Frumpy really doesn’t even begin to describe the initial impression when we met the ‘face’ of Nissan’s latest addition to the bite-size, commercial van market. The 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo SV makes the old Fiat 600 Multipla look downright svelte. Alongside Ford’s newly revamped Transit Connect, and the eventual Dodge ProMaster City, these tiny vans plan on filling a void in a sliver of the market that doesn’t necessarily need the size of a Dodge/Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but wants something that offers slightly better fuel economy and more car-like qualities.
Maybe “car-like” better describes the 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo SV? The “Vanette”, as its known in several markets outside of the United States, really feels like a car that happens to have a van body attached to it. With running gear that wouldn’t be out of place in a small sedan, the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder, and “Xtronic” Continuously-Variable-Transmission (CVT) perform as one might expect. Which is one way of saying that you aren’t going to get anywhere with any real pace, but it’s certainly adequate for moving lighter loads around. (Nissan claims up to 1,500lbs).
Its manners on road are also predictable, with a fantastic turning radius and brakes that feel like they would have no trouble coping with even the heaviest loads. While we wouldn’t recommend testing the handling abilities, the NV200 is plenty capable of managing the urban assault and direction changes at highway speeds were generally drama-free. For a purely utilitarian vehicle, we found the ride quality to be surprisingly good, even over less-than-perfect roads. In a nod to its commercial-use design, the NV200 does utilize truck-like leaf-spring rear suspension, which also helps at saving the precious cargo space with its compact design.
Our 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo test car, a SV trim level, was equipped with all the bells and whistles. We were surprised to see how many amenities and creature comforts had made their way into what is still a commercial van. The $20,950 starting price of the “SV” trim level gives you cruise control, keyless entry, power mirrors and door locks. Our example was fitted with the $950 “Technology Package”, which offers you rear-view camera, navigation, satellite radio and every possible music and communications connectivity known to man. The silly little van will even text for you! The “Exterior Appearance Package” added bumpers and mirrors painted in exterior color, wheel covers and a chrome grill, bringing our test car to its $23,645 MSRP. This undercuts the price of the comparable Ford Transit Connect by a nice little margin when you start to look at what all comes as standard with the little Nissan.
Offering a claimed 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space, the NV200 isn’t huge by van standards, but will offer a lot of businesses and vendors all the space they really need. We found the little Nissan quite useful for hauling Porsche race parts back and forth, and it easily swallowed 4-5 sets of wheels! Also, with a side-to-side width of the cargo area closing in on 55 inches, it can easily swallow a standard 40×48″ pallet. It should be noted that more utilitarian-type vehicles should come equipped with barn-door style doors, like the NV200. Our time with the test car made it evident how useful they can be, especially when the doors have the ability to swing out to 180 degrees.
If you’ve recently spent any time in New York City, you probably noticed several of these funny vans running around dressed up as taxis. Nissan has more than impressed us with its tidy packaging exercise. The staff at Sports Car Digest would all initially take hits at the tiny Nissan, but would eventually fall for its utility, and really begin to enjoy its smaller size. Nine times out of ten, most of us rarely need anything larger for moving light loads around.
2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo SV
Base Price: $21,280
Options: Rear Bumper Protector, $80; Back Door Glass Package, $190; Exterior Appearance Package, $190; All-Season Floor Mats, $95; Technology Package, $950
As Tested Price: $23,645
Engine Type: Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 2.0 liters
Power: 131 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 139 lb/ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: CVT Automatic Transmission
Curb Weight: 3,260 pounds
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
For more information, visit www.nissanusa.com