by Gabe Beita Kiser
While it won't be winning any awards, the Nissan NV Passenger is a solid passenger transit van. The interior doesn't feature particularly high-quality materials, but it is well-built and the seats are extremely comfortable, focusing on passenger comfort over aesthetics. With two engine options – either a 261 horsepower V6 or a 375 hp V8 – the Nissan can tow between 6,200 and 8,700 lbs, which is impressive for the segment. With solid handling and decent power, as well as a competitive price tag starting at $35,760, the NV is certainly a contender, but it is far from being a class leader. Rivals like the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter offer better performance, infotainment, safety, and multiple body configurations.
The 2019 NV has been subject to only minor adjustments. Standard features now include a seven-inch touchscreen with AM/FM radio, a USB port, Bluetooth audio streaming with voice control, and an auxiliary audio input for iPods or similar devices.
Exterior aesthetics are not where Nissan focuses its attention with the NV. The style is exceptionally box-like, with little in the way of aerodynamic consideration. The front fascia sports an enormous grille, but lacks Nissan's trademark V-frame grille. The halogen headlights are as blocky as the body, and the standard 17-inch wheels sit within unassuming arches. Most exterior trimmings are in black as standard, with chrome variants available on the more expensive models.
As with any large passenger van, the NV has extremely large dimensions. With a length of 240.6 inches, a width of 79.9 inches, and a height of 84 inches, the Nissan is bigger than some rivals like the Ford Transit, but only in their smallest guise. Many competitors also offer several body combinations, with their larger forms dwarfing the Nissan NV. The NV does have an impressively long wheelbase however, at 146.1 inches. The rear doors provide a slightly smaller aperture than many competitors, opening 61.6 inches wide and revealing a 49.8-inch high entry point. Naturally, the van weighs in on the heavy side at 6,710 lbs in its lightest guise and 6,978 lbs for the heaviest variant.
The color palette consists of seven options, with five available on the S, while two are exclusive to the upper trims. Glacier White, Brilliant Silver Metallic, Cayenne Red Metallic, and Super Black are standard options on the S, while Pearl White TriCoat is available for $400 extra. The SV and SL introduce Java Metallic and Arctic Blue Metallic to the scope of options.
The Nissan NV isn't lacking when it comes to performance. The 261 hp V6 engine gives the van enough pep to move around town briskly, even when fully loaded. But if you really want to get your passengers from point A to point B in a hurry, the potent 375 hp V8 option will get you going. A properly equipped S or SV can tow 6,200 lbs while the SL can manage 8,700 lbs. This is more than even top-ranking rivals like the Ford Transit.
All-wheel-drive would give the van better handling, but being limited to rear-wheel-drive is not uncommon in the segment, with only the Mercedes offering an AWD version of their van. The NV is surprisingly hardy for a smaller transit vehicle, but perhaps its smaller dimensions actually help it in this regard.
A 4.0-liter 24-valve V6 engine comes standard on the S and SV. This is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that directs 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque towards the rear wheels. This setup gives the vehicle ample power for maneuvering around town, but don't expect the van to be in a hurry to get anywhere, especially when fully loaded.
If you want true performance, however, you will need to opt for the 5.6-liter V8 engine that delivers a much more impressive 375 hp and 387 lb-ft. With this engine, you will never feel at a loss when pulling off from a traffic light, even with 11 passengers and their luggage on board.
Regardless of the setup, the standard-fit five-speed automatic transmission is smooth and seamless, but it struggles at higher speeds and could benefit from an extra ratio.
For a vehicle of its size, the NV Passenger handles quite well but it won't be delivering any thrills, and the lack of driver-assist and safety features means you won't want to push its already low limits. The steering could be more responsive, with the van being saddled with a 45.2 ft turning radius, but the brakes are quite good, bringing the rotund vehicle to a stop from 60 mph in under 150 ft. However, the van doesn't remain stable during panic stops, with great amounts of wobble and potential fish-tailing stripping away driver confidence as a result.
Ride comfort is good though, thanks to the sturdy chassis and comfortable seats. The suspension isn't too firm, but loading more passengers adds more stability. Noise is well-managed by the cabin, with the engine not intruding too much even at highway speeds. Considering the NV is designed to deliver efficiency in completing a task, it doesn't sacrifice as much as you might think to do its job.
The passenger van has not been evaluated by the EPA for its fuel economy, but real-world reports show that it achieves an average of 13-14 mpg in mixed driving conditions. With a 28-gallon fuel tank, this means that the NV should manage up to 392 miles before refueling. At least the van uses regular gasoline, so the thirsty engines aren't as expensive to run as they could be.
The interior of the NV is well-built; there is little doubt about that. However, material quality could be better. Nevertheless, the seats are comfortable and there are enough comfort features available across the range to ensure both drivers and passengers won't have a reason to complain on long journeys. While features are not numerous, particularly infotainment, the controls are laid out well and are easy to use. There is also plenty of space around the passenger area, even with all 12 seats installed. But, if you want to give each passenger a more luxurious experience, you can configure the seats to allow for maximum room.
Standard seating arrangements allow for a max capacity of 12 passengers, including the driver. However, due to the easily customized interior, this number can be altered to improve spaciousness or add to cargo space. Regardless of configuration, there is an abundance of head- and legroom throughout the van. From first to fourth rows, the headroom varies from 42.8/39.6/39.8/39.6 inches while legroom ranges from 42.0/33.9/38.5/37.4 inches. No matter where they sit, passengers of above-average height should be comfortable. Seat comfort is excellent, as the van is designed for extended trips. Despite the overall height of the van, and the wide-opening doors both on the side and rear, ingress can be a bit tricky as you duck down while looking for your seat. In the front, an eight-way power driver's seat allows the driver to find a comfortable position, and good visibility is not difficult to achieve.
While comfort over long trips is a primary concern, the interior isn't built from particularly high-quality materials. The dash and door panels are comprised of hard plastics, while the floor is covered with very basic carpets. The standard seats are upholstered in gray cloth, with beige leather available on the SL trim. The overall build quality of the cabin is good, but there is quite a bit of room for improvement.
The NV Passenger is designed to carry people, not large amounts of cargo. Still, it does need room for luggage or various carry-ons. With all the seats in place, 28.9 cubic feet of space remains behind the fourth row. If you choose to reduce the number of seats, it is possible to increase this figure to 217.7 cubic feet. Luckily, the overall height of the van makes it possible to store items as tall as 51.3 inches, making this a practical and versatile hauler.
Features are limited, comprising only the most basic of conveniences and safety functions. On the S, standard features include air conditioning, rear window privacy glass, a rearview camera, heating and cooling vents for passengers, dual overhead front passenger map lights, a rear cargo light, keyless entry, a multifunctional trip computer, pre-wiring for electrical and telematics upfitting, a single 12-volt power outlet and two 120-volt power outlets, power accessories, multiple handholds around the cabin, cruise control, and a four-way manual driver's seat. Advanced safety features are only added on higher trim levels, with rear sonar equipped to the SV, and front sonar to the SL. The SV also receives a vehicle security system and immobilizer, an eight-way power driver's seat, two additional 12-volt power outlets, and a multifunctional center console. Leather-appointed seating, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are added to the SL trim.
Infotainment is almost non-existent in the passenger van. The base four-speaker sound system is paired with a seven-inch touchscreen display that supports AM/FM radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, voice control, and hands-free calling. A USB port and an auxiliary audio jack are offered to customize entertainment. The SV adds two speakers to the setup and facilitates SiriusXM. The top-tier SL replaces the touchscreen with a smaller 5.8-inch variant that supports Nissan Navigation, SiriusXM traffic, NissanConnect Mobile Apps, and MP3/CD playback.
The NV Passenger has not been rated by J.D. Power, nor has it been subject to any recalls.
Warranties on a new purchase comprise a 100,000-mile/60-month limited warranty, a 100,000-mile/60-month powertrain warranty, and 36,000-mile/36-month roadside assist, which is substantial coverage overall.
As a commercial vehicle, rather than a traditional passenger vehicle, the NV Passenger has not been rated for safety by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.
Standard safety features comprise four-wheel anti-lock brakes, brake assist, a rearview camera, three-point passenger seatbelts, front seat belts with pretensioners, and six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. Rear parking assist is added with the SV, while front park assist sensors come standard with the SL.
The van serves its purpose as a mass-passenger transit vehicle. But this about all it manages to accomplish. The base engine provides enough power to move the massive van, while the optional V8 makes doing so much easier. Regardless of the powertrain you choose, handling is adequate at best. Neither you nor your passengers will get a thrill out of the ride, which is perhaps for the best. With the van offering little to no real safety features to assist you, safe driving is the only real way to ensure passenger safety.
Infotainment is equally spartan, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that this is a utility vehicle, first and foremost. While this kind of focus is good, many other passenger vans offer just as much, if not more, utility while still including significantly better tech and convenience features.
Most rivals offer more engine, transmission, and body configurations while boasting extensive driver-assist features and infotainment that many modern sedans struggle to match. For this reason, it is impossible to call the Nissan NV Passenger a good great van. It does the job, but so many others do it better.
The price is mostly on par with rivals, coming in a bit cheaper than the higher-quality Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but more on par with the Ford Transit passenger van. An MSRP of $35,760 will see you behind the wheel of the base S model, while the SV, still sporting the same engine, will cost $37,710. To get your hands on the more powerful V8 in the SL, you will need to shell out $42,510. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and Nissan's $1,395.
The NV Passenger's three models are powered by a choice of two engines. The S and SV receive the 261 hp V6 engine, mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. The top-tier SL gets the far more powerful 375 hp V8, with a seven-speed automatic transmission that better manages this extra power. All three models are available with rear-wheel drivetrains only.
Standard from the base model up is 12 passenger seats, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack, a multifunction trip computer, keyless entry, power accessories, a 12-volt power outlet, and two 120-volt power outlets. Only a four-speaker sound system with AM/FM radio is available in the S trim.
The SV sees two more speakers added to the infotainment suite, along with SiriusXM. Further additions include an eight-way power driver's seat, a multifunctional center console, two extra 12-volt power outlets, and rear parking assist.
The final touches to the NV come with the SL trim: fog lights, leather-appointed seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a smaller 5.8-inch infotainment display, MP3/CD playback, navigation, SiriusXM traffic, dual-zone climate control, front parking assist, extendable tow mirrors, two front tow hooks, a class IV tow hitch receiver, and seven-pin connector and brake controller pre-wiring.
Only a single package is available to the NV Passenger. The $500 Navigation Package, for the SV, which equips the van with a smaller 5.8-inch touchscreen with MP3/CD playback capability, SiriusXM radio, NissanConnect Mobile Apps with navigation and SiriusXM traffic, and Nissan voice recognition and audio. Other notable standalone add-ons include a tow hitch receiver ($375), telescoping tow mirrors ($897.85), and additional tow hooks ($320.94).
Even the lower-powered V6 engine is more than sufficient to move the van with ease and, even on the top trim level, safety features and infotainment are nothing more than afterthoughts. There is little reason to look above the base S model unless you find the minor improvements to the infotainment system and the addition of rear parking assist appealing. The power-adjustable driver's seat is a nice addition, though, and the extra $2,000 for the SV won't break the bank either, so we think it is probably the best choice.
There is a reason that the Ford Transit is the top-selling van in the US. There are areas where certain rivals surpass this streamlined utility van, but none best it in every category. The Ford has an array of potent engine options that give it a level of power few can match, all while offering handling that is impressive for a vehicle of this size. Plenty of safety features come standard, with more becoming available as you move up the trim levels. The infotainment is not world-class but it has the basics, and even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. In the right guise, the interior is so spacious that passengers can stand upright, making moving around even easier. The Ford achieves all of this without sacrificing much in any area, making it one of the best all-round vans. The NV Passenger doesn't hold a candle to it.
Entering a new generation, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has a lot going for it. It offers a premium interior that few rivals can hope to match, along with a roomy cabin that allows passengers to really stretch out and enjoy the ride. Seat comfort is above average, and build quality is class-leading. The van does suffer from a slightly underpowered engine when in its largest configuration, but that's not unusual for these highly configurable vehicles. It handles well around town, nonetheless, and even has a modicum of off-road capability. Where it really shines is its modern tech features, especially the available MBUX infotainment system. However, to get the best that the Sprinter has to offer, you will need to be willing to empty your wallet, with the Mercedes van costing up to $20k more than the Nissan when fully loaded. Overall, the Sprinter is the better choice, even if you need to tone down on add-ons to get the price more in line with the competition.