By on July 9, 2013

2013 Nissan NV200

When Nissan invited me to sample the Versa Note hatchback, tucked away in a corner was the new-to-America Nissan NV200 compact cargo van. No, this isn’t a relative of the NV2500 that started out our commercial week in 2012, instead it’s a purpose-built cargo hauler [very] loosely based on the underpinnings of the Nissan Cube. You may have also seen the NV200 shown as NYC’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” choice, but this NV is all about hauling. (Strangely enough that’s why it makes a good taxi.)

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Exterior

The NV200′s boxy profile is all about hauling, that’s something the NV200 and the Transit Connect have in common while the RAM C/V minivan is obviously a passenger car with steel inserted where the windows used to go. I think we can all agree that the C/V is more attractive in a “minivan mommy” sort of way, not surprising since it has to sell on curb appeal as well as kiddie schlepping. The  NV200 doesn’t have to steal hearts to accomplish its mission enabling Nissan to pen vertical slab sides and a very vertical tail. Anyone hauling cargo will tell you the C/V’s top-hinged hatch precludes loading with a regular forklift, something that isn’t a problem with the NV200′s 60/40 “barn” door back-end.

Practicality has a downside, like the current Transit Connect, the NV200 isn’t the most attractive thing on the road. The big cargo box makes the 15-inch wheels look smaller than they are and there’s just something wrong with the NV’s nose. (It is more attractive than the schnoz on the Transit Connect however.)  The standard black plastic bumper covers don’t help matters, so be sure to check that $190 option box and get them body-paint matched. Ford promises the 2014 Transit Connect will be a different animal sporting the Fusion’s award-winning nose.

2013 Nissan NV200, Picture Courtesy of Nissan

Interior

The NV200 wears a unique dashboard with parts pulled from a variety of Nissan products. The urethane steering wheel comes from the Versa sedan, the shifter and A/C controls from a last generation Sentra and the radios are shared with most of Nissan’s small car lineup. This parts sharing helps keep the NV200′s purchase price at a low $19,990 which is nearly six-grand cheaper than the Chevrolet Express and $2,435.

Nissan is touting a driver-focused cabin with business-oriented features, something that also sets Nissan’s full-size NV1500 apart from the Americans. In the NV200 these features include a comfortable driver’s seat with a right-side armrest, a hanging file holder in the center console, large glovebox, deep pockets in the doors and a fold-flat passenger seat. If you were hoping for a 5-seat NV200, don’t hold your breath, Nissan tells us they have no plans to offer a competitor to the Transit Connect Wagon in America.

Cruise control and Bluetooth hands free are not standard, but can be added to the base NV200 S for $200 and $250 respectively. If you want navigation and a backup camp, you have to jump up to the $20,980 NV200 SV and add the $950 technology package which bundles Nissan’s latest “Nissan Connected” head unit. In addition to greatly improved voice commands, Nissan’s cheapest nav unit adds smartphone integration for Google data services and Pandora internet radio streaming. It’s an interesting option in a segment that lacks good infotainment options with GM and Ford offering essentially no navigation in any van for 2013 and Chrysler’s C/V gets stuck with their ancient pre-uConnect system. If you want to know more, check out the video review of the Versa Note which uses the same system.2013 Nissan NV200, Picture Courtesy of Nissan

Cargo Hauling

Commercial vehicles put function over form, that’s why the Americans use short hoods and engines stuffed under doghouses in the cabin. Up till recently, all commercial vans except Chrysler’s slow selling C/V have been rear wheel drive. That means there is a trade-off between interior space and somewhere to put that driveshaft. The NV200 is based on Nissan’s small car platform, but doesn’t share much with the Cube. That’s a good thing when it comes to hauling because if you look at a RAM C/V, the touted “under floor storage” compartments are caused by the passenger car floor stamping. Rather than change the stamping, they turned the fold/tumble seat “wells” into storage. That means the load floor in the NV200 is close to the ground making loading easy.

On the down side, Nissan missed a few opportunities for the American market. At just over 122 cubic feet of storage, the NV200 fits just below the RAM C/V and between the 2014 redesigned Transit Connect short and long wheelbase models in terms of widget schlepping. The folding front passenger seat allows you to toss 10-foot long items in NV from the dash to the rear doors and the wheel-wells are just over four-feet wide. However, the distance from the driver’s seat to the rear doors is 18-inches shy of 4X8 hauling nirvana. Nissan tells us they just couldn’t stretch in the NV any further for Yankee duty which is a pity when American construction is dominated by 4×8 sheets of everything. Note that the C/V can handle 4×8 sheets of something (barely) but the Transit Connect has the same limitation as the NV200.

Payload is the limiting feature of any current small cargo vehicle. Nissan rates the NV for 1,500lbs in the S model and 1,477lbs in the SV. That’s 100lbs lower than Ford’s baby-hauler, 300lbs less than Chrysler and 800-1,000lbs less than the average 1500-series cargo van. When looking at those numbers, keep in mind the driver and passenger’s weight is included in the payload. Toss in two 200lb Americans and you have 1,100lbs of payload left. Nissan softens the blow by tossing in large sliding doors on both sides of the NV.

2013 Nissan NV200 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Nissan

Drivetrain

The NV200 may be cheaper than a Chevy cargo van, but its important to remember that GM fleet shoppers get incredible discounts on even small orders of the big vans dropping base models below $20,000 in real dollars. While Nissan has a similar volume discount program, we’re told by fleet buyers that the cuts aren’t as deep. Why pay only slightly less for a van that only holds half as much? The logic is as much about “right sizing” as fuel economy.

Motivating the NV200 is the same 2.0L four-cylinder engine that powered the last generation Sentra. The tried-and-true mill is good for 131 ponies and 139 lb-ft of twist. Sending power to the front wheels is, you guessed it, a Nissan CVT. Before you complain about CVTs, keep in mind we are talking about a cargo van where driving dynamics are secondary to the mission. The reason for the belt-pulley slushbox is obvious when you take a look at the MPGs: 24/25/24 (City/Highway/Combined) which are the best in the very small segment for 2013. Ford is promising 30MPG out of the new Transit Connect in 2014, but I suspect that the city mileage will be lower than the NV’s 24 and the combined number is unlikely to be much higher. You can thank the CVT for that combined number because it’s easier for the engine to stay at an efficient RPM in a wider variety of situations. However you feel about CVTs, anything is better than the current Transit Connect’s 4-speed auto.

2013 Nissan NV200, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Nissan

Drive

Logically this is the least important of this review, but the most common question people have after “who makes it” and “how much does it cost” is: a CVT in a cargo van? What’s that like? Surprisingly good. A fully loaded NV200 weighs 4,725lbs. It’s easy to see that 131HP and 139lb-ft need all the help they can get, and that help comes in the form of infinitely variable ratios. Unlike the Transit Connect which feels winded when fully loaded, and never seems to have the right gear for hill climbing, the CVT seems to have the right ratio for every situation. The tangible benefit is: you can load up your NV200 and climb a mountain pass at a constant highway speed while the Transit Connect is doing the speed-up-upshift-slow-down-downfshift-speed-up dance. Meanwhile the RAM C/V’s 283HP V6 is the performance champ (and the only one I’d want to tow anything with) but you pay a 3MPG combined penalty for the added zoom.

Maneuvering the NV200 around downtown San Diego proved easy thanks to a tight 18.3-foot turning radius (1 foot smaller than Ford and Chrysler) and heavily boosted electric power steering. When equipped with the backup camera the NV200 is a breeze to park. Without the $950 option the NV is more of a challenge but still easier to deal with than a full-size cargo hauler. Tight parking is where a compact hauler like the NV really shines. 2013 Nissan NV200, Picture Courtesy of Nissan

Before the 2010 model year the commercial cargo market was a stagnating mess. If you needed something more utilitarian than a Caravan or Odyssey, you had to step up to an enormous van with thirsty engines and old 4-speed automatics. Fast forward a few years and we have Nissan’s full-size alternative, the new Ford T-Series on the horizon, GM is stuffing 6-speed autos in their vans, Fiat’s ginormous front-wheel-drive Ducato is landing as the Ram ProMaster and now this NV200, Nissan’s first foray into the growing small commercial market. How well the NV200 sells will depend greatly on Ford’s new Transit Connect for 2014. If Ford can deliver the impressive mileage they are claiming, larger cargo capacity with a similar footprint and a sprinkling of style, the NV is unlikely to fly off the lots. Until then, the NV200 is the king of the compact cargo hill.

 

 

Nissan flew me to San Diego for the Versa Note launch and they made a few NV200s available to those interested.

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46 Comments on “First Drive: 2013 Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo Van (Video)...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    Nissan has entered into an agreement to build a number of NV200s with Chevy grilles, to be called the “City Express”, not to be confused with the full-size “Express.”

    IMO its slightly more attractive up front than the NV, though obviously that’s not hard.

    Chevy must’ve figured this would be an easier way to enter the smaller van segment without having to federalize an Opel/Vauxhall van.

    The Chevy version will be available in Fall 2014; not sure about pricing but its probably quite similar to the NV.

  • avatar
    SqueakyVue

    The author either fell head over heels with this van or is trying to sell it to us. No mention of acceleration or how it compares to others in the segment yet quick to defend the transmission. My favorite part was “Until then, the NV200 is the king of the compact cargo hill”

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      The author has written many fair and well balanced reviews on this site before, covering many brands and vehicles, so I would disagree with you because I find it hard to believe the author would sell out now… Over one van.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Thanks Beerboy. I’m no sell out, at the moment there are only three compact cargo vans. Well, maybe only two since the C/V is a different beast. So it’s an A or B deal. As I said 2014 looks to change everything with the attractive new Transit Connect landing with MyFord Touch, two wheelbases and a range of turbo engines. But for 2013, the NV200 is the place to be. Personally, I’d wait for 2014…

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    Can you help me get this couch in there? Just step in there first…

    I thought the MB Sprinter would be a prime candidate as the next generation “free candy” van in 20 years. I think the NV series is a more probable candidate.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      The Sprinter is too expensive to repair and maintain to be a “free candy” van.

      Maybe the cargo versions of the Chevy Astro/GM Safari would be a better successor to the spot vacated when Daimler killed the evergreen cheap Dodge van to sell Dodge Sprinters instead…

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Had me for a few minutes. I wanted something like this to show up. But I wanted a couple more windows, couple more seats, and the six speed manual that came in my first cube.

    I like the cube a lot but it is a car with rear passenger room. Too little cargo space to be truly useful as the vue I had before. This is just barely off the mark for me. Hopefully it will be successful and expand some next year. If not, hopefully a few more feet on the back of the cube.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    As always, fair, balanced and informative, thank you.
    BTW the rest of the world gets the NV 200 “truck”. I think those would take the 4X8′s.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’d pay $190 to NOT get color matched bumpers.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Agreed. On base trucks and vans these black plastic ones can hold up well. A little Armor-all cleans them up nicely from the scrapes and scuffs.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Can’t haul 4×8 sheets of things? Too bad for contractors, but I’m sure flower shops will love it.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      Not every contractor is a framing carpenter or drywall rocker who needs to haul 4X8 sheet goods every day. Painters, electricians, plumbers, elevator/escalator techs, tiling contractors, building maintenance engineers, HVAC techs and most other contractors can do just fine with a “small” van.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Exactly. Around here, you can’t spit without hitting a Transit Connect. Plumbers, florists, HVAC guys, you name it, and they are driving a white TC with their name on the side of it. There was one in my driveway earlier today – having the shack painted this week. My oil furnace guy has one too, and a friend who is an appliance repairman. Only makes sense, with gas around $4/gal, and Portland being a city of 19th century narrow streets with limited parking.

        Guys who need to haul 4×8 of anything have pickup trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          wstarvingteacher

          This is just to second something you said. I was on vacation in Portland last month and like the place. My memory tells me that Feb is a different story.

          Ref the roads: We planned our vacation with Texas travel times. That normally is 70mph limits. Instead we got windy two lane blacktop between Portland and Bar Harbor and again from Bar Harbor to New Brunswick. It was beautiful but slow.

          Transit connect is the weapon of choice for non carpenters. Met a Heating and AC guy that was in love with his but they were all over the place. As a retired AC guy I was envious of his mileage.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            LOL – it’s pretty nice in Feb. too – a tad colder but a lot fewer tourists. It’s actually not NEARLY as cold as we natives tell people – we want them to GO HOME after Labor Day. Makes the average speeds on those back roads a LOT higher. Thank you for coming, hope you left plenty of money, this state needs it!

      • 0 avatar
        afedaken

        Speaking of contractors…

        Alex didn’t mention if there were factory options for the usual contractor stuff. For a commercial van it might be useful to comment on whether there are factory toolboxes or roof racks.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    No desire to drive one, except to check out that 18.3′ turning radius.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      That’s either amazing or just okay. Radius suggests that turning circle is 36.6 feet.

      • 0 avatar
        cargogh

        Thanks CJinSD. It was amazing when I was picturing the radius as the turning circle.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          It gave me a double take too, as I’ve not noticed anyone using turning radius as a metric before.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            We highway engineers use radius for cul de sacs on frontage roads, and local standards list radii as well. Most are based on the turning circle of fire trucks, which are difficult to back out of a cul de sac. Using radius for a vehicle’s turning limit may be part of that crazy Metternich system the rest of the world uses.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I’m not doubting its usefulness, merely commenting on the fact that generally turning circle is the measure used for mass-market production vehicles.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’m thoroughly convinced Nissan designers are on ‘shrooms. No one else can quite nail hideous like them.

    Juke.
    Quest.
    Cube.
    Van.
    Murano cabriolet.

    Seriously, wtf.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    So, the NV200 has barn doors in the back. What’s with the picture of boxes loaded in the back of a giant hatchback?

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    If they built a raised-roof version, like they do with the 2500, it would make an interesting micro-RV.

  • avatar
    afflo

    When this little vanlet is being compared to a Dodge Ram, I know I’m out of the commercial vehicle / truck loop!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    These smaller commercial vehicles will become more prevalent in the US as time goes by.

    I read about the limited load capacity, how much does a normal 1/2 ton pickup carry? Then add a dual cab with 4 average American guys going to a building site.

    These vans are quite useful, they will move around cities much cheaper than a US pickup/van.

    Remember, businesses will choose these, not so much private buyers to use them as a daily driver.

    When looking at running costs looks don’t really come into the equation.

    These are tools and will work quite well, as I stated, more will come from Asia and Europe. They are cheap to run, which means more profit for businesses.

    What would be great is a small 2 litre diesel option was available, this would make the vehicle better to drive loaded and cheaper on fuel.

    • 0 avatar

      Under the present circumstances, fuel-wise in the US, diesel is dramatically more expensive than benzine. The bump in fuel economy (or perhaps lower maintenance costs) would have to be pretty big to justify the invariably greater initial-purchase and fuel price.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @angrystan
        We have the same in Australia, but diesel is taking off in vehicles.

        In the UK this van comes with a 1.5 litre diesel that is giving well over 40mpg.

        Small diesels are great for commericial vehicles, especially when loaded, they are twice as economical as a gas engine.

        • 0 avatar

          I stand corrected.

          Popped up Gasbuddy in order to prove my point. Today near 78751 gas averages $3.34/gal, diesel $3.56

          Take your eyes off the market for a few months and anything can happen.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    These little vans are exactly what’s needed so we can finally kill-off remaining mid-size pickups, circling the drain.

  • avatar

    I remain skeptical, and potentially out of date, about a CVT in a vehicle which must anticipate 30K miles annually biased heavily toward city miles, and a 7-10 year service life. Perhaps I should be asking how many hours/$ is the swap on that tranny? On a related topic, Pops always used the third pedal as a litmus test for which the people he wants actually out there driving the truck. Those days are well behind us, I suspect.

    Grateful that cruise and BT are pretty cheap options. Still looking for the nav/”entertainment” system which integrates readily with a driver’s personal phone, unlimited data plan (and while we’re at it music collection) which is rugged and trivial to hide. In my fantasy life, I’d like to be able to fire off a street address to my drivers and have it automagically show up in the nav. Aftermarket, multiple-device solutions may still be best at least for a few more years.

    The wish list also includes some kind of integrated weather-alert system based on the vehicle’s present location which is not any kind of paid-subscription, and automatic updating of a clock not tied to the “entertainment” cluster.

    and where do you put your tool box, hand trucks, etc?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    These may be ideal for taxi’s, and this vehicle is Mayor Bloomberg’s choice, but it’s not a hybrid, and doesn’t qualify under the standard for new taxi’s in NYC, set in 2003. A taxi operator pointed that out recently, and the Nissan taxi may be on hold in New York. TTAC should keep an eye on developments there, since the NYC market is so big, it could make or break a vehicle’s prospects.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Nice van. Where’s it built?

    So Ford is gonna put the Fusion “awarding winning”?! face on the Turkey/Romania built Transit too.

    Along with all the other Ford models with Fusion face transplants it’s gonna make it very difficult to find your rental car at a KMart.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @thornmark
      I thought the Transits are going to be made in Kansas City?

      The Transits are a very good product for the business person, construction worker, farmer, delivery guy, etc.

      I’m hope the US will get cab/chassis Transits with the 3.2 Duratorque diesels. The cab/chassis Transits will accept up to a 12′ flatbed.

      From what I’ve heard they are going to call the Duratorque diesels baby Powerstrokes. They should have about 220hp and over 400ftlb of torque, very usable and tractable for a small truck.

      Imagine a truck like that, most wouldn’t need to tow a trailer with a Transit with the 12′ bed. It is of similar size to a full size pickup and gets better FE than a full size. I would think it would have an FE average in the mid 20s. Highway average of near 30mpg.

      These cab/chassis Transits in Australia can carry a little over 5 000lbs on the back and travel at freeway speeds with those loads.

      Sort of like a more economical version of a HD replacement if you are not towing huge loads.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Transits in KC

      Transit Connect moves to Valencia, Spain for MY2014

      At least for the US

  • avatar
    josephjoe

    It is difficult to find…

    http://www.fineautopaintsandsupplies.com/fine-auto-paints/auto-body-repair-services.html

  • avatar
    JD321

    If I ran Nissan I would tell the designers and stylists that if they didn’t wear their testosterone patch, they would have to resign.

  • avatar
    Kamaka

    Thanks for the article and video. I’m super happy that the commercial van market is getting new models.

    Black plastic bumpers and a lack of rear windows are actually desirable business options. The bumpers can take more abuse and solid doors hide your cargo better. If you load the van fully you won’t be able to see out of the rear windows anyway. I totally agree that CVTs are great for small engines and heavy loads or inclines, the difference between 1st gen Versas with the 4spd auto and CVT are tremendous.

    I have driven the current Transit Connects and I think they feel pretty spry. I would wait for the 2104 Ford Transit Connect and look at the NA 2.5 I4 if I were in the market. It has similar gas mileage and slightly more max payload than the 1.6 ecoboost.

    Nice video, my only critique is please don’t wear your sunglasses in videos, it looks so shady.

  • avatar
    Kamaka

    This is why TTAC rocks. No where else do the readers get so excited about cargo vans.

  • avatar
    Fuse88

    Alex is one of the better car reviews out there. I would like to make one request…Please do a 0-60 full throttle run with the camera focused on the speedometer and tach. I would like to hear and “feel” the acceleration of all the cars you review.

    I think this NV200 is a great value but the Nissan styling moves toward “deal breaker” on a lot of their products. This one is close but still a great value. The Sentra looks OK by accident.


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