The Euro-van invasion is one which has hit Canadian contractors, fleet buyers, and municipalities in full force over the course of the past couple of years. The seemingly obvious realization on the part of automakers that not every business has needs that can only be satisfied by a great big rectangle on wheels has opened up a new frontier in the compact cargo van segment. This area of the market had previously languished under the reign of converted minivans and other jerry-rigged fare, but thanks to vehicles like the Ford Transit Connect and now the 2014 Nissan NV200 business owners can free themselves from the operating costs associated with a full-size cargo van and instead embrace the frugality that has been enjoyed for ages on the other side of the Atlantic.
The 2014 Nissan NV200 might share much of its name with the larger NV cargo van, but from a design perspective the two couldn’t be more different. The NV200 avoids its sibling’s truck-based architecture in favour of a front-wheel drive unibody layout that is more nimble and much lighter. The upside for buyers is an easier-to-park van (Nissan claims a best-in-class turning radius) that also consumes significantly less fuel (8.0 l/100 km combined city/highway) than the big boys on the block, thanks to the fact that a modest 131 horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder motor is used to motivate the vehicle. The NV200’s engine also generates 139 lb-ft of torque, and is matched with a continuously-variable automatic transmission.
The New Face Of Utility
Don't worry, as utility hasn’t been sacrificed in the name of fuel efficiency. The Nissan NV200 presents a compelling range of attributes that touch on all of the must-haves for commercial buyers. The vehicle’s rear doors swing open 90 degrees until they hit the first détente, after which they can be persuaded to lock at 180 degrees in order to offer the easiest possible loading experience. Over 3,400 litres of space are available inside the NV200, and Nissan has gone out of its way to make it simple to mount shelves, racks, and screens inside the cargo area. The brand has also partnered with several established third-party providers to offer NV200-specific cargo-management solutions. The van features a 4,732 mm overall length and a wheelbase that checks in at just under 3,000 mm, and its maximum payload is 679 kilograms.
I found the 2014 Nissan NV200 to be quite pleasant to pilot through San Diego, California’s busy Father’s Day traffic. Power is modest but certainly not absent, although I didn’t get the chance to haul a full load of cargo to truly test out the limits of the four-cylinder / CVT combination. The model of van I drove featured a navigation system and satellite radio, but aside from these high end touches one can expect a heavy dose of hard plastic inside the cabin and a utilitarian control layout. After all, any vehicle that works for a living has to wear well, and that means that even the vehicle’s seat bolsters have been designed to withstand repeated encounters with tool belts and other occupational hazards. Two trim levels (S and SV) and five paint colours are available with the NV200.
A Strong Competitor
The 2014 Nissan NV200 is a competent player in the compact cargo van field. Even Chevrolet liked the van so much that it decided to partner up with Nissan and re-badge this model as one of its own, so as not to be entirely left out of the affordable utility game. A little competition is good for the soul, and it’s good for the consumer. With two – and soon three (including GM’s eventual in-house model) - small vans now available on the market, Ford, Nissan, et all will be forced to step up their game if they want to snag the legions of buyers trading in their aging behemoths.
|Test model||2014 Nissan NV200|
|Price range||$21,998 - $23,398|
|Price as tested||$23,398|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Fuel economy (city/highway/observed)||8.7 / 7.1 / N/A l/100km|