By on August 6, 2014

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo front

For decades buyers made the pickup truck the bestselling vehicle in North America. Despite its utilitarian roots, the pickup truck has morphed from a working man’s appliance into a replacement for big body-on-frame American luxury sedans.

Sure, that V8 Crew Cab is a nice vehicle, but what are you really going to do with a five-and-a-half-foot bed?

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo volume rear

For those not paying attention, there is a van revolution going on in the United States. The American vans that we have known and loved are about to die. Ford is replacing their E-series with the European Transit and the smaller Transit Connect. Chrysler ditched its full-size vans a decade ago and just recently replaced them with rebadged front-wheel-drive Fiats, under the Ram ProMaster line. Soon they will be adding a smaller Ram ProMaster City.

Nissan was one of the early pioneers in the next-gen van space, with the big, if awkward looking, NV-series vans. The big NVs come with V6 and V8 engines, and can be ordered in varying wheelbase lengths, heights, and capacities. They recently followed it up with the smaller, front-wheel-drive based NV200 that you see above. The NV200 also serves as a basis for New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow, which can been bogged down by all kinds of politics.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo dash

When compared to a compact pickup truck (a segment that many seem to dearly miss), the advantages of any van are clearly apparent. The most obvious one is the large lockable cargo space that can protect one’s belongings from theft or the elements. Cargo space on the NV200 is 122.7 cubic feet, comparably bigger than most capped pickup beds. Furthermore, it is accessible not only from the rear, via two large barn doors, but also via a large sliding door on each side. The floor of the cargo area is lined with rubber and there a six D-rings to tie objects down.

That cargo area is 53 inches high and 54 inches wide, with 48 inches between the wheel-wells, which is the width of a standard piece of plywood. That plywood will be easy to load, too, as the loading floor is just 20 inches off the ground – no Man Step® needed here. The maximum length of that plywood is limited to 82.8 inches. Longer items, up to 116 inches, can be transported when the passenger seat back is folded down. All that cargo space can be filled with up to 1500 pounds of people and things, which is more than some full-size pickups.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo interior details

The passenger portion of the interior is finished in a typical commercial-grade heavy durable plastic. This SV model was equipped with Nissan-typical infotainment system which consists of a slightly outdated nav system, USB port, CD player, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Pandora streaming, and a handy back-up camera. Secondary steering wheel mounted controls are a nice touch. While there are plenty of storage cubbies, none of them are particularly large or covered. Many small business owners would probably appreciate additional USB ports and a 120vAC receptacle. The seats are covered in durable cloth, but with a short bottom cushion and a hard headrest that presses on the driver’s head, they are not very comfortable overall.

The NV200 is powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine which makes 131hp and 139lb-ft of torque. It is matched up with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which sends that power to rather small looking fifteen inch wheels that are wrapped in 185/60-15 tires. NV200’s major utilitarian shortfall, in part due to that engine, is that it is not recommend for trailer towing, something that every pickup truck will happily do. The EPA rated the little van at 24mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, which is superior to any pickup with the exception of the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo exterior details

The small wheels may not inspire confidence but a Nissan product development guy assured me that they have beat the crap out of them in testing and found no faults. I traveled in the NV200 around some very industrial roads that have a lot of heavy truck traffic, and dirt roads that leads to my local junkyard, and found no issues. Many trucks and vans beat up on their passengers when driven unloaded, but the NV200 was pretty smooth. Unfortunately, the only cargo I was able to transport with the NV200 was a pair of Specialized Stumpjumers and some parts for my project car, both of which were of no significance in terms of space or weight.

In city driving, an empty NV200 has just enough power. It will get out of its own way, but drag racing even the slowest of bicycles cars should be avoided. It somehow feels a little livelier on the highway, but passing or merging maneuvers should be planned well in advance. Smart packaging makes the NV200 a rather narrow vehicle, and allows it to easily zip around cities and fit into parking garages – something that was likely inspired by the needs of van customers in Europe and Asia. Despite the large mirrors, rear windows, and a back-up camera, reversing can still be intimidating to some.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo side sliding door open

The NV200 S starts at $20,490. The SV model starts at $21,480 and it surprisingly does not come with many extra features but it allows the buyer to select many more options, whereas the S is strictly a stripper. The pictured Red Brick SV came with a Technology Package ($950), rear glass ($190), and painted bumpers ($190). Add destination and handling and the total price comes to $23,670.

Nissan NV200 comparison

With Ford’s Transit Connect and the upcoming Ram ProMaster City, this segment of the market is about to get red hot. Nissan is strong out of the gate with the early availability, strong price point, and the best gas mileage. Being slightly envious of all these vans, General Motors will have its own mini cargo van called City Express, which forgoes imitation and in the most flattering way replaces the Nissan badge with a bowtie.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Read his ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Nissan provided the vehicle for this review.

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41 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Nissan NV200 SV Cargo Van...”

  • avatar

    “The maximum length of that plywood is limited to 82.8 inches.”

    And there you have it. It’s 13.2″ short. Even with a 5 foot bed (which I consider an abomination), the pickup truck wins because I can either lower the gate or rest the plywood on its lip. And the other huge advantage of a pickup is that it is not limited to cargo taller than 52″. Nor can any van, unlike my old Ranger, accept a dumped-in load of mulch. Mine (a regular cab with a 7′ 6″ bed) was my commuting vehicle that supported weekend missions to the home or garden center. I miss it.

    Having said all that, these things are pretty neat and really fit many commercial applications very well. Here in NYC, it’s really starting to look like a European city with vans right-sized to their commercial function.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, you can always get a bigger van. :)

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the same “Doh!” for me. My Ranger happily hauls my Harley FXR with the rear axle on the break between the bed and liftgate and the rear wheel half supported by the lowered liftgate.

      With this, I’m stuck with leaving the rear doors open (fumes, lack of security) with the rear wheel hanging out to an extent that I’m unsure of at this writing.

      Which is a pity – because, other than hauling one of my two motorcycles and one scooter, a van would suit my needs (reenactment, travel to various race tracks) better than a pickup. And the lack of towing capability, even for a 5×8′ open trailer with said Harley on it (combined weight less than 1000 pounds) kills. Not that I’d be comfortable towing behind a CVT in the first place.

    • 0 avatar

      It would be nice to see one of these manufacturers offer a trick tailgate that would allow just that kind of folded-down bed versatility — something like the tailgate on (of all things) the BMW X5 might actually work well. Ford at least offers a liftgate as an option on the Transit Connect; for occasional plywood transport, you could tie it down.

      • 0 avatar

        Or you just do what actual contractors do – the long stuff goes on the roof. If you need to haul a motorcycle indoors, buy the next size up. This is the SMALL van. They make a BIG one too.

        Note – I just had my house vinyl sided – the contractor had a Transit Connect that came every day. The big stuff was delivered by the siding dealer, but all the wood and whatnot they needed, new doors and windows, and other sundries came in the Ford.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re a drywall contractor maybe. A lot of guys don’t carry 4’x8′ but do have tools they’d like to lock up. Besides, it’d actually carry 4’x8′ better than my ’97 Tacoma, because the sheets fit between the wheel wells.

  • avatar

    No towing? That’s disappointing. I would expect a vehicle like this to tow at least a Class 1 load.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. My GF and I are looking into these small Euro inspired vans to replace our aging pop-up hauler. Loaded for a weekend of fun the trailer hits the truck scales at roughly 1100lbs. Plus as mentioned in the article the lockable storage of the van is a big plus for coolers, MTBs, and other outdoor rec stuff. As Ford fans the Transit Connect has our attention, but we are curious as to how the Ram offering will pan out.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The diesel version in Europe is rated at 1,400 pounds without trailer brakes, and 2,400 pounds with. They get a 5- or 6-speed manual, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Jatco CVTs have a tendency to shred without the added load of a trailer.

  • avatar

    “For those not paying attention, there is a van revolution going on in the United States.”

    Here’s hoping for a Promaster Street Van! I wonder if Cragar makes a set of wheels that will fit…

  • avatar

    That’s what I’m talking about!

    Short, tall and made to haul. My favorite new
    Thanks for the coverage.

  • avatar

    So, to summarize: Nice enough van, except for the driver (uncomfortable seat/headrest). Sounds like a major flaw to me.

    Since we’re comparing to trucks: My bare-bones Ram sounds a lot more comfortable than that, and probably has better legroom as well.

  • avatar

    fuel economy doesnt sound that good

    24 city, 25 hwy i assume on no or a light load is a bit meh

    i was expecting more like 28/32 in a 3,200lb vehicle

    i recently drove a Volkswagen Caddy SWB van with a 1.6 turbo diesel and a 7 speed DSG over a long distance trip

    i thought actually about writing a review about it here but i dont think people would be interested in a van that you cant actually buy in many parts of the world

    • 0 avatar

      Well, I for one would love to see you write up the Caddy. I think it’s a fabulous vehicle in this segment and given that it’s used so heavily by European businesses probably discredits the American cliche about unreliable VWs.

      Who knows, if these new and truly mini minivans keep selling here VW might bring them over?

    • 0 avatar

      The city figure is entirely reasonable; a pickup truck would be in the mid-to-low teens in city traffic, and it wasn’t uncommon to see Econolines hit single digits.

      The highway mileage? Well, look at it’s shape: that’s a lot of fronta area. There’s no way to fix that and not compromise cargo volume.

    • 0 avatar

      Weight will not cause or solve the fuel economy problem because vans have too much frontal area to get great fuel mileage. Vans have much more air resistance than a car of similar weight and that resistance greatly increases with speed. Even a lightweight vehicle will not overcome this aerodynamic problem.

  • avatar

    “NV200’s major utilitarian shortfall, in part due to that engine, is that it is not recommend for trailer towing,”

    Automakers are loathe to provide any kind of realistic tow rating in the US. But plenty of compact pickups with that kind of engine were rated for at least a couple thousand pounds. The issue is most likely the CVT.

  • avatar

    What do you mean, “small wheels”? I thought, oh, have they put 12″ wheels or something? Then I looked and saw that this – what do you call it, midsize van? – has 15″ wheels. Which were the standard for FULL SIZE cars of the 60s (remember them? they weighed 5000 lbs and we drove at 80 mph all day long, out West).

    15″ wheels are not small wheels for a commercial vehicle if fitted with 60 series tires, as is the case for this van. They are only “small” wheels if you think the current fad for 28″ wheels with 12-series tires is functional.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, you do have a point, but they are small when compared any other new vehicle. Furthermore, 60-series, that’s 60% of the tire width, which computes to 2.1″ tire wall height.

      I don’t know where you live, but here in the northeast two-inch deep potholes are everywhere. Again, I haven’t had any issues with them but I watch for potholes like a hawk.

      • 0 avatar

        i always thought pothole flats were a function of the series rating of the tire… 60-series means tall tire sidewall so no pinch flat.. 70 would be better. 45-series tires are so low profile you coule easily dent a rim. to me it’s never been about the overall diameter of the tire. don’t know where you live, but I lived for a while in MI and it was terrible…

        • 0 avatar

          Oh, you youngins are so darn cute!

          When I grew up, economy cars all had 80-series tires. Most midsize and large vehicles were equipped with 75-series, while only performance-oriented ones (Corvette, Trans Am) had 70-series.

          And I agree with poster above – 15″ wheels are not small – they were standard on all Cadillac commercial chassis (hearse/ambulance) – I had two of them (1969 Miller-Meteor ambulances) and they weighed in at around 6300 pounds empty.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s 4.3 inches sidewall height, not 2.1 for a 185/60 tire.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember when a 15″ wheel was a +2 upgrade on a sporty car. Kids these days…

        It’s not the size of the wheels that matter for potholes, it is the sidewall of the tire. With 60% aspect ratio you can pretty much ignore potholes.

  • avatar

    I’m really starting to like these new European style vans. The transit is great..But it looks a bit like a focus from the front.

    My personal favorite is the Ram ProMaster. Unfortunately, Ram hasn’t built a passenger version yet….But I did find a company call Sherry Vans that has put together a really nice conversion van. I recommend checking them out.

  • avatar

    My 1983 Mitsubishi Sport pickup was still the better vehicle. It had better performance, better load capacity (by size–not limited in height or length) and better visibilty. If you don’t have side glass in that NV200, there are a lot of off-square intersections where you pull out blind and hope nobody hits you.

    • 0 avatar

      Comparing a van to a pickup is a bit silly. Would you leave a pickup on a city street with $20K of equipment in the back of it? In a driving rainstorm? What if you need to get in and out of it all day like a HVAC repairman with bins of parts in the back? If you need to haul big things that won’t fit in a van, you probably want a pickup. But for an awful lot of the work that commercial vehicles do, a van is a better choice.

      As for performance, this has more than it has any need of in the city. It’s a working truck, not a racecar. It should be able to just about keep up with traffic and no more, IMHO. Speed rarely adds to the bottom line.

    • 0 avatar

      Right until you load it up and attempt to merge onto the freeway with traffic going 75+ mph, which you are unable to hit in a 83 mitsubishi unless thrown out of the back of an airplane

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve driven plenty of slow truck/trailer combos. We’ve pulled 3500 pound trailers with 2 liter Japanese pickups, and I spent quite a few years pulling a Formula Ford racecar with an Aerostar. Never once did I think my life was in danger because someone was going to run me over. You find a spot and pull into it, if the person behind you has to slow or change lanes, that’s what they do.

      • 0 avatar

        Which shows just how much you know about the ’83 Mitsubishi–nothing. The truck was pretty lively for its day. Though I will grant I never OVER loaded it the way some people are wont to do.

  • avatar

    i also wish i could find more choices of vehicles that could tow…

    a 2000lb. rating seems basically laughable for a utility van. what really kills me above is the Ram Tradesman has 283hp and can only tow 3600lbs… excuse me, but wtf. what is it, lack of engine/tranny cooling, wimpy body structure, soggy brakes, stupid human tricks, excessive (or insufficient) nanny stating, Ram didn’t see the cost/benefit of the extra testing required? i don’t get it… grrrrr..

    • 0 avatar

      Only 3600lbs towing capacity in a minivan? What do you want? It’s most limited by the capacity of the suspension and tires.

      I wouldn’t want to tow much more than that with a minivan. I have done it, it’s less than ideal.

  • avatar

    “Chrysler ditched its full-size vans a decade ago and just recently replaced them with rebadged front-wheel-drive Fiats.”

    This statement isn’t true, as they’ve had the Sprinter full-size vans since dumping their old vans.

  • avatar

    The 2-2.3 litre mark seems to be the magical point for these new smaller vans. Or are they really that much smaller than the E-Series/Savanna type vans in a cubic foot measure?

    I say this because a couple weeks ago I was poking around on just for kicks and noticed there was a Freightliner listed and could show it’s engine size. I thought it was a semi and was curious about what kind of mileage it was pulling, only to find out it’s a small van type thing

  • avatar

    Is this previous gen Sentra 2.0 slightly de-tuned? Nice to get a more comprehensive rental review some time later on to see how things hold up for commercial use. Hope the a/c works well, there’s gonna be a lot of cooling to do after parked in the sun. I don’t like swing doors cause they engage cyclists & poles and can get blown around. The side sliding door forces you into traffic when parked ‘wrong side’ of a one way. I’d prefer an almost ambulance canopy with a pop-up rear door and slide back front passenger doors. But that’s just me. CVT friction is the enemy to towing here.

  • avatar

    1.if you think a jatco cut will stand up to cargo van duty, you’re an idiot. Cargo vans take more abuse than anything except a tow truck, buy a transit connection with an auto.

    2 the e series is not going away, the e 350 extended cargo and 450 cutaway will continue production alongside the transit for at least another decade
    What do I do with a 5.5 foot cargo bed? If it doesn’t fit it goes on the ladder rack or gets put in a trailer, as they don’t offer a 8 foot bed with the crew cab 150

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