Nissan NV200 Recon Camper Van Review
Recon’s mission statement is diverse and substantive: build an RV where the MSRP fits easily into the family budget, provide the features necessary to enjoy the RV lifestyle, size it such that it fits into a standard residential-size garage, make it enjoyable to use and affordable to operate, ensure there is utility that extends far beyond its use as an RV, and above all, provide the key to weekend outdoor adventures and a home away from home on wheels.
With the Nissan NV200 commercial van as the platform of choice, Recon’s all-new pop-up camper van accomplishes, meets, and exceeds all of the items noted in its mission statement. Its cost is approximately $45,000—which is out-the-door and includes the cost of a new NV200 and a host of RV options. It measures 186 inches long (5 inches shorter than a Toyota Camry), 68 inches wide, and 73 inches tall (with the pop-top stowed for travel). With the optional roof rack, another 4 inches is added to its overall height. The Recon camper van seats four adults: two in the cockpit and two in the cabin. And the NV200 averages a very respectable 25 mpg in combined driving and can get up to 28 mpg during highway slogs if driven very carefully.
The Recon camper van is the brainchild of Stephen Schank, a third-generation automotive engineer with a degree in mechanical engineering and years of automotive experience. The marriage of Schank’s passion for RVing, an active outdoor lifestyle, and his professional life as an engineer are the motivating forces that have driven him to successfully design and engineer a better mouse trap.
Configured to accommodate seating for two adult passengers in the cabin, the rear bench seat Recon adds is designed and built with safety and comfort in mind and has passed the required FMVSS seat tests required by the U.S. government. Recon designs and builds all the interior appointments that give this vehicle its RV characteristics. The only modification Recon performs to the NV200 van shell is cutting the roof where the pop-up top sleeping area is located while reinforcing the roof beyond the original structure to preserve structural integrity. Recon also cuts openings for the windows they add to the right rear quarter and in both the left- and right-side sliding doors. A faux window is added to the street-side, rear quarter-panel to provide visual balance with the window they install on the other side. Recon Campers is working with Nissan USA Fleet Aftermarket Engineering to ensure its products will be allowed in Nissan dealerships and will not compromise the 5-year, 100,000-mile factory warranty.
The Nissan factory rear cargo doors provide huge amounts of utility and functionality as they swing open 90 degrees. The doors can be further unlatched to open a full 180 degrees. Recon takes full advantage of the rear wide-open access provided by the cargo doors to outfit and appoint the rear interior of the unit with storage cabinets, pockets, a closet, a nearly coach-wide interior storage trunk that’s accessed via a hinged lift-up hatch, and a hot outdoor shower port.
The cabinets Recon builds use seven-layer Italian poplar plywood sandwiched between low-maintenance laminate materials. All the interior woodworking is low-maintenance and wipes clean with a damp cloth. The galley sets immediately across from the curbside entrance. The galley features a laminate countertop and a 42-liter DC refrigerator (with freezer compartment) that’s engineered to run day and night for up to 72 hours before the house battery requires a charge. A single stainless-steel galley sink sits disguised beneath a fold-up glass cover until its service is required. With the sink cover down, additional counter-area workspace becomes available. A hinged hot- and cold-water faucet swings up from inside the sink for use and folds back down inside for stowage when it’s not being used.
The pop-up top that houses a sleeping quarter for two is amazingly simple to raise and lower. Two straps, one located at each corner of the front of the pop-top, permit the top to be pushed up slightly before the gas struts take over and extend the top the rest of the way up on its own. The pop-top weighs 70 pounds, and with it raised, standing height inside the NV200 reaches an amazing 7 feet, 3 inches. The sides of the pop-top are fabricated with woven durable and thick canvas fabric. The sides are lined with zippered panels and screens, so ventilation in this sleeping area can be adjusted as needed. LED lights illuminate the area and are controlled with an elegant touch switch with dimmer.
Creative genius becomes evident when you see the ways Recon has gleaned mega amounts of utility and functionality out of the Nissan factory-installed, right-side sliding cargo door. Through this street-side sliding cargo door, the end user can load and restock the galley cabinets and pantry directly from a supermarket shopping cart outside the coach. No need to first bring all of these consumables inside before stowing them in the cupboard. Storage is achieved directly from the outside of the coach. The sliding cargo door can also be used as a source of ventilation. An engineered fitting on the outside of the door receives a portable table that’s stowed out of the way inside the unit. This location for the portable table can be a handy place for food prep and for using the galley counter while standing outside the coach, since the galley sink and portable butane stove are within easy reach. A similar table attachment point on the other side of the unit lets the portable table be enjoyed and used beneath the patio awning. The retractable, 86-inch-wide polyester Fiamma awning extends up to 7 feet, 5 inches. The awning is supported by legs that fold out at each end. The pitch of the awning can be adjusted to accommodate the location and angle of the sun.
The window above the galley counter is dressed with a radiant shade that provides both privacy and insulation by reducing heat transfer from the cabin’s interior to the outside. The cab windshield includes a curtain that can be installed to provide privacy and insulation from the outside world. The roof, walls, and interior floor are insulated with an automotive product that meets federal safety standards for materials flammability. Acoustic insulation is also added to the floor and wheelwells to intercept and isolate the harmonics generated by the road surface below.
For the electrics, Recon designs and builds the 12-volt DC wiring harness that powers all of the 12-volt appointments. The harness runs fore and aft along the interior van walls before the insulation and interior decor surfaces are added. The standard 150-amp engine alternator easily charges the sealed, maintenance-free AGM house battery. Recon adds a shore power connection so the unit can be plugged into standard 110-volt outlets, with a standard 20-amp extension cord if one is spending a lot of time in a campground or at a friend’s house. Another option offered is a portable, 120-watt, solar-panel charging system and sets up easily outside the coach to charge the house battery. This is a feature that makes standalone, primitive camping for days on end totally doable. Of course, the 2.0L van engine can be started to bring the house battery back to a charged level should that be required.
A DC-powered roof vent, which includes its own battery, is charged by a small solar panel designed into this roof-installed appurtenance. The charge the battery receives via its solar panel is sufficient to power the roof vent throughout the dark hours until morning. In fact, it can operate for up to 40 hours on a full charge. The house DC electrical components Recon adds include a receptacle for a portable 400-watt inverter, dual USB power ports, LED interior lighting with dimmers, a systems control panel (with fuses), water pump, refrigerator, and water heater.
Plumbing has been attended to as well. Fresh- and gray-water holding tank capacities are 10 gallons and 5 gallons, respectively. Three additional gallons of freshwater come with the optional water heater. The outside drain for the gray tank uses a common garden hose connection for simplicity and availability. The fill point for the freshwater tank is located aft on the street side of the coach. The freshwater holding tank is located inside the unit to minimize the effects of sub-freezing outside temperatures. The gray-water tank is located under the coach and in cold temperatures should be drained to prevent freezing. There is a hot/cold, outside, handheld showerhead at the back of the unit and the galley sink offers hot/cold water for cooking and cleanup. Even though this is a recreational vehicle that fits easily into any standard residential garage, the sleeping quarters for two adults and two kids are not compromised. The fold-flat cabin bench seat measures 72x42 inches. The unique design of this seat permits it to be adjusted to various configurations for leisure prior to turning it into a bed for the night. It is quite unique!
Recon Campers Nissan NV200Vehicle type: Four-passenger, converted cargo van
Base price: $45,000
Engine: 2.0L I-4
Horsepower: 131 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 139 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Curb weight: 3,260 (base vehicle)
Towing capacity: NA
Payload capacity: 1,480 pounds
EPA mileage rating: 24 city/26 highway