by Jay Traugott
While not leading the small van segment in terms of cargo capacity or advanced tech features, the NV200, with its 131 horsepower four-cylinder engine, still has something to offer. With a low starting price of $22,300 and pack-leading fuel economy, this van is a great investment for those who need to move reasonable amounts of cargo around town without it costing them an arm and a leg. But, if you need to haul more without stepping up to a full-size van, the Ford Transit Connect or Ram ProMaster City might have more to offer.
The NV200 enters 2019 totally unchanged from the previous year.
The van rides on 15-inch steel wheels that sit within quite small, streamlined arches. The chassis itself is quite streamlined, not as blocky as you might expect from a simple cargo van. The front grille is quite reserved, and the halogen headlights give the vehicle a sleek look despite utilitarian intentions. The rear cargo doors open in 40/60 split at a maximum angle of 180 degrees. The roof features six rack mounting points.
Unlike many rivals, only one body option is available to the Nissan NV200. With a height of 73.7 inches, a width of 68.1 inches and a length of 186.3 inches, the van fits in-between many rivals' short and long-wheelbase models. The Nissan also weighs in as one of the lightest small vans on the market, with a curb weight of 3,271 to 3,277 lbs depending on trim. This is several hundred pounds less than leading rivals.
Five body paint options make up the color palette for the NV200. Standard choices for the S comprise Brilliant Silver Metallic, Fresh Powder, and Super Black. The SV trim adds a splash of real color to the mix with Cayenne Red Metallic and Graphite Blue Metallic.
With its weak 131-hp engine, the van takes a long ten seconds to reach 60 mph, which goes up significantly when loaded. This lack of power isn't too much of a problem, given the vehicle's smaller-than-average cargo capacity. Rivals like the more powerful Ram ProMaster City, which delivers 178 hp and 174 lb-ft, are able to get up to speed a lot quicker. This additional power is also partly the reason why it can haul 1,883 lbs, eclipsing the NV200's segment-trailing 1,502 lbs.
The only engine option available to the NV200 is a 2.0-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine that runs on regular gasoline. Mated to an automatic CVT transmission, this powertrain delivers 131 hp and 139 lb-ft to the front wheels only. The CVT can feel somewhat strained in operation compared to rivals that offer more-refined automatic transmissions as standard. While all-wheel-drive is not available, this is not uncommon in the segment.
Thanks to its relatively small size, the van handles remarkably well. This size also allows the small cargo van to go where larger rivals can't. A slightly stronger engine would help the car feel more athletic, but it is still strong enough to get around town quickly, even with cargo in the rear.
Steering is light, meaning that low-speed maneuvers are easily managed, but don't expect the van to handle as smoothy once you get up to speed. Luckily, speed isn't the van's forte, as its high, boxy body leans far too readily into turns while crosswinds can adversely affect stability. Braking is less responsive but it's sufficient for normal town-driving speeds. In a panic situation, the van can be brought to a stop in 137 ft from 60 mph.
The seats have only minimal manual adjustability, and the steering wheel has none, so don't expect to be overly comfortable over long rides. The lack of advanced convenience and comfort features only exacerbates this problem. Nevertheless, comfort is adequate and the ride quality is acceptable even on the the small 15-inch wheels.
Fuel economy is where the NV200 shines, besting all its rivals, if only by a small margin. Burning regular gasoline, the van gets a city/highway/combined estimated EPA of 24/26/25 mpg. With a 14.5 gallon fuel tank at its disposal, the Nissan can travel up to 362 miles between refuels. The Ram Promaster City gets slightly better overall distance, but only because it has a larger tank and 28 mpg highway rating.
You get what you pay for when it comes to the van's interior. The cabin is built well enough, but the cargo area will rattle from time to time, and the dash and seats feel as low-rent as they look. The easy-to-use controls are laid out to be just as easily accessible to the driver, but there are very few features on offer than need to be controlled. The cabin is naturally spacious, but the interior of the NV200 is smaller than what most rivals provide.
With only two seats present in the cabin, drivers and passengers of all sizes will fit comfortably. Heck, you could even stretch out after a long grueling drive without even bumping into one another thanks to the generous amount of space. Visibility is limited, however, if you don't opt for the optional door or panel windows, but the side mirrors do a great job of making up for this. It's just a pity that the seats and steering wheel lack power adjustability. Accessing the interior is also supremely easy, with wide-opening doors both up front and in the cargo area.
There is not much to say about the interior of the van. The seats are upholstered in grey cloth, and not quality cloth at that. The dash and door panels are made up almost entirely of low-grade hard plastics, and it lacks carpeting as standard. Unlike many rivals, the NV200 never offers leather-appointed seats or a more luxurious interior trim. This isn't unusual, given the nature of the vehicle, but the fact that other vans make more effort may appeal to some customers.
With only a single body option available, Nissan's small cargo van doesn't offer as many cargo area configurations as its rivals. The cargo area comprises a bed that is 82.8 inches long and 54.8 inches wide. It measures 48 inches between the wheels and the wall panels are 53 inches tall. This area can store a combined 122.7 cubic feet of cargo, with a maximum payload of 1,502 lbs. The SV trim, with a slightly higher curb weight, can carry six pounds less cargo. By comparison, the Ford Transit Connect can fit 127 cubic feet of cargo, while the Ram Promaster City supplies an impressive 131.7 cubic feet.
Small item storage comprises a deep center console bin, a couple of cup holders, front door pockets, a slide-out storage tray under the passenger seat and a seatback tray table on the fold-down passenger seat.
The NV200 is almost devoid of features, with the standard S trim offering air conditioning, a multi-function trip computer, 12-volt DC power outlet, power accessories and a rearview camera. When you upgrade to the SV trim, you receive some more features including cruise control and an extra 12-volt DC power outlet. Rear sonar is available as a standalone add-on. Pre-wiring for telematics upfitting is present in the cargo area as standard.
Basic infotainment features comprise a five-inch color display, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming and a two-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system that also supports MP3 playback. Nissan navigation and the associated add-ons are available with the Navigation Package. It's devoid of any advanced connectivity options, which again falls well below what other rivals offer.
J.D. Power has not evaluated the NV200 for reliability, but the van has been recalled in 2014 and 2016, both times for faulty passenger-side airbags. Nissan provides a best-in-class limited warranty and a powertrain warranty, both for 100,000-miles/60-months.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has evaluated the van for crash testing, not at uncommon in the utility vehicle segment.
Very few safety features come standard on the Nissan NV200. The basic suite comprises a rearview camera, vehicle dynamic traction and traction control, front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, and six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. Rear sonar is available as a standalone add-on, but other than that there are no available driver-assist features.
The small cargo van sector is not a particularly exciting segment, but the NV200 still manages to draw attention. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers adequate power for getting around town, so long as you aren't in too much of a hurry. Where it really stands out, however, is fuel economy. The Nissan leads the segment with a 25 mpg combined cycle rating. When coupled with a low starting price of $22,300, this cargo van is the most economical investment in its class.
This is great for those not needing more than the bare basics, but if you need a few luxuries you may want to look elsewhere. The NV200 will provide you with only the most basic of safety and conveniences features, and an outdated infotainment system that lacks any of the functionality modern buyers expect. When you add to this the barely comfortable seats and less than stellar ride quality, you have a recipe for utter mediocrity.
So while we may be willing to admit that the Nissan NV200 Cargo Van is a good vehicle, there are great vans out there with similar price tags. Still, few offer what the Nissan does at such a low price so we can't rule it out just yet.
The base-level NV200 S will cost you $22,300, while the only marginally improved SV will set you back an additional $1,000. Few rivals can compete with such low MSRP prices. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and Nissan's $1,045 handling and destination fee.
Comprising two trim levels, the S and SV, the Nissan NV200 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 131 hp and 139 lb-ft. This modest power output is regulated by a CVT transmission which directs it to the front wheels only. No other configurations are offered.
For an entry-level model, the S comes equipped with almost everything available to the van. This includes 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, a two-speaker sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3 playback, a five-inch display, a 12-volt DC power outlet, Bluetooth and a rearview camera.
The SV makes only minor changes, adding cruise control, keyless entry, and an extra 12-volt power outlet. The cargo area also receives six floor-mounted D-rings.
Considering how few features are standard on the NV200, you would expect a boatload of packages to be available, but that isn't the case. You can add rear parking assist for $250, or a passenger-side sliding door window with privacy glass for $380. The Nissan Navigation Package is available on the SV for $550; this installs a 5.8-inch touchscreen display, NissanConnect Mobile Apps, SiriusXM Traffic, SiriusXM Radio, and Bluetooth audio streaming.
With only $1,000 separating the SV trim from the base S, there is little reason not to splurge a little for the extra amenities. Both trims offer the same level of performance, and the S only hauls six pounds more than the SV, so you aren't sacrificing much weight for that handful of extra features. Also, only the SV is compatible with the Navigation Package, which is a nice add-on if you want to make sure your drivers never get lost.
Ford's small cargo van delivers admirable road performance thanks to its slightly stronger 162 hp engine, but it is heavier than the NV200 by a few hundred pounds. Nevertheless, it offers superior acceleration and handling characteristics, along with significantly better infotainment and interior comfort options. However, the Nissan van is cheaper right out the gate, and it delivers better fuel economy figures. If you are looking for a better return on initial investment, then the NV200 might be the better choice, but if you want to invest in your people as much as your equipment, your drivers may appreciate the extra creature comforts afforded by the Ford Transit Connect.
With almost identical price tags and fuel economy performance, the Chevy City Express is a neck-and-neck rival to the NV200. In fact, there are very few areas where they are not identical, as the Chevy is essentially a rebadged NV200. However, Chevrolet has decided to discontinue the City Express, meaning you may be able to pick up secondhand units, or even old stock at a considerable discount. Nissan does offer a slightly better warranty than Chevrolet, so this is something to consider. Moving forward, the NV200 will be the only option, so in terms of new vehicle purchases, this is not even a comparison.