UPDATED : EVALIA LAUNCHED AT RS 8.49 LAC! (click to read)
India was always known for its humongous small car market, but until recently, when increasing number of people slowly started accepting MPVs as their mode of transport. Large people carriers are often used for weekend getaways and it's the space they offer that makes them so special, in addition to the huge and ever growing taxi segment which is ruled by the Innova! The Nissan Evalia is one such offering, that of a huge MPV, from the Japanese car maker in India.
To start with, the Evalia offers extremely spacious interiors with pretty decent cargo space as well. The other important aspect that makes a people carrier the perfect workhorse for large families is the engine and in the Evalia’s case, it comes from the trusted and super-efficient dCi family. An economical diesel engine is what most buyers would be looking for and Nissan’s latest easily delivers on this front as well.
I got the opportunity to drive the Evalia a couple of days back on rather interesting roads. The drive was organized in Bangalore where a group of journalists from around the country drove to Nandi Hills, which is around 60 km from the downtown Bangalore. 70 percent of the route was a highway dash with the other half culminating in a twisty climb up Nandi Hills and of course on the way back, Bangalore traffic was our company too. We also drove over various road surfaces ranging from smooth tarmac to jagged country roads. Being Bangalore, the weather was pleasant, however the city witnessed scattered showers during our stay.
That said, on Day 2 of my trip the rain Gods obliged to not spoil the party. Right, so coming to the car in question. The Nissan Evalia is unlike any MPV available in India today. Even though, Nissan hasn't revealed the pricing the officials did hint at a price tag that could be between the Mahindra Xylo and Toyota Innova. But, after driving the car and experiencing the product, I would expect Nissan to price it aggressively, undercutting the Innova which is to be its main competition.
There's no denying the fact that the Innova is way more premium compared to the Evalia. Of course, the Evalia has got its own unique bells and whistles. The biggest USP though, would be the interior space, great driving position, ease of access and fuel economy. Talking about fuel efficiency, the Evalia delivers the best-in-class figure of over 19 kmpl (claimed) which means in real world conditions, expect it to out-perform the Innova and Xylo by 20-30% easily! Engine that powers the Evalia is the same tried and trusted 1.5 litre dCi diesel engine from Renault-Nissan's K9K family. The motor delivers 85 bhp and a maximum torque of 200 Nm which does come handy.
Nissan engineers have managed to keep the weight down despite the large proportions of the vehicle and their efforts have resulted in the brisk performance as well. I don't have any grudges about the engine as such for it has proved its worth time and again in the Micra and Sunny. Power is accessible and there is virtually no turbo lag. The engines pulls right from the word go. Even in the lower revs viz. 1000 rpm or so, the Evalia gains momentum without breaking sweat. The gearbox action though could have been better. The 5-speed manual transmission isn't the slickest around. It does feel a tad notchy as you struggle to find the right slot.
You'd expect a 1.8 meter high MPV like the Evalia to be a rollie-pollie breed through the corners. However, surprisingly it handles the twisties extremely well. There is very less body roll and the ride too is well sorted out. It may not be as good as the Toyota, but it's definitely better than the Mahindra. The handling characteristics of the latter aren't too great as well. The 180 mm ground clearance seems adequate as the Evalia went over speed bumps without scrapping its belly. The 14 inch wheels with an unconventional tyre footprint are a cause of concern, th0ugh. The rubber has been specially developed by MRF for the Evalia.
Inside, the front seats are raised to give a better view. The steering wheel which has been borrowed from the Micra is also raked at a weird angle in order to optimize the driving position. That said, the steering can be adjusted to rake and offers decent feedback despite being a tad light. The two-tone beige interior looks good and adds style butplastic quality is average. The seats are supportive and are wrapped in fabric covers. The rear seats can be split 40:60 to allow access to the third row. The third row of seats too offer decent space and can be reclined as well.
The sliding doors for the rear passengers allow ease of access for elderly people. The low step further proves beneficial. There are cooling ducts with separate blower control for the third row. The second row, however has to rely upon the main air-con blower. The lack of an arm rest on the rear doors is also something that needs to be addressed. That said, my biggest concern is the fact that the rear sliding doors don't get roll-down windows. Instead, 'butterfly' type windows some as standard fitment. Even with all the seats up, the boot can gobble up two large suitcases which increases exponentially with all two rows of seats folded down, bettering the Innova. Among the other stuff missing on the Evalia is the absence of a vanity mirror, lid-less glove box and no USB connectivity.
Thus, with the new Evalia it is evident that Nissan has tried their best to keep the costs down. Almost 80 percent of the components going into the making of the car have been sourced from local vendors, according to Nissan which again would reflect in the final price. After reviewing the car first hand, we do feel that all the efforts in terms of human resources and finances have not gone wasted, at all! It does seem to offer the best of both the worlds here and by worlds we mean the Xylo and the Innova. Nissan sees it as a car for the 38 plus year old family man with a large family, but I also see the Evalia to successfully settle into a roll as a fleet car too.
All said, Nissan product planners will be reviewing their package before officially launching it in India. The recently concluded media drives were held with user feedback in mind. Nissan has hinted at improving on certain aspects of the Evalia which should improve it further. Of course, at the end of the day, it will be the price that will matter the most. The Evalia will be available in four variants and the good news is that most of the features including ABS, EBD, audio system, LCD driver information display (colored on XV)etc. is standard on all models. The top-end XV variant gets alloys wheels. The base variant does not get Airbags as standard fitment while Intelligent Key is only offered on XV. Price it right Nissan, and you might just have your new largest selling model in India!