Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard 2


Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard in front of Mt Fuji

Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard in front of Mt Fuji. Original picture of Mt Fuji by Cassiopeia sweet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let battle commence!  Here I offer my take on the Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard question.  I’ve already written detailed reviews on both of these fine vehicles (Elgrand review here & Alphard review here), but how to decide which to buy?  The subject often elicits strong opinions, with each camp convinced their vehicle represents the best choice.

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!

Looks

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!

Features

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.

Driving

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.

Costs

Purchase costs

The Alphard tends to be slightly more expensive than the Elgrand.  Only you can decide whether the extra expense is worth it!

Running costs

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.

Availability

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?

 

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2 thoughts on “Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard

  • John B

    Do the Alphard and the Elgrand take to LPG equally well? I know some manufacturers/engines are reported to suffer more valve seat recession than others. Is the space for an LPG tank similar in both vehicles? Some cars like the Stepwgn, Serena, and some Estimas seems to have a well at the back for luggage, or for the rear seats to fold into that looks handy for an LPG tank without robbing the vehicle of its spare wheel.

    I think I read that all Elgrands (VQ35DE/VQ25DE/QR25DE) are traditional indirect injection, but the 2.5L Alphard (2AZ-FSE ) and the more recent 3.5L Alphards (2GR-ZE) that might start appearing in the UK soon are direct injection. Direct injection poses much greater problems for LPG conversion, might be more expensive because I high pressure pump would be needed, and only a handful of engine models are supported. The Toyota 1AZ-FSE/2AZ-FSE has a kit, but I wonder whether the Toyota 2GR-ZE can be converted yet.

    Also, Andrew, do you have an opinion on whether the Elgrand or the Alphard might make a better camper? Wellhouse seem to chosen the Alphard for which to offer a conversion service, and not the Elgrand.

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi John

      Thank you for your post, some really interesting questions. As far as I know, both the Alphard and Elgrand cope very well with LPG conversion. I think Elgrand owners running LPG would be well advised to consider removing one set of catalytic converters. LPG exhaust gas temperatures are higher than petrol and the extra heat could encourage damage to the catalytic converters. Once the catalyst in the first set of converters starts to break down, it can block the second set of converters, and I’m sure you know the rest.

      Aside from that, I haven’t heard any other reports of problems. Bear in mind that both vehicles, and particularly their conversion to LPG, are relatively new in this country, so there is plenty more experience to be gained over the years.

      I think the space for the tank is similar in both vehicles, and involves them losing their spare wheels.

      I don’t think any Alphards have direct injection. The smaller engine option uses the 2AZ-FE (2.4), then later the 2AR-FE (2.5) engine, neither of which are direct injection. You’re right that the 2AZ-FSE is direct injection, but this isn’t used in Alphards as far as I know. The more recent 3.5 litre Alphard use the 2GR-FE engine and the older 3 litre version uses the 1MZ-FE. Neither of these are direct injection either. Interestingly the 2GR-FE engine also features in the Lotus Evora.

      Moving over to Nissan, the VQ25DE, VQ35DE and QR25DE are all ‘standard’ injection as you mentioned.

      So I don’t foresee the direct injection being an issue for LPG conversion of these vehicles.

      On to your camper question. If I had to buy one or the other to convert to a camper, it would be the Alphard. Not so much because it would result in a better camper at the end, but more because of the reliability. I think the Alphard is more reliable than the Elgrand, and if I was committing a lot of time and money into a camper conversion, I’d want the base vehicle to go on for as long as possible.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers, Andrew