. CFO & myself went for the collection & swapped the Kia Sectra 5 that very night itself. We saw our new family car for the 1st time. The Pre Reg unit was to our expectation & cleared the new car collection checklist. There begins our journey of owning the Serena :)

CFO’s Owning Experience

Driving it back for the 1st time from Ara Damansara back home, the Nissan Serena immediately felt like a significant upgrade from the Kia, but also called out as a step up from the Nissan Slyphy I still own, with the callout characteristics of a moving sofa/family cruiser which is super comfortable & spacious.

Simple Interior design

A family MPV is never about stability in corners or high speed, but more of reliability & ferrying the family safely to the destination. It's really an economical & comfortable highway cruiser (I have done 900km+ on a full tank before on mostly highway drives) with adequate power to go up to Cameron or Genting Highland “with some effort”, due to the CVT gearbox & mild 2.0 engine.

The suspension is soft, but not too wooly that it understeers a lot in corners, and the engine is not underpowered as it can carry 7 adults comfortably on a highway cruise on super hot midday down to Singapore while having superb fuel economy. Despite its height, getting in and out of the Serena is easy (great ingress and egress; with handle support) for elderly parents and children alike.

That trip to the park or picnic, just don’t worry, load it up! It fits 3x 27.5 MTB with front wheels off with ease & with space for other gears.

Trips to IKEA, loading longer items while still able to fit the kids at the back is really commendable.

When my late Dad was still around, he was wheelchair-bound and the Serena proved to be a great vehicle for hospital runs (not that I wish everyone needs to) when it's required. I can secure him in the seats comfortably & park the wheelchair at the back. With the ample space in the back (after folding up the last row seats to the sides), I was also contemplating installing ramps & wheelchair locks just to secure him while he is being seated in the wheelchair.

Not everything about the Serena is dandy. It’s only equipped with just only 2 Airbags for front passengers, fortunately, there is stability control, no Isofix points & no spare tire; it's a far cry from the current generation Serena’s which has all the bells & whistles.

Reliability is very subjective; as we have yet to experience it broken down in the middle of the highway & left stranded but, I think there are mechanical parts in the Nissan Serena that are prone to premature wear & tear in my 5 years & 138k km ownership.

One of the early complaints that I recall was the sliding doors omitting strange sounds & to a point, there was a failure in the sliding mechanism that was due to replace - under warranty. Almost 3 years in the ownership, we noticed that there were sounds coming from the engine compartment & true enough the aircon belt was due to be replaced & with them checking on the belt, they noticed a slight abnormality with the compressor mount, which we both got replaced under warranty.

Then there is the infamous CVT gearbox issue (why infamous - lots of Nissan Serena owners faced the issue); which we got different parts replaced on 2 separate occasions due to different issues exhibited (noisy gearbox & sudden loss of power); which was under warranty as well. The most recent was the AV unit malfunction, and we replaced it with an OEM Android unit for the kids.

As it was CBU Hybrid, we trust Nissan Authorized Service Centre for all our servicing & never had issues with warranty claims. While the maintenance cost is relatively low; almost similar to the Nissan Slyphy, there is a need to replace 2 batteries when it's due in the Nissan Serena every 2 years almost. It's far cheaper from the other hybrid batteries in other hybrid cars. A point to note, if anyone is considering the Nissan Serena used, please check in on its maintenance record & what parts were replaced previously & Nissan’s extended warranty program is a must for that peace of mind.


Total Score:                           3.6/5

Performance:                         2.5/5 (Err what’s that on a family MPV)

Features:                                  3/5

Space:                                      5/5

Ride Comfort:                          4/5

Fuel Economy:                         4/5

Price & running cost:            3.5/5

Reliability:                                3/5