Nissan's seemingly out-of-the-blue decision to get into the commercial vehicle market a few years ago left many scratching their heads. Many believed the commercial segment was a low-volume, low-margin market niche that wasn't worth wasting time on. But Nissan saw opportunity where others didn't, and suddenly with all-new commercial van models coming from Ford and Ram, Nissan's decision now looks like shrewd foresight.

The NV2500 looks like nothing else out there, including other vans. It doesn't quite have the same packaging as the traditional domestic vans, and even though it's offered in a high-roof configuration, it doesn't quite have the same tall, narrow look as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and the forthcoming 2014 Ford Transit. The hood and nose is uncharacteristically long for a van, but allows for easy, hassle-free access to the engine compartment for service and maintenance.

Our particular tester was the bare-bones cargo model, featuring glass only on the windshield and front doors. Aft of the front seats was just vast amounts of cargo space. But this attribute was widely utilized during the NV's stay with us. The NV served its purpose as a staff support vehicle well, carrying copious quantities of replacement tires for vehicle testing, and easily swallowing the cameras and equipment of the video crew. Staffers also appreciated the ample tie-down hooks for securing cargo. It was also utilized by at least one staffer as a moving van, a task for which it was also well-suited. Motor Trend video post-production manager Duane Sempson enjoyed the NV's cavernous cargo hold as an impromptu RV, laying out a queen-sized air mattress and dog bed.

But as handy and practical as the NV was as a beast of burden, when tasked with smaller loads, its substantial footprint was more of a liability than an asset. Placing grocery sacks in the NV's cargo area often resulted in goods scattered all over the floor. When unloaded, the NV's vast cargo area turned into a percussive reverb chamber, echoing and amplifying road noise. And its 317-hp 5.6-liter V-8, while providing ample power for carrying heavy loads, returned a mediocre 14 mpg overall during its 25,616 mile journey with us.

An unapologetic uni-tasker, the fullsize NV is not everyone's cup of tea. But for those looking for no-nonsense practicality of a van in a more manageable, economical package, Nissan has just introduced a compact NV200 model, along the lines of the Ford Transit Connect. But if you have full-sized jobs that require fullsize capacity and capability, the NV2500 proved hard-to-beat.

2012 Nissan NV 2500HD
Total mileage: 12 months/25,616 miles
Base price: $29,430
Options: Technology package ($950: nav system, XM satellite radio, bluetooth, integrated backup camera); tow package ($460: trailer towing mirrors, front tow hooks, class-IV trailer hitch, 7-pin connector prewiring); side/curtain airbag package ($390: front/side/curtain airbags)
Price as tested: $31,230
Problem areas: None
Maintenance Cost: $252.75 (5 x oil change, inspection; 1 x tire rotation, cabin-air filter)
Normal-wear Cost: $0
3-year residual value $13,337 (Automotive Lease Guide)
Recalls: Oil cooler 0-ring and stud (R. 1115)
Average fuel economy: 14.0 mpg
CO2 emissions: 1.39 lb/mi