Nissan’s NV200 Cargo Van: A Lighter Look at Work

 COMMERCIAL COOL: The Nissan NV200 cargo van is a smaller version of the traditional box-on-wheels work van. Work space is abundant behind the rear barn doors.
COMMERCIAL COOL: The Nissan NV200 cargo van is a smaller version of the traditional box-on-wheels work van. Work space is abundant behind the rear barn doors.
BILL GRIFFITH

When the news came along last month that Nissan had instituted a five-year, 100,000-mile, bumper-to-bumper basic warranty on its 2014 commercial vans, it seemed like a good story for the auto notes column. So that story was duly written.

Two days after it ran, the great roulette wheel of “the next available test vehicle” put a—you guessed it—2014 Nissan NV200 compact cargo van in my driveway.

Now, a cargo van is great if you’re going to help someone move. Drat. That was three weeks too late to help my daughter’s big move.

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Well, we did have to pick up a pair of heavy rattan chairs from the architectural firm of DiLullo Associates. That was easy enough. To load them, we had the choice of a sliding door on either side of the van or a 60/40 rear barn door arrangement with the bigger opening on the right (curb) side.

The rear of the van is a neat, almost rectangular space offering 122.7 cubic feet of storage waiting to be configured for your needs. There are 20 mounting points on the walls and 6 on the floor for those who need to anchor storage racks and bins, or anchor items during transit.

We made do with a pair of blankets and some careful driving on the 35-mile trip home.

Nissan gets a lot of credit for chutzpah for making an all-out effort to crack the Big Three’s monopoly on the cargo van market. The taxi version of the NV200 is a solid pick with well-thought-out safety and convenience features built in by the designers.

Cargo vans are a bit simpler.

We took a couple of road trips at the tail end of Hurricane Arthur, dealing with rain one day and the following day’s stiff Northwest clearing winds.

On the highway, the NV200 was buffeted by the heavier wind gusts but otherwise was a joy to drive.

Our test van was the upscale version of the NV200, the SV as opposed to the base S. The base model starts at $21,100 (including destination). Our SV, with an MSRP of $22,140, adds power heated outside mirrors, power door locks with an auto-locking feature, remote keyless entry, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls, an added 12-volt outlet at the rear of the center console, and the six floor-mounted cargo hooks.

The test van also had a back door glass package ($190) that adds rear privacy glass with a defroster and rearview mirror, really nice heavy duty rubber mats ($95), a tech package ($950) with navigation, rearview camera, and the full array of Nissan’s user-friendly connectivity features. An exterior appearance package ($190) and rear bumper protector ($80) pushed the bottom line to $23,645.

On the road, the NV200 attracted a surprising number of second looks from passing vehicles, an indication that the public is aware of commercial vans.

This one obviously is aimed at small business owners and fleet operators looking for efficient work vans.

By our standards, it hits the mark with one caveat: We drove it basically unloaded; I didn’t have 1,500 pounds of tools and cargo to fill it to its recommended capacity. Well, truth is, there is that much stuff around the house, but there wasn’t the willingness to lug it and load it. Hmm. Maybe we could borrow one next winter when Mrs. G starts packing for a vacation trip to Florida.

Back to the road. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine doesn’t have big numbers on the spec sheet (131 horsepower, 139 lb.-ft. of torque), but it seemed plenty peppy off the line, merging on the highway, and cruising at highway speeds.

The steering was steady and responsive and (outside of wind gusts) the van tracked as surely as a premium sedan. Cornering felt more like a well-balanced, midsize sedan than a commercial vehicle, somewhat of a surprise because the NV200 comes with 15-inch wheels and tires that look lost in the wheel wells.

We credit Nissan’s tested-and-improved CVT for smooth operation and as a major contributor to solid fuel economy numbers: 24 city and 25 highway. We averaged 27.5 mpg in a variety of driving, but most of it was with two passengers and that empty 122.7-cubic foot cargo area.

The driver’s compartment is quite functional and simply laid out. The cloth seats have vinyl wear points but proved comfortable on a two-hour trip. The driver’s seat has six-way manual adjustments plus an armrest and manual lumbar adjustment that seemed to fit my back just right.

The upgraded sound system with the Tech package added satellite radio, apps such as Pandora, and mp3 connections, but the sound gets lost with that big empty space behind you.

Ingress was easy despite the 6.5-inch ground clearance, the rear load height is 21.1 inches, and the back floor (thanks to front-wheel-drive) is flat and smooth.

Nissan seems to have done its part to crack this market segment, offering a quality vehicle at a good price with a great warranty.

You’d have to think it will earn a decent market share.

2014 Nissan NV200 SV Cargo Van

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $22,140/$23,645. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 24 city/25 highway. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 27.5. Drivetrain: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, CVT (continuously variable transmission), front-wheel-drive. Body: 2-passenger cargo van.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 131. Torque: 139 lb.-ft. Overall length: 186.3 in. Wheelbase: 115.2 in. Height: 73.7 in. Width: 68.1 in. Curb weight: 3,260 lbs.

THE GOOD

Compact size, configurable work space, competitive price, Nissan quality.

THE BAD

Compact size. Both a strength and drawback, depending on user’s needs; power could be limited, depending how much cargo is aboard.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A lighter, easy-to-maneuver van for lighter duty applications.

ALSO CONSIDER

Ford Transit Connect.