A few things to note before we start – this is based on the 1st generation 3 litre V6 Alphard (MNH10 or MNH15) and the 2nd generation 3.5 litre V6 Elgrand (E51). These versions offer the closest comparison and at just over 10 years old represent the age of vehicle that most people will be buying. Why the 10 year old thing? Read more about that here.
All set? Here we go!
I’ll start the Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard battle with the thing you’ll probably notice first: the looks. For me, the Elgrand wins here, I just think it looks cooler. Although I must add that for me this only applies in unmolested form and without the beige cloth interior. The Alphard is a good looking beast as well, although I must say the head on view doesn’t particularly appeal. Honest John describes them as ugly: I wouldn’t go that far!
This is a very close one and there are so many permutations in terms of specification levels and optional equipment. Both are available in 7 and 8 seat configurations, depending on the trim levels.
I’d call it a draw in this category.
Build Quality and Reliability
I’ve driven them both, I’ve serviced and fixed them both and I’ve researched their common faults extensively. The Alphard is a clear winner in this category in my opinion, both for build quality and reliability. Alphards don’t seem to suffer the same level of big (expensive) problems that Elgrands experience. That is not to say the Elgrand will fall apart on your driveway, nor that an Alphard will be without fault for its entire life.
This is an interesting category in the Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard debate. An enjoyable driving experience means different things to different people and also in different situations.
The Alphard is a luxury wafter par excellence. Super smooth engine and power delivery, almost imperceptible gear changes and enormous bumps in the road absorbed so as not to detract from your quiet enjoyment of the driving experience. If you’re after smooth, quiet and comfortable the Alphard is a clear winner. There is a real sense of occasion to driving an Alphard and I often find this makes me slow down and enjoy being wafted along in luxury.
However, all of this comes at a price. If you push the Alphard in the corners you’ll see what I mean. There is a fair amount of body roll, even with the TEMS (if fitted) set to sport.
The Elgrand? Despite also being a 2 tonne luxury van, it feels much more lively and encourages you to push on. The ride is firmer than the Alphard and the cornering is much sharper.
I prefer a sharper, more involved driving experience so the Elgrand is the winner for me in this category.
If you plan on making serious use of the 4WD system, I would go for the Elgrand since the centre differential lock is likely to make it the more capable option. The downside of this is that the drivetrain does have a slightly heavier feel to it when on the road. As with all cars, before convincing yourself of the need for four wheel drive, consider upgrading the tyres first.
The Alphard tends to be slightly more expensive than the Elgrand. Only you can decide whether the extra expense is worth it!
Fuel costs should be roughly the same for each car, and neither will be cheap! They both require super unleaded fuel and have a healthy appetite for it. Some find the Elgrand slightly more thirsty than the Alphard, but this very much depends on how you drive.
I would expect service and maintenance costs to be lower for the Alphard than the Elgrand, although you may need to factor in costs of a timing belt and water pump change on the Alphard, whereas the Elgrand has a chain. Conversely the Elgrand has shorter oil change intervals to keep that chain happy. Remember the impact of reliability on those running costs too.
Whilst writing this article, I had a look at the numbers available for sale at auction. On the day I looked there were 77614 vehicles listed for sale:
- There were 941 Alphards (1.21 % of the total), of which 557 were 1st generation models.
- There were 478 Elgrands (0.62 % of the total), of which 253 were 2nd generation E51 models.
So there were roughly twice as many Alphards to choose from as Elgrands. It may be more challenging to find a good Elgrand than a good Alphard due to the numbers available for sale.
Closing thoughts in the Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard debate
That brings us to the end of comparing the first generation Toyota Alphard with the E51 Nissan Elgrand. We’ve considered looks, features, build quality, reliability, the driving experience, costs and availability, so which should you buy? Sorry, I’m not going to tell you that. Different people want different things from their cars, so only you can make that decision. I hope this article has given you some food for thought in your decision making.
Finally, remember these aren’t the only two MPVs available to import from Japan, although they are probably the biggest…unless you’re considering a Toyota Mega Cruiser, but remember they only seat 6! Other more commonly considered options are: Honda Elysion, Honda Stepwagon, Nissan Serena, Toyota Noah, Toyota Estima, Honda Odyssey.
Anything I’ve missed? Anything you want to ask or add? Why not leave a comment below?