13 January 2022

More than an old car #185: Nissan Serena

The 90s was an interesting period of flux: as the population grew, family needs also evolved and there was a greater need for people carriers to fit more inside them. At the same time, it had to be ideally affordable given the lower purchasing power during that time. This promoted the advent of multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), and although car enthusiasts find them as exciting as watching paint dry, cars like this 1992 Nissan Serena C23 have cemented themselves as part of history whether people like it or not...

First introduced in 1991, it drew its roots from the Datsun Sunny/Cherry Cab back in 1969 and was launched as the fully remodeled version of the C22 Vanette, with internal designation of C23. Its name is derived from the Latin word 'serenus', and was intended to convey the image of a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience. Nissan's Aichi Manufacturing Division led the design and production: the vehicle has a semi-cabover structure with a small bonnet, but the engine was placed under the passenger seat. The shift lever was also mounted to the floor and it was also equipped with a combination sliding door and power windows, which was a world's first. Despite its rather unwieldy shape, it had a surprisingly low aerodynamic coefficient of 0.35.

Various grades and engine types were offered (both petrol and diesel). The more desirable 2.3 litre engine version was never sold in Japan, instead it was for export markets. A larger version of the Serena, known as the Largo also appeared in 1992. While the Serena was intended to be a people carrier, a van version was also produced for the European market: first in Spain and then by the UK-based LDV Group. In 1994, the Serena had a facelift with a different grille and bumper design, while internal changes were made to the instrument panels and aircon switch. Driver airbags were made standard in 1995 and another facelift occurred in 1997, with modifications done to the headlights and front grille. Passenger airbags also became standard-issue in 1998.

Interestingly, this unit sports a 1997 front fascia: when it was on sale in 2009, it still had the pre-facelift look. The Serena was powered by a 1998 cc SR20DE i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 170 km/h with an acceleration of 12.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4315 mm long and weighed 1485 kg, with a fuel consumption of 11.1 litres / 100 km.

Production of the C23 Serena ended in 1999 though van production in Europe finally halted later on in 2001. Serenas were sold here by Tan Chong Motors in 1992, where they found favour with large families and business owners who desired an MPV for their clients. However, its dowdy image also led to much criticism and was voted worst new car on sale in Britain in Top Gear. This unit no longer exists as it was scrapped in 2019, and none of the C23 Serenas still remain here. However, some Malaysian units do make their way to Singapore from time to time...hopefully you will be able to see them about!

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