by Aiden Eksteen
Nissan presents the NV200 Compact Cargo as a commercial van ideal for small business owners and fleet operators that would benefit from its city-centric maneuverability, frugality, and competitive price. This commercial cargo carrier doesn't offer up as high a payload and cargo capacity as competitors like the Ford Transit Connect and Ram ProMaster City, but it carries its own unique appeal nonetheless. Unfortunately, the NV200 is equipped with an underpowered engine: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with meager outputs of 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, paired to a CVT automatic gearbox to forward those outputs to the NV200's front-wheel-drivetrain. The NV200 Compact Cargo is a very sensible option as a commercial van for small business owners in particular, and for 2020 it boasts an array of new enhancements that set it ahead of many in the class. But in a class where practicality is the key priority, the NV200 may not be the workman's best option.
The Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo steers into 2020 with an array of enhancements and alterations. Of the two trims in the NV200 lineup, the S comes into the new model year sporting a new body-colored front bumper instead of the black item it previously had while both models are now fitted with three ceiling-mounted cargo lamps and six cargo area wall-mounted tie-down D-rings. The most notable enhancements lie within the infotainment system though, where a seven-inch color touchscreen display is now standard along with full smartphone integration in the form of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, the first time these have been made standard for vehicles in this class.
The NV200 Compact Cargo looks like a slightly diminutive version of every other typical commercial cargo van. Visually, the S comes fitted with rudimentary exterior features, including a silver signature front grille, black manually-adjustable side mirrors, and a black-colored rear bumper, with 15-inch steel wheels filling the arches. The SV is upgraded with a chrome front grille, body-colored power heated side mirrors, a body-color rear bumper, and wheel covers for the standard 15-inch steel wheels. Multi-reflector halogen headlights with daytime running lights are standard on both trims, along with a rear high-mounted center brake light.
The NV200's core appeal lies within its diminutive dimensions as a compact van purposefully aimed at small business owners wanting smaller, more efficient cargo carriers. Its overall body length spans 186.3 inches, its wheelbase 115.2 inches, its overall height is 73.7 inches, and its width 68.1 inches. For comparison, that makes the NV200 a bit shorter than average with the LWB Ford Transit Connect's length of 190 inches and the RAM ProMaster City's length of 187.1 inches. Its wheelbase is up of five inches shorter than both. The S grade NV200 carries a curb weight of 3,280 lbs and rides with a running ground clearance of 6.4 inches, the SV grade NV200 weighs in at 3,281 lbs and rides 6.1 inches from the ground. This makes the NV200 one of the lightest vans in the class with one the higher ground clearances as well.
There are only four exterior color options on the 2020 NV200 Compact Cargo's palette, of those four, only three are available for the S grade NV200, all four are available for the SV. Super Black, Brilliant Silver Metallic, and Fresh Powder (White) are the three available hues for both grades, while Cayenne Red Metallic is available for the SV only. For the S, we recommend the Super Black exterior hue simply to integrate the black-colored rear bumper. For the SV, we recommend either the Super Black or the Fresh Powder (White) as the two options that would best accommodate advertising or business signage.
Despite the NV200 being relatively lightweight, its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine still feels noticeably underpowered and incapable for its purpose, and its peak outputs of 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque are below average for the class. With the Compact Cargo Van unladen, independent tests have shown 0-60 mph taking somewhere near ten seconds. Loading up the NV200 only adds on to that time exponentially. While the weak engine may initially seem appealing from an efficiency point of view, comparing it to rivals reveals just how weak it is. Both the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster City are quicker vans, without sacrificing much in the way of economy. Both those competitors top the NV200 in maximum payload capacity ratings and in maximum towing capability as well, while the Nissan can support a max payload of 1,480 lbs, the Ford can handle around 1,500 lbs, and the RAM up to 1,883 lbs. Those competitors are rated for towing as well with a 2,000-pound max capacity, while the NV200 isn't rated for towing at all.
With only 131 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque at hand, the NV200's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is painfully underpowered. Moreover, the CVT automatic gearbox it comes coupled with feels unrefined and incapable of managing the subpar power outputs in a decent manner. Unfortunately, this is the only powertrain option available for the NV200, paired to a front-wheel-drive system with no alternative available. It's great from a packaging and efficiency perspective, but when laden, the lack of a rear-wheel drivetrain means hauling becomes tedious, and even when empty, the engine doesn't do a great job.
Off-the-line acceleration in the NV200 is gradual and listless, so don't expect quick launches from the loading bay or from traffic lights. This does, however, ensure that anything not properly tied down won't go violently flying through the air at least. From there, acceleration remains gradual and linear, getting up to speed can be laborious and if the opportunity actually presents itself for an overtake on the highway, it's probably going to take a while so take the time to enjoy the newly added smartphone integration functions.
It's here where the NV200 Compact Cargo's advantages as a diminutive work van come through most clearly. Its relatively small size avails it with nimble and impressively maneuverable handling dynamics, making it ideal for the urban environment. Not only can it navigate tight parking bays - not to mention easier accessibility to tighter streets and parking spots, where larger competitors would struggle or have to avoid altogether, but the light steering weight and reasonably tight turning circle mean little strain on the driver, even if they come at the expense of any sense of solidity behind the wheel.
No handling perks are exhibited at higher speeds though, where, as with many, or even all boxy-shaped cargo vans, the NV200 is rendered very susceptible to crosswinds, and its slow steering makes it difficult to counter with. The front end vagueness also doesn't help, and rivals like the Ford Transit Connect feel far more car-like and tied down at both speed and when cornering. The NV200's soft suspension is also undone mid-corner where there's a substantial amount of lean and where mid-corner bumps can easily upset it.
The NV200 is equipped with a powertrain optimized for fuel-efficiency, another of its unique advantages. With the Compact Cargo Van unladen, the EPA records impressive gas mileage figures of 24/26/25 mpg city/highway/combined from both trims. That's more fuel-efficient than the RAM ProMaster City with its gas mileage figures of 21/28/24 mpg returned on those same cycles. The Ford transit Connect, with the publicly available 2.0-liter engine, is a little more efficient with returns of 24/27/25 mpg. With a relatively small 14.5-gallon gas tank, the NV200's efficiency-minded powertrain is still economical enough to power the van for around 362 miles between refills.
At the NV200's relatively low price, not much should be expected in terms of the design style, build quality, and materials used within its cabin. The overall impression is as rudimentary as it gets, barring the new seven-inch touchscreen that adorns the dashboard. Otherwise, the steering wheel, dashboard, and seats feel as low-grade as they look, and the driver's controls and AC buttons are chunky, tacky-looking, and totally outdated - although are likely to stand the test of time. The layout is easy to understand though, and the cabin's construction is reasonably ergonomic, thanks to all the room upfront. There is the occasional rattle from the cargo area but everything does seem to be relatively well put together and purposefully built to last, at least. Its sheer practicality over luxury in the NV200, and sensibly so.
There's seating for only two in the NV200 Compact Cargo with a spot for the driver and another for a single front passenger. There's no adjustability featured in the steering wheel at all and both the front seats get only a limited level of manual adjustment (six ways for the driver, and four for the passenger); fortunately, there's plenty of free cabin room available for the front seat passengers to make use of. As might be expected, the NV200's cabin is still a lot less spacious than that of competitors, while this means less capacity for cargo, it doesn't hamper passenger room to any extent. While it's easy to see out the front, rearward visibility is severely impeded by the windowless side and rear doors. The large side-view mirrors help make things a little easier, but the optional sliding door glass and rear door glass window packages are recommended.
Both NV200 models are fitted with a basic polyurethane steering wheel, while the dashboard and door panels are comprised mostly of hard touch plastics and share a dark/light gray dual-tone color scheme. The seats are upholstered in gray cloth upholstery with vinyl wear-patched bolsters, and the headliner is featured in a light gray cloth material. There's a hard plastic cover on the backside of the passenger seat that acts as a table-top for doing paperwork when folded down, and the cargo floor at the back is layered with a thermoplastic polyolefin covering for added durability.
Unlike with most vehicles in this class, the NV200 Compact Cargo is available in only a single body configuration, capping cargo-hauling capabilities to a set capacity while many competitors are available in various wheelbase lengths. The NV200's diminutive dimensions, along with its compact drivetrain and rear suspension, provide for a cargo bay area of 82.8 inches in length, 54.8 inches in width (48 inches between the wheel wells), and 53 inches in height, with a lift-in height of only 19.2 inches. A total of 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space is offered up in the cargo bay with a maximum payload capacity of 1,480 lbs in base form; the slightly heavier SV grade carries 30 pounds less. The Ford Transit Connect offers 127.4 cubes of cargo space and a payload capacity of 1,570 lbs in its long-wheelbase format, dropping to 104.8 cubes with the shorter distance between the wheels. The RAM ProMaster City offers class-leading figures of 131.7 cubes of cargo space and a payload capacity of 1,883 lbs.
In-cabin storage points include a handy dashboard tray, a broad center console storage cubby, a deep passenger-side glove box, a slide-out storage tray under the passenger seat, useful door side pockets, and two large cupholders.
As with many utilitarian vehicles, the NV200 is outfitted with pretty much just the bare necessities. Manual air conditioning is standard with no upgrade options available, and there are power doors and windows with a driver's side one-touch auto-up/down feature. The driver's seat features six-way manual adjustability and the passenger's seat gets four-way settings with fold-flat capability. Pre-wiring for telematics upfitting is inclusive as well. A rearview camera and hill start assist are the only standard driver-assist features in the S trim. The SV gets a remote keyless entry system, cruise control, and power-operated and heated side mirrors. A rear parking sensor system is available as a standalone option for both models.
Nissan upped the ante on infotainment in the NV200 coming into the 2020 model year, fitting every trim with a seven-inch color touchscreen display, the largest standard-fit multimedia touchscreen featured in the segment. Both the NV200 trims also come inclusive of full smartphone integration with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is also unique in the segment as rivals need to have these optioned on. The system includes an AM/FM/CD stereo with two front-door-mounted speakers, and there's also SiriusXM satellite radio connectivity which comes with a three-month subscription. Bluetooth hands-free smartphone connectivity and audio streaming are included, and conventional connectivity is provided via a single auxiliary audio input jack, a USB charge port, and a 12-volt power outlet.
The 2020 NV200 Compact Cargo van has not been recalled at the time of writing, although the 2019 year model was subject to one recall as the rearview camera system, when set to not display the rearview image, would retain the setting the next time the vehicle was put into reverse, rendering the system noncompliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. J.D. Power hasn't given the NV200 a quality and reliability rating at all, though with relatively few recalls commissioned for the vehicle, reliability is expected to be decent. Nissan covers the NV200 with an industry-leading basic and powertrain warranty of five years or 100,000 miles.
Unfortunately, with such low sales volumes, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has evaluated any model of the Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo for its crashworthiness. This isn't uncommon for the utility vehicle class, though, so it shouldn't be seen as a reflection of the van's safety.
Safety measures and driver-assist features are minimal in the NV200; the van comes with a small selection of six standard airbags, including dual front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard-fit in all trims, along with hill start assist. The SV is only given cruise control additionally. A set of rear parking sensors is optional for both grades as a standalone option, and S can be optioned with cruise control.
When it comes to utilitarian vehicles, the Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo may be one of the most affordable options out there, but it's certainly not one of the best. It's not the quickest van around and won't get your supplies anywhere in a hurry. Where it does benefit though, is in fuel-efficiency, an area where it has many of its competitors beat. This, along with its relatively low price, makes it one of the most economical vehicle options available. This year, Nissan made sure to up the ante on the NV200's infotainment system, the lineup now featuring a larger, screen with most of the functionality today's shoppers expect. Its cabin is still incredibly rudimentary, verging on uncomfortable, and the impression is dull overall. The majority of the cabin is low-quality, the seats are unsupportive, and the passenger considerations significantly bare-bones. But, to be fair, no one buys a cargo van for passenger comfort. All that said, the NV200 is still a decent vehicle - there are just many better ones out there, although maybe not at this price.
The Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo is one of the most affordable work vans available. The base-spec S comes in at an MSRP of $22,830, with the SV only $1,000 more at a sticker price of $23,830. Nissan charges a destination and handling cost of $1,095, which isn't included in the MSRPs above. No tax, registration, or licensing fees have been included in the above prices, either.
There are only two trims of the NV200: the base-spec S and the slightly better-equipped SV. Both are equipped with the same powertrain comprising a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's coupled to a CVT automatic and front-wheel-drivetrain.
The S is perched atop 15-inch uncovered steel wheels and features multi-reflector halogen headlights with DRLs, a silver signature front grille, black manually-adjustable side-view mirrors, and a black-colored rear bumper. Power windows are standard along with manual air conditioning, a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, four-way manually-adjustable passenger seat, a rearview camera, and hill start assist. A polyurethane steering wheel, cloth upholstered seats, and thermoplastic polyolefin cargo area floor covering are standard features. For infotainment, there's a seven-inch touchscreen, an AM/FM/CD stereo with two front-door-mounted speakers, and - a first for this segment - both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, together with SiriusXM radio, and Bluetooth.
One step up is all it takes to get to the top of the range: the SV is upgraded with wheel covers and comes fitted with a chrome signature front grille, body-color power heated side-view mirrors, and a body-color rear bumper. Feature upgrades include a remote keyless entry system and the addition of cruise control. The SV is also additionally outfitted with six wall-mounted D-rings in the cargo area.
Packages, options, and accessories are limited for both the NV200 trims. There's a Sliding Door Glass Package (Passenger Side) available which installs a privacy glass window to the passenger-side sliding door and both rear doors, a rear window defroster, and an interior rearview mirror for $380. There's also a Rear Door Glass Package, which, for $190 installs privacy-glass windows in the rear doors only, and includes the rear window defroster and the interior rearview mirror. A rear sonar system can be installed in either grade for $250. Cruise control can be installed to the S at a cost of $200 but is standard on the SV.
Seeing as the better-equipped NV200 SV has only a $1,000 upshot in price over the base-spec S, it's the one we'd go for. This model comes standard with a few better-quality exterior accouterments, including a chrome grille and body-color side mirrors and rear bumper. Its side-view mirrors also get power-operation and heating, slightly improving convenience for the driver. The remote keyless entry system and cruise control also make things more pleasant for the driver and six wall-mounted D-rings added to the cargo area offer up a little more cargo storage versatility. We suggest including the rear sonar system to mitigate some of the NV200's limited rearward visibility, along with the rear door glass package for a total of a little more than $25k.
The Ford Transit Connect benefits from a slightly more powerful four-cylinder engine (19 hp and 13 lb-ft more) that gives it better acceleration than what the NV200 delivers. The eight-speed auto gearbox in the Ford also feels more refined than the NV200's CVT. The Transit, though heavier, is a little more fuel-efficient too, returning EPA gas mileage estimates of 24/27 mpg city/highway. The Transit offers more practicality as a workhorse as well, with 123.2 cubes of room in the cargo bay with the passenger seat folded down in the SWB model, and 145.8 cubes in the LWB model. It offers a max payload capacity of 1,570 lbs due to being available in a long-wheelbase format, too. The Ford is also rated to tow up to 2,000 lbs, while the NV200 has no tow rating at all. With the NV200's standard inclusion of a seven-inch touchscreen and full smartphone integration, it certainly takes the win in the sphere of infotainment as the Transit's screen is a lot smaller and smartphone integration only comes in on the higher-specced trim. The Ford, however, gets a whole lot more in the way of driver-assist technologies and safety features. Ultimately, the Ford Transit Connect makes more sense as a utility vehicle, it's a little faster, more practical due to having longer wheelbase options, and a whole lot safer than the NV200, and is the recommended vehicle for those perks. It also drives better, sealing the deal, even if you do have to pay around $2,000 more at a base level.
RAM's ProMaster City is a little more expensive than Nissan's NV200 Compact Cargo; it's equipped with a far more competent powertrain though, offering quicker and smoother acceleration, which makes for faster motoring around town. But it is thirstier, with the EPA rating it at 21/28/24 mpg. It also has a larger 16-gallon gas tank which means less time at the fueling stations and more time for work. And work is one of the ProMaster's strengths, offering not only more cargo space at 131.7 cubes and a higher max payload capacity of 1,883 lbs, but also a towing capacity of 2,000 lbs. The NV200 does have the better infotainment system, but the inside of the ProMaster is certainly a more pleasant place to spend long workdays in - the impression is one of higher quality, the seats are comfier, and even a leather-wrapped steering wheel comes in on the higher-tier trim. There are a few more options available for the ProMaster as well, but even in standard guise, it takes our vote as the better utilitarian van.
Check out some informative Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo video reviews below.