In Japan the trend towards SUVs has not yet established itself as overwhelmingly as in the rest of the world, at least you get this impression when you see the multitude of large and small vans in the cityscape of Tokyo. There is a good reason for the “little vans”. The so-called kei cars may be a maximum of 3,39 meters long and only 1.48 meters wide - and also have a maximum displacement of 0.67 liters. It is logical that with these restrictions one goes up and also keeps the window surfaces as steep as possible. Kei cars are less expensive in Japan and, unlike other vehicle categories, you do not have to provide evidence of a parking space for the car before you can register it. But in addition to the very special kei cars, you can also see the classic van in the streets of Japan. I was able to test a representative of this classic species during my trip to Tokyo.
NISSAN SERENA - test drive in Tokyo
From gloves and friendly toll cashiers
The Nissan Serena ranks 6th in the top ten list of vehicles sold most frequently in Japan. And no, this list is not only for vans - it also lists all cars in Japan. This alone shows the importance of the VAN in Japan. At 4.75 meters, the Serena is of manageable length and, like the KEI-CAR class, is above all quite tall and rather narrow. The almost 1.90 meters high and not even 1.75 meters wide give the SERENA a KEI-CAR-like look - the occupants conquer the advantages. The clear height in the interior and the classic Van structure go well together. This turns the SERENA into a moving lounge.
Wear the mink inside
When it comes to engines, Nissan makes it easy for its customers. There is only one engine for the SERENA, a 2.0 liter four-cylinder with direct injection. With a general speed limit of 100 km / h in Japan, this is an understandable decision. And the choice of gearbox is also rather limited. A continuously variable automatic transmission is on board. A decision can only be made when it comes to front or all-wheel drive. The choice of equipment lines for the SERENA is much greater. From the basic version for 2.435.400 yen to the “Highway Star” with a sharpened look and lounge-like interior for 3.72 million yen, a lot is possible. This concentration on “optics” and inner values, apart from engines and transmissions, shows the SERENA's focus well.
The SERENA is a touring van, or a family van, a car with comfortable space for up to seven people - whereby 6 people can be accommodated very comfortably. Only drivers and co-drivers who get really comfortable lounge chairs in row one are even better off. The tour of Tokyo starts unusual. Sitting on the right. Even stranger, the turn signal lever and wiper lever are also interchanged - which leads to blinking when it starts to rain and to switch on the wiper when turning.
Driving a car in Tokyo
What sounds like a Harakiri command; Driving a car in a foreign metropolis on the wrong side, with illegible traffic signs, quickly turns out to be a Sunday trip. Tokyo is not only among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world, with 15.000 inhabitants per square kilometer, Toyko is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Before everyone runs amok, you just stay polite. Keeps distance, is friendly and reserved. And that's exactly what you can feel in traffic. Nobody honks. Nobody is pushing. Driving an aggressive car like you know it from cities like Rome or Barcelona is foreign to the Tokyo. This helps on the first trip with the SERENA. And even when the German blogger wants to drive onto the toll road on the SERENA, but the credit card at the toll station cannot pull out quickly enough, and is also in the wrong lane, namely that for drivers with contactless payment systems and not in the lane for drivers Those who have to pay, a long line quickly forms behind him, nobody honks. The cashier in the toll booth politely gestured to the 1.300 yen sign - and waited until Habby - bathed in sweat - pulled out his cash.
Cars like the SERENA are a perfect match for the calm nature of the Tokyo people. Its CVT lets the gasoline engine mumble gently in the lower speed range. The overview from the raised seating position in the high van is ideal to give even “long noses” a chance not to lose track. Thanks to the “Nissan ProPilot” system, you can rely on an assistant between 30 and 100 km / h who keeps an eye on the distance and lane. This assistance system was actually the reason for the trip to the Serena. Because in new NISSAN LEAF this system will also come to Germany in 2018.
Tokyo, the Serena and Habby
Actually, it was the 2018 Nissan Leaf that drove Habby to Tokyo. And actually, the SERENA was only intended to test the Nissan ProPilot system once, but in the end it was just the ride with it SERENA, through Tokyo exactly what impressed me the most. And that you hardly ever buy vans from us? Well - actually it is not understandable - and not only with the topic of "serenity" in traffic and in dealing with each other, I would like a little more "Japanese style" for us Europeans. The vans too, man, they were practical and comfortable - why exactly did we say goodbye to these vans?
And what about the gloves?
I thought it would be a funny gag if I put on gloves for the test drive with the Serena, because the day before we drove with two taxis in Tokyo and both taxi drivers had gloves on. (I don't want to start from the other cultural differences to (e.g. Berlin) taxis.) In any case, these gloves were actually responsible for making things almost chaotic at the toll station. But that in turn demonstrated to me the calmness and courtesy of the Japanese.