The Nissan NV range of vans may look unorthodox – a half-breed visually between a truck and a van, rather than the snub-nosed alternatives’ traditional styling. The NV range is made available with a choice of regular and high-roof variants, and three payload variations (1500/2500/3500) for a world of versatility. With two available engines, the NV offers a high towing capacity too, and the passenger van can be ordered with any number of up to 12 seats in a range of versatile configurations. In a segment where the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit exist, the loosely Nissan Titan based van offers a compelling alternative.
With a truck-like hood housing the engine, the front of the cabin is more spacious in the NV than competitor vans. The front of the cabin offers as standard, 4-way manual seats, air conditioning, and durable cloth and vinyl upholstery, along with storage bins under the driver’s seat. Forward visibility is ample thanks to the large upright windscreen but rearward visibility is dismal, even with optional rear windows; though a reverse camera is available.
The cargo van offers 323 cubic feet worth of cargo volume with the standard roof (the only available roof on the 1500), with the high roof increasing volume to 487 cubic feet. The space is accessible by double rear doors and sliding side doors. However all the key competitors offer a longer wheelbase as an option – the NV doesn’t, compromising its carrying capacity compared to rivals.
Like most competitors in this class – with the exception of the Transit – unladen the ride quality is bouncy and skittish – thank the live rear axle and leaf spring suspension for that, as well as the body-on-frame chassis derived from the Titan underpinnings. The ride improves substantially when loaded, but is still short of the best in class. The hollow box that is the NV reacts as an echo chamber for road noise and debris hitting the underside – the lack of insulation making the Spartan ride a noisy one too.
The steering is light, but incredibly slow, needing far too many adjustments to the steering just to maintain a straight line. The truck-based van that is the NV is big and cumbersome, and lacks responsiveness to make it nimble in tight situations. Where the Ford Transit feels nearly car-like, this feels like piloting a cargo ship by comparison.
The NV1500 and NV2500 both arrive as standard with a 4.0-liter V6 producing 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque, with a rated tow capacity of 6 900 pounds. The NV2500 can be equipped with a 5.6-liter V8, standard on the NV3500, developing 375hp and 387 lb-ft, with a rated tow capacity of up to 9 500 pounds and a payload capacity close on 4000. The 1500 and 2500 feature standard 5-speed automatic gearboxes, with the 2500 optionally equipped with the 3500’s standard 7-speed automatic. All models are rear-wheel driven.
All models except the 1500 arrive in one of three trims, S, SV, and SL – the NV1500 only in the first two. The S gets air conditioning, 36 cargo mounting points for shelving, and bare metal cargo panels. The SV models get optional navigation with a 5.8-inch touch screen and Bluetooth hands free system, as well as standard, hardboard cargo panels, remote keyless entry, and cruise control. The top-spec SL equips an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and an alarm. Safety features include an available rear-view camera, stability control, and ABS on two wheels only.
Without an extended wheelbase available, even the high-roof Nissan NV can’t afford the same cargo capacity as its rivals. But the driver’s cabin is more spacious than others and the big V8 available on the NV2500 and 3500 is worth a look if you’ll be towing big loads in addition to hauling cargo.