Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to drive the new 2013 Nissan NV200 compact cargo van. Unlike its jumbo-sized stablemates the NV2500 and NV3500, with which we also have some long-term experience, the NV200 is targeted squarely at small businesses that, until now, took care of their compact cargo van needs with the Ford Transit Connect.
Although the small cargo van segment is still relatively new in the U.S., we were intrigued enough with its potential that we wanted to add one of its key new players to our long-term fleet. And while the NV200 makes no pretensions of being a consumer-trim vehicle, we'll use it for a variety of duties, from cargo hauling to road trips and daily commuting, to see if its performance lives up to its promise. We also see the NV's potential as a compact-truck alternative. Its 1450-plus-pound payload means it can easily haul plenty of equipment and keep it sheltered from the elements.
We'll use it for hauling, on road trips, and for commuting to see if its performance lives up to its promise.
We outfitted the van with contemporary options that would improve its livability and functionality. First off, we opted for the "fancier" SV trim, which adds heated exterior mirrors, floor-mounted D-ring tie-downs in the cargo area, keyless entry, power door locks, and cruise control. We further spruced up our ride with the Technology package, which includes navigation/Bluetooth/rearview camera, all-season floormats, rear-door glass package, and an exterior appearance package that includes body-color front and rear bumpers, and wheel covers.
The NV200 got some changes for North American duty, most notably a longer wheelbase and overall length than its Japanese and European counterparts, and a gasoline I-4 engine and mandatory CVT automatic transmission instead of the European model's turbodiesel and manual transmission. While the upcoming 2014 Ford Transit Connect offers a three-row passenger version to appeal to retail consumers (the previous gen was available as a two-row Wagon), the NV200 is strictly commercially focused, offered only in a two-seat cargo configuration for fleet customers, with the exception of the taxi-specific two-row version, which has been selected as New York City's Taxi of Tomorrow.
The initial impressions we got from our first drive of the NV200 are largely unchanged now that we've had some extended seat time in the compact carryall. The focus is purely on functionality. Even the NV200's few "luxury" features have a utilitarian purpose, namely the Bluetooth hands-free calling, and the navigation and rearview camera.
Based on past experience with bare-bones cargo vans, we expected the interior of the NV200 to be an echo chamber of metallic squeaks and rattles on the road. To our surprise, there were almost no untoward noises from the cargo hold, even over less-than-smooth pavement. And the two-speaker sound system was plenty loud. The minimalist audio system performed admirably under a variety of driving conditions, including windows-down on the freeway.
Our favorite feature on the NV200 is the stress-free seats. In nearly 2 hours of driving, we didn't get a hint of discomfort or fatigue. The seats are six-way adjustable, with a ratchet-action rear-height adjustment pioneered by Volkswagen. Our only complaint: With the front of the seat fixed at maximum height, it feels like the seat is tipped forward slightly.
As confirmed by its 10.1-second 0-60 time, the power delivered by the 2.0-liter I-4 and CVT combination is adequate, but not much more. If driven sedately, the NV200 never feels that underpowered, but when more urgency is called for, the naturally aspirated four musters all it can and produces plenty of mechanical din in the process to assure you it's giving all it's got. Although probably capable of a top speed into the 90s, any pace above 80 mph results in an unsettled, floaty feeling from the suspension and slight vibrations through the drivetrain and chassis, subliminally reminding you that it's probably a good idea to slow down. The fact that the NV200 drives as smoothly and confidently up to that speed on 185/60R15 tires that look like four space-saver spares is a surprise. Even when dealing with the incessant slog of Southern California traffic, the NV200's light steering and stepless CVT made it at least tolerable. Although not Lexus-silent, the NV200's interior is quieter than you might expect of a sheetmetal cavern.
The NV200's narrow, tall appearance is borne out in its specifications, with its height 5 inches taller than its overall width. This urban-friendly stature and packaging yields some benefits and some tradeoffs. On the plus side, the NV200 can effortlessly slide into narrow parking spaces that a typical full-size truck or van would have to pass up. However, the vehicle is easily upset by crosswinds and larger vehicles passing at higher speeds.
In terms of fuel economy, "your mileage may vary" applies here. Between fill-ups, on trips consisting primarily of wide-open highway cruising, the NV200 got close to its claimed 25 mpg. However, when it was subjected to constant stoplight-to-stoplight sprints and we whipped the 2.0-liter I-4 for all it was worth, the van averaged below 20 mpg. The NV200 is certainly capable of good fuel economy if driven prudently, but with the heavy-footed, show-no-mercy, slam-the-door-and-get-it-done use it's likely to see in real-world commercial service, we're expecting a combined average of around 20 mpg.
So far, we can't see any glaring short-comings in the NV200, except for the lack of an adjustable steering wheel, poor side visibility (because of its sheetmetal side doors and lack of rear side windows), and being just slightly underpowered. Blind-spot monitoring would add a welcome measure of safety, and a bit more torque would make the NV200 even more functional and practical than it already is. But we are already impressed with the little van, and look forward to our year with it.
|2013 Nissan NV200 SV|
|BASE PRICE|| $21,825 |
|PRICE AS TESTED|| $23,250 |
|LAYOUT ||Front-engine, FWD, 2-pass, 4-door van|
|ENGINE|| 2.0L/131-hp/139-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION|| Cont variable auto|
|WHEELBASE ||115.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT|| 186.3 x 68.1 x 73.7 in|
|CURB WEIGHT 3281 ||lb|
|GVWR ||4751 lb|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY ||1470 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY ||N/A|
|0-60 MPH ||10.1 sec|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH ||139 ft|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON|| 24/25 mpg|
|ON SALE IN U.S. ||Currently|