by Aiden Eksteen
The Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo is a commercial van ideal for small business owners and fleet operators that would benefit from its city-centric maneuverability, frugality, and its competitive price. This commercial cargo carrier doesn't offer up as high a payload and cargo capacity as core competition like the Ford Transit Connect and the Ram ProMaster City van, 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 wheels. The NV200 Compact Cargo is nevertheless a very sensible option as a commercial van for small business owners in particular. But in a class where practicality is the key priority, the NV200 may not be the workman's best option.
As is often the case with commercial vehicles, the NV200 Compact Cargo hasn't been dramatically updated for the 2021 model year. Besides a new Gun Metallic exterior color choice, the base S model gets standard cruise control and the SV gains rear parking sensors. Although welcome, these features don't greatly influence our review of the new Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo.
The price of the Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo is one of its most appealing selling points. The base-spec S comes in at an MSRP of $23,630 in the US, with the SV not much more at a sticker price of $24,680. Nissan charges a destination and handling cost of $1,150, which isn't included in the MSRPs above. No tax, registration, or licensing fees have been included in the above prices, either.
See trim levels and configurations:
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.
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. It also has a modern infotainment interface. 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 better ones out there, although maybe not at this price.
Seeing as the better-equipped NV200 SV has only a $1,050 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 silver-painted 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 also makes things more pleasant for the driver and six floor-mounted D-rings added to the cargo area offer up a little more cargo storage versatility.
The Ford Transit Connect benefits from more powerful four-cylinder engines that give 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 1,550 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 $1,000 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 its economy specs are worse, with the EPA rating it at 21/28/24 mpg. However, the Ram 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 1,890 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.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo: