If you hadn't figured it out already, the 2013 Nissan NV200 has one competitor squarely in its sights for the U.S. market: the Ford Transit Connect. But whereas Ford is looking at going after the consumer market with the seven-passenger Transit Connect Wagon, the NV200 looks like it's focused on strictly business, with more basic suspension, powertrain options, and trim than the Ford. Taking center stage at the Chicago show is the cargo version, although a passenger version is definitely coming in the form of New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow." Whether there will be a three-row consumer version for the U.S. is unknown.

Keeping It Simple

The NV200 comes in one length and wheelbase for the U.S. market, which coincidentally, is larger than the overseas version. The U.S. spec NV200 rides on a 115.2-inch wheelbase with a 186.3-inch overall length, making its wheelbase 2.6 inches longer and overall length 7.9 inches longer than those of the overseas model. That puts the NV200 right in-between the two versions of the Transit Connect, but closer to the long-wheelbase model, which has a 120.6-inch wheelbase and a 189.7-inch overall length.

Unlike the Ford, which offers a choice of a naturally-aspirated or EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, the NV200 comes with one powertrain, a 131-hp 2.0-liter naturally aspirated I-4 mated to Nissan's now-ubiquitous CVT transmission. Fuel economy for the NV200 is 24/25 mpg city/highway -- respectable, but not spectacular. Ford has not released figures for the 2014 Transit Connect, but the 2013 model gets 21/27 mpg city/highway. Ford is claiming at least some configurations of the 2014 model will get 30+ highway.

The NV200 also has a slightly more primitive rear suspension than the Ford, a beam axle with leaf springs, compared to the Ford's more advanced, but still basic twist-beam with coil springs. Like the Transit Connect, braking duties are handled by discs up front and drums in the back. Not the best setup for performance driving, but ample for the daily grind these vehicles will be subjected to.

Cargo volume and payload for the NV fall just short of the maximum rated figures for the Transit Connect Van. The NV200 comes in at a 1500-lb payload and a 122.7-foot cargo volume. The long-wheelbase TC can haul a 1600-lb payload and has a claimed maximum cargo volume of 130 cubic feet. The rear cargo doors are split 60/40 and have dual opening angles of 90 or 180 degrees. Both side doors are sheetmetal, to display business signage or graphics. To make the most of the interior workspace, the NV200 features integrated mounting points for installing racks and shelves without the need to drill into sidewalls, and six floor-mounted cargo hook tie-downs.

Focused Tech

The NV200 may be basic, but it's not totally devoid of technology. Bluetooth hands-free calling is available on both the base S and higher-trim SV model, with the SV offering an available navigation system which also includes Bluetooth streaming audio, Pandora, Google send-to-car POIs, and hands-free text messaging. All audio options are simple two-speaker systems. The S trim is decidedly Spartan, with power windows and air conditioning being the only two notable indulgences.

But simplicity has its rewards, with the NV200 starting at $19,900, excluding destination. Even with the expected destination fee of between $800-900, that still puts it comfortably less than the Transit Connect, with the 2013 model going for $23,420, including destination. With many business fleets focused squarely on the bottom line, the NV200 could find a receptive audience among value-focused buyers.

If you're interested in the NV200, you won't have to wait long, as it's scheduled to roll into Nissan Commercial dealers in April, giving it a few months' head start against the new Transit Connect. All NV200s for the U.S. market will come from Nissan's plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

2013 Nissan NV200
BASE PRICE $19,900 (excluding destination)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 2-pass, 4-door van
ENGINE 2.0L/131-hp/139-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3210-3237 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 115.2 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 186.3 x 68.1 x 73.7 in
0-60 MPH 11.0 sec (MT est.)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 24 / 25 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 140 / 135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.79 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. April, 2013