Despite its heavy MPV looks, the Evalia is actually much lighter than other ladder frame-based MPV’s. So, while the Evalia may have an engine capacity that is 1,000cc smaller, the Nissan matches the Innova on performance thanks to the lower weight. The engine’s wide spread of power also minimises the need to shuffle through the slightly notchy gearbox.
While the Innova may be heavier, the engine feels slightly more responsive, which helps when overtaking. It also cruises better, and is better to drive with a full complement of passengers and that’s because it has more power. Engine and gearbox refinement are not the best, however. There is a fair bit of vibration from the gearlever, it gets noisy on fast open highways because of the gearing, and you often look for a sixth gear.
Ride & handling
Thanks to its light, fairly accurate steering and tight turning circle, the Evalia feels smaller than it is. Grip from the tyres is good and handling is safe, so long as you don’t drive too fast. Strong winds tend to rock the slab-sided Evalia but overall stability is good for a car of these proportions. The ride quality is nice, though the basic rear suspension makes it bouncy on uneven surfaces, more so for middle and last row passengers.
Unlike the Evalia, the large Innova always feels its size in traffic. Its steering also requires more effort when going slow, but it does feel better as you speed up. The Innova’s lower stance also means body control is quite good. In fact, you can have proper fun driving it, which is saying something for an MPV. Fairly flat and composed at high speeds and absorbent enough at low speeds, the Innova also has the better ride.
The Evalia’s cabin is more upright than the Innova’s and you get the impression you’re sitting higher. Front seat occupants get a good view out and the seats are comfortable. The driving position is nice, but the steeply angled steering wheel makes it feel like driving a van, not a modern MPV. For its part, the dashboard is well thought out and the gear lever, music system and AC controls are within easy reach.
Better access apart, the Innova’s cabin is also more plush and more car-like. The contemporary dashboard looks more attractive and even the faux wood on it looks quite convincing. And in terms of quality of plastics and fit and finish, the Innova feels a class above. The front seats offer better support and the range of steering and seat adjustments make it easier to find the perfect driving position.
Space & practicality
The Evalia’s sliding doors may not be to everyone’s liking but they allow excellent access to the back rows. There’s lots of space in the middle row and the last row has good headroom, but knee room is a bit tight. Luggage space is very good. The seats fold and there’s enough room for two suitcases even with all seats up. The view out for passengers through the narrow-opening windows isn’t great, however.
The Innova’s sliding middle row seats allow you to strike a happy balance. The middle row doesn’t feel as wide as the Evalia’s, but the seats are more comfortable. The last row offers slightly more legroom, but the high floor reduces thigh support. With its body bolted onto a ladder frame, the Innova isn’t as space-efficient as the Evalia’s car-like, single-body construction. Luggage space isn’t as good either.
The Evalia comes in four trim levels. ABS, power steering and a music system will be available across the range, and there are twin airbags too (except for the base XE variant). The top XV version gets a reversing camera, alloy wheels, keyless entry, third-row air-con and front power windows. None of the variants get seat height adjustment, digital climate control or steering-mounted audio controls.
The base E trim in the Innova does without ABS or airbags; in fact, only the top VX trim gets dual front airbags. Power steering, power windows for all four windows and keyless entry are standard from the second, G variant up. The second-from-top GX gets an air-con for the second and third rows, though only the pricey VX variant gets climate control and a touchscreen audio system with a reversing camera.
The Nissan Evalia makes for a very practical MPV with its spacious cabin and easy-to-drive characteristics. It matches the Innova for performance despite having a smaller engine, and with prices ranging from Rs 8.49 lakh to Rs 9.99 lakh, it is considerably more affordable too. However, the Evalia is not perfect. Its small rear windows are a major irritant, it isn’t all that well equipped and many simply won’t take to its van-like design.
On the other hand, the Innova looks better and also has a more premium image. Cabin quality feels a class above the Evalia’s, ride and handling are genuinely impressive for an MPV and the diesel engine is also more than up for the job. Compared to the Evalia, the Innova is on the expensive side but then you also get an MPV that’s as practical as it is appealing, making this our choice of the two.