Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Nissan Teana in Malaysia: Into Troubled Waters?

By Dr Long

Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) may find its new model, the Nissan Teana wading through troubled waters deeper than the one you see above, come 4th April 2007 launch. At an asking price of RM230k (all inclusive on-the-road), it will take more than the superb VQ (near-2.4L) V6 engine to keep it afloat amongst the sea of competitors i.e. the Honda Accord plus the all-new Toyota Camry. Even the sporty-intent facelift Mazda6 2.3, being CBU from Japan, will give this mid-size imported Teana a run for its money - to a certain extent.

Below is an old report based on a test drive done during Nissan Test Drive Campaign/Experience in October 2004:

Nissan Teana...another beast in its own right, I must say. If the age-old adage of “Size Does Matter” is applied here, this is the one to have! And should TCM get its CKD pricing right for this 2.3 V6 variant, “big bang for small bucks” also holds true as well.Waiting list was somehow longer for this new-Cefiro-to-be test car. As such, I have had the luxury to check out the display car.

First impression: it was a very different looking car from both predecessors. It is actually a good thing because the previous 2 generations look pretty similar in overall profile, especially the front visage.A refreshing departure in design was the vertically slanted headlamps. Ah! No projector lenses here, just the simple C.S. reflectors here for the non-HID item, hooray! However, it was interesting to note that the side portion of the headlamp assembly that houses the turn-signal repeater looks kind of cheesy and cheap. In between these headlamps is an all-new radiator grille, opting back to the horizontal slates design, looking solid and business-class like with a chromed “Nissan” emblem in the middle. The hood still cradles the front grille (a trend abandoned by the Beemers and Audis). Nevertheless, the lines are still clean, with hardly any gross or gaping shut lines noticeable, the bonnet shutting nicely onto an equally neat-looking one-piece bumper. Overall, it is a very imposing front with a fresh design. Check out the web pictures of the Taiwan’s Nissan Sentra and you’d see this genetic resemblance. Popping this hood, you see an equally imposing black plastic engine-cover with a contrasting chrome logo and tell-all V6 badge. It actually looked convincing and not at all plasticky or toy-like. Engine bay layout is neat and clean, but there is an empty space fore of the radiator until the bumper’s border. Maybe a feature of crumple zone, that in event of a frontal collision, to improve its NCAP safety ratings? Likely so.

Side profile draws of a lengthy saloon with a smooth but arched roof profile. In fact, the side windows plus the rear quarter glass looks like a carbon copy of the previous Audi A6’s roofline. Fortunately, an oblique slant at the final part of this very quarter glass clawed back this Nissan’s own ‘identity’. Exterior lines are clean and non-emotive, disrupted only by the usual wheel arches. The standard alloys looks deceptively bigger than 16 inches, probably due to the limo-like wheels design and does a good job filling up those arches too. After 3 generations of Cefiros, the door handles have finally bucked the current trend of grip-pull type (ergonomic!) handles, embellished in chrome for a saloon of this stature. A mirror image of these pull-type handles can be found on the inside, albeit diagonally placed, solidly built with "wooden" highlights instead. Doors felt heavy to handle and closed with a solid “thud”, thereby reassuring to a pretty solid feel and built of this new Cefiro.

A very sloping rear screen completes the coupe-wannabe profile of the Teana, ended by a bulky rear, reminiscent of the facelifted Sentra but much bigger! What lies beneath is a super-capacious boot that can easily swallow 3 golf bags, made even more luggage-friendly with the use of scissor-type hinges plus gas-struts. Bravo to Carlos Ghosn who did not opt to cost cutting here!

Getting into the driver’s seat makes you feel you have stepped into a luxurious cockpit, with lots of wood-like bits and strips. These wood-like trimmings looked and felt like a cross between rubber wood and parquet flooring tiles. Yes! They are NOT the usual shiny, glossy plastic pieces made to look like wood. Think of the Kah-Motor era’ Hondas, and you’d get a gory chill down your spine! The most notable "wooden" part must be the sloping forward gear console, with the top layer in "wood" embracing a beautiful stepladder type automatic shift-gate. There is no parking brake lever intrusion here since it has been relegated to a foot-operated pedal. The dashboard looked and felt solid too with a flat-horizon theme. The sore thumb here must be the small instruments meter cluster that resulted. A case of form overriding function here, I guess. The rev-counter is a small 160degrees, near semi-circle with a dwarfed needle, so are the other gauges. A run-of the-mill hump behind the steering would have afforded this Teana to have a bigger instrument panel. Thus enabling the offerings of the regular, easily legible, classier, maybe even sportier round dials. Perhaps, even the more preferable full-circle dials with chrome rings! Look at what DaimlerChrysler did for their C-class update or maybe the Mazda6 or even the Peugeot 407, you’d get what I mean. The steering looks very soft and comfy, with the usual on-steering controls but I’d prefer it to be in a darker shade for a more executive and classier look. The choc-vanilla shade makes this wheel looks more suited to an MPV or a fun-hatch like March.

All seats are well padded, supportive and huge! The front seats remind you of the office high-back executive chair with extra high shoulder/upper thoracic spine support. Plenty of legroom, knee room, shoulder room, headroom, elbowroom and hip room but no “Panic Room”! Clearly, size does matter here. However the sloping rear screen, as mentioned earlier, may have caused slight “tunnel vision” when viewed through the in-cabin rear-view mirror. In fact, the interviewer in the car during my test drive kept asking me if I had found this rear-view mirror too small. Apparently, most test drivers had such a complaint, which I thought may be attributed to this “tunnel vision” or maybe, that they were used to after-market clip-on rear-view mirrors the size of the late Elvis’ sideburns!

I had no chance to fire-up the V6 since the test car actually ran non-stop in loops for a given test-drive route. But I think it has keyless-go since there’s only a grey plastic stub in place of the usual ignition slot. The moment I got into the car, I found it was silent and serene in the cabin, since I hardly noticed that the engine was running. Driving on did not change the quiet in-cabin ambience much. What’s more, the engine was smooth, willing and responsive all the way to 6,500rpm with ease, with the kinetic energy felt in tandem at the wheels and car gaining momentum without much fuss. In fact, this Teana’s powerplant felt ‘eerily’ similar in character the Z-car’s 3.5 V6! So much so, it’s like only a stepped-down version with lower output ratings due to the lesser cubic displacement. Lesser when compared to the 3.5litre, but not at all lower ratings compared to the other 2.3/2.4 mid-size execs in the RM170-180k price range. The highest ratings in fact, at 173bhp/225Nm, from a normally aspirated displacement of 2,349cc. All said, I have made a silly mistake testing the Z-car first, so it felt less impressive on the move in comparison. Nevertheless, the 225Nm on tap felt adequate to move this beast.During the shorter than short test-drive, I definitely missed a 5th gear. However, gear changes were smooth, in synergy with the superb overall NVH refinements. Ride was plush and comfortable on the standard 65-series Bridgestones.

Parking the Teana back to the ‘garage’ at the rear of the showroom, I was asked to give an expected price for this near-2.4 V6 saloon. I tried to ‘psych’ the interviewer into a believable estimate of RM160-170k, in CKD form, depending upon trim/specs, and a max of RM175k. That’s because there’s always the incumbent leader Camry and the new Accord for consideration, both 2.4s on the same turf. The superb V6 should be Nissan’s trump card to ace its competitors, not for a higher asking price. Anything above the psychological RM180k, people will not drool as much and hence, less new Cefiros on the road in 2005/2006.

Parting shot with the new Cefiro, I recalled a blurry sight of the huge triangular tail lamps. Somehow, I had found the single bulb for the brake light inadequate and that a multi LEDs set-up would do the job better aesthetically, as well as more effectively.Overall impression of the Teana is generally excellent. It is a worthy contender for the upper echelons of the mid-size executive saloon segment. So, will this new Cefiro SHIFT_the future? Now, all will rest with the local franchise-holder/sole-distributor, since the ball is now in ETCM’s court: to get the price tag right! And the rest will be history…

Note: The above was written by the author during the automotive scenario circa 2004/05.

Another way of looking at this new launch from ETCM is merely its intention to start updating the Nissan passenger vehicles range in Malaysia, with more focus possibly being placed on the upcoming (CKD) Tiida sedan and hatchback. Not forgetting the new MPV Livina Geniss, expected sometime Q3 2007. These models are likely more realistic in pricings and affordability.

Related post: http://for-wheels.blogspot.com/2007/02/nissan-livina-geniss-in-malaysia.html


BMW.Toyota said...

Dead On Arrival! With such an asking price, nobody except Nissan diehard fans will buy this. C'mon, the sleekier and more handsome Toyota Camry is RM60K cheaper and is a trusted name with higher re-sale value! Who wants a Nissan?

drlong said...

Err...for its future guaranteed exclusivity? ;)