by Jay Traugott
Advances in medicine and an ever-increasing birth rate means that there are more of us on this planet than ever before - this might not be so great for our freshwater sources and the general wellbeing of our world, but for large passenger vans such as the Nissan NV Passenger, things couldn't look any brighter. The 2021 Nissan NV, first introduced in 2012, is a great example of a back to basics, no-nonsense human carrier, designed to transport Homo Sapiens from one point of consumption to the next, and while some do it with more style, the NV Passenger Van does it economically and reliably. For 2021, Nissan offers three trim levels and two engine choices. It has most of the tech and safety features you'd expect to see on a modern people carrier, and it does exactly what is asked of it. Not too exciting then, is it? That's precisely why it's so good; it just gets on with it. There are more premium and better driving options on offer in the US market such as the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but they can't match the Nissan's low starting price of only $36,860.
The mid-range SV now comes with navigation and a 5.8-inch color touchscreen display. Beyond this, the 2021 Nissan NV Passenger is unchanged.
The price of the Nissan NV Passenger has seen a slight increase for 2021 in the USA but the big passenger van still offers one of the best value for money packages in its class. The base model starts off with an MSRP of $36,860, which excludes handling charges, tax, title, license, options, and a destination and handling fee of $1,495. The mid-range SV will set you back $2,450 more than the base model for a total of $39,310. The range-topping SL goes for an MSRP of $43,610. The Nissan's value becomes obvious when you compare its $36,860 starting price with that of the 2021 Ford Transit Passenger Van, which starts at $41,695, or the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter which starts at over 43 grand. Due to its limited optional extras, you can't really get into much trouble when adding extra features to the NV either: the SL will top out well under $50,000.
See trim levels and configurations:
The passenger-friendly version on Nissan's full-size cargo van might have the bells and whistles necessary to convince you of its human-moving abilities, but beneath the veneer of soft-touch materials and air conditioning, hides the DNA of a hard-working cargo van, and it's here where the RWD NV Passenger van gets its handling and driving characteristics. Put simply; it drives like the clunky, big van that it is. Steering is light, but don't expect to receive any feedback through the steering wheel, and you might as well forget about razor-sharp center point steering reactions. The NV will head in the direction of your choosing, but how it does so, or where it's actually pointing its tires are a well-kept secret. The NV's front independent double-wishbone and multi-leaf rear suspension with a solid axle is aided by front and rear stabilizer bars to offer a ride quality that feels much more compliant than its van exterior would suggest, but it's not as refined as most modern SUVs.
There is no doubt that the Nissan NV Passenger Van is a compromised vehicle; it was designed as a cargo van but has ended up with the task of carrying 12 people and their stuff around in some semblance of comfort. The first thing you'll have to come to terms with is its unavoidable cargo van DNA, which makes it difficult to navigate in tight spaces, makes it drive and handle like a 1940s school bus (okay, maybe not that bad), and affords it the visual appeal of a light industrial complex on the wrong side of town.
There are, however, a few upsides to its van roots; you get tons of space, over 320 different ways to configure the seating arrangement, and a sturdy platform that will stand up to years of hard abuse. Both the naturally aspirated six and eight-cylinder engine options get the job done without complaint, but the V8 is by far the easier engine to live with on a daily basis. Features such as dual-zone climate control and satellite radio are considered luxuries in the NV but manage your expectations (and your budget), and the NV Passenger Van will surprise you with how comfortable it can be. The Nissan doesn't pretend to be anything other than an honest-to-goodness passenger van built to take people places without having to shout about it, and if you manage to look past that disaster zone of a front-end, you'll find a genuine, hardworking van that's eager to please.
With only three trim levels and a price difference of $6,750 separating the base model from the range-topping SL, there's little to no chance of choosing the wrong NV. The base model of the NV Passenger range is an entirely capable people mover: its robust V6 engine and basic interior make it perfect for businesses or large, young, and active families who need something hard-wearing. Shuttle transport companies will love the base model, but for personal use, it might seem spartan to some. The SV adds worthwhile convenient features such as a power-adjustable driver's seat, an improved sound system, and dual power side mirrors, but is stuck with the V6 engine. Left up to us, the range-topping SL model would be the one to go for; its 5.6-liter V8 engine has enough power to haul the NV along with convincing enthusiasm and is a critical element if you plan on driving around a large number of people on a daily basis. The standard leather interior and dual-zone climate control system make it the most comfortable of the NV line of passenger vans to live with.
The Ford Transit is an American icon and plays a pretty major role in the logistics and transport industry. Powering the 2021 Transit is your choice of a 3.5 naturally aspirated V6 producing 275 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque or an impressive twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 producing 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. With the non-turbo motor equipped, the Transit should see a fuel consumption figure of 15/19/17 mpg city/highway/combined. The Transit is a physically smaller van and rides on a 130-inch wheelbase in standard guise, over 16 inches shorter than the NV. However, Ford offers two extra wheelbase options, three roof heights, and an extra-long body length. By comparison, the Nissan only has one standard roof. The Transit can be specced to seat up to 15 which makes it the only choice if you need to transport extra passengers. The Ford shows off superior interior material quality and a fresher design language that makes the NV seem ancient by comparison. The Transit also drives better and feels more SUV-like on the road, and the available SYNC 3 infotainment system blows Nissan's out of the water. If you prioritize comfort and features over value for money, the Ford should be the one to go for - but it comes at a price.
There's no doubt that the Sprinter Passenger Van is aimed at those who're looking for a more premium people-carrying experience, and it's clear to see from the outset that the German offers a comprehensively more luxurious package. Power is provided by a choice of 2.0-liter turbo inline four-cylinder gas or 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel power. In either case, the Sprinter offers good low-down power, which is missing in the naturally aspirated options available for the Nissan NV. The Sprinter in standard wheelbase spec is a smaller vehicle and rolls on a 144-inch wheelbase, 2.1-inches shorter than the NV, but offers the same 12-seat capacity. The Sprinter drives like a large SUV and surprises with its road-holding capability. Standard features include cruise control, navigation, and blind-spot assistance. If you're looking for a more premium package, there simply is no other alternative.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Nissan NV Passenger: