The Nissan NV200’s 131hp and 139 lb-ft 2.0-litre engine drives only the front wheels via a CVT transmission – making it ideal for traffic, but not much else. The cargo bay offers a 122.7 cubic foot volume and can carry a 1480lb payload. The SV trim gives buyers the option of USB ports, a rear view camera and a touch screen with navigation. Safety is limited, but includes ABS, EBD, traction control, and airbags.
by Roger Biermann
The Nissan NV200 is cheap, quite literally the cheapest thing in segment by about $1 000, and that’s only to the Chevrolet City Express which is pretty much the NV200 in drag. It’s really more than $2 000 cheaper than the nearest rival that isn’t itself – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What is bad though – or at least what may lose potential buyers – is that this is a panel van and nothing else. That is unless you fancy driving around in yellow livery with a taxi light on the roof – the NV200 is the official taxi-cab of NYC.
In panel van trim – the one the public is likely to be buying – the NV200 seats 2, though the passenger seat can be folded flat to extend the cargo bay for items like ladders. In its stowed state, the passenger seat also acts as a desk or work top, and the centre console houses a file folder bin for the workman with no time for an office. It’s not a very pleasant place to be sat – the plastics feeling the cheapest of any rivals in the segment – though forward visibility is good.
As for cargo, the 122.7 cubic feet or storage space is ample, though lacking compared to the Ram ProMaster City’s 131.7 cu ft. The vinyl clad cargo bay does however offer 20 cargo mounting points, six D-rings set into the floor for tying down goods, and six mounting points on the roof for a roof rack. Sliding doors make ingress a cinch.
Built using a unibody construction method, the NV200 feels mostly car-like. But there is severe body lean around corners and the ride itself is fairly appalling. The tilt-only steering wheel offers incredibly vague feedback and there’s just no feel to the thing whatsoever. It feels like a vehicle engineered 3 decades ago – uncommunicative, unresponsive, and without much pliancy to the ride.
However, there is an upside to the unibody construction and relatively small proportions of the NV200. It’s surprisingly nimble around parking complexes and in tight scenarios, where it feels like it can be threaded through just about the smallest of gaps. Reversing is difficult, though an optional rear-view camera helps.
The NV200 is cheap for a reason – and you get what you pay for. There is only one engine option, a 2.0-liter gasoline model with 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission and drives the front wheels. The engine is one lacking in both power and refinement – only allowing a 1,480lb payload and with no towing capacity at all – and the transmission pleads for mercy with its droning inability to get things done. The NV200 is slow – but slow and steady wins the race, right?
The base specification NV200 S offers little, but does include air conditioning, power windows, and power door locks, with the option for a Bluetooth hands free phone system. The SV ups the spec a little with cruise control, an optional reverse camera, and an optional touch screen with navigation. The NV200 features ABS brakes – though the rear brakes are drums – with EBD and brake assist. Airbags are standard, as is traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
There’s a reason the Nissan NV200 is cheap – it offers next to nothing. A dull drivetrain, no towing capacity, and limited configuration are only matched by the lack of features. But, it’s cheap – and many businesses just need a vehicle to get things done. Perhaps it has a purpose after all.