By on September 11, 2015

Nissan NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow

I was driving around the other night in New York City and decided to see how many miles are on all the taxi cabs. This is something you can do with a $25-a-month subscription to the Carfax app. You just type in the taxi’s license plate number and — BOOM! — you have the entire Carfax report complete with mileage, service history and precise dates of all nine of each taxi’s accidents.

So I ran maybe 20 or 25 taxi cabs through Carfax and I discovered something: the Ford Crown Victorias aren’t the highest mileage cabs in New York. Not even close. In fact, I had trouble finding a Crown Vic with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer and more than three accidents, which is “just broken in” by New York City taxi standards.

It wasn’t the Toyotas, either. When you go to New York City now, the yellow cab fleet is dominated by Toyota Camrys of the two most recent generations, which seem to be a little zippier than the old Crown Vics. However, I didn’t find a Camry older than the 2012 model year, so I guess these haven’t been in service long enough to rack up the serious miles.

Same goes for the new Nissan NV200 van, the “taxi of tomorrow.” These are starting to get pretty common in Manhattan now, but they just haven’t been on the road long enough to rack up serious miles. I only ran one or two, and neither came back with more than 100,000 ticks on the odometer.

So the winner of the great What New York City Taxi Has The Most Miles On It competition? That would be…

Hybrid taxis in Manhattan

…the Ford Escape Hybrid.

I was surprised too.

I ran several Escape Hybrids through Carfax, and each time the numbers came up with astronomical figures. The highest-mileage Escape Hybrid I found was a 2009 model that had racked up 493,936 miles since its original purchase from Manhattan Ford on May 19, 2009. For those of you playing at home, that’s 214.3 miles per day. Every day. For nearly six and a half years.

So the Escape Hybrid must be a pretty damn reliable vehicle if you’re looking for a taxi cab. Not only had this one done 214.3 miles a day, but it also had six accidents on the Carfax, which means it was probably laid up for at least six weeks over the years. Add the odd snowstorm and the occasional mechanical failure, and this thing has probably done 250 miles a day, nearly every day, for years.

But there’s a problem with the Escape Hybrid as a taxi: it isn’t really all that big. I rode in one recently, and the already small amount of legroom in a Ford Escape is made even worse by the fact that New York City insists that all taxi vehicles have a central partition the size of a middle school trophy display case. So while the Escape Hybrid may be a reliable taxi cab, it’s hardly a very comfortable taxi cab.

And this brings us to today’s Question of the Day, which is: what’s the best car for use as a taxi?

I first posed this question a couple of years ago on this very website, and the responses were — naturally — all over the place. But a lot has changed in the last two years. We’re now more heavily focused on alternative fuels and getting good gas mileage. Van and SUV taxi cabs have become a lot more common than the sedan variety. And even the most die-hard Crown Victoria supporters are starting to admit those things are getting pretty old.

So what say you? If you were operating a taxi company, what vehicles would make up your fleet?

If it were me, I would consider using a Hyundai or Kia. The damn things have 100,000-mile powertrain warranties, which — even in taxi frenzied New York City — would last for at least a year or two. The Sonata and Optima are roomy, they offer hybrid models, and they’re relatively affordable. It’s worth a try over a Camry.

As for you, here’s your criteria: It has to be able to carry around at least two or three people. It has to be relatively fuel efficient. It has to last a long time. And by God, it can’t be a Crown Victoria.

Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi by Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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64 Comments on “QOTD: What’s the Best Taxi?...”


  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    I read about the massive mileage Escape hybrids a few weeks ago and was impressed.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Justrolledintotheshop/comments/3d76du/what_a_500k_taxi_valve_train_looks_like/

  • avatar
    Mattias

    I definitely think the US should adopt (like Europe) the Mercedes E class as the universal cab

  • avatar
    eManual

    The London taxi can take 4 people with 2 pull down jump seats. It’s nice for two couples when out on the town.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    I had a few Prius V cabs in New Orleans. They seemed pretty good as well. Decent legroom. No partition though. That would probably kill most of the space.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The Prius V has a lot of rear legroom, especially when you slide the rear seats all the way back.

      The interior makes more sense when you know that the Prius V can be purchased as a 3-row vehicle in Japan. Otherwise, there’d be no reason for the back (2nd row) seats to slide and fold forward and back.

      My vote is for the Prius V. Prius-like reliability and near-Prius fuel economy, with plenty of room. That seems about right for a taxi, assuming your local government can patch potholes.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Didn’t Top Gear’s Richard Hammond already figure this one out? It’s the Hindustan Ambassador sedan.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I know! I know!

    Hellcat?

    Seriously though, I’m surprised the 300 isn’t used more. I’ve actually seen more 300 taxis in Paris (where they come with a diesel) than in the US and Canada.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Best for whom?

    You got into the Escape, and paid the man. Sounds like a winner.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Didn’t Steven Lang just release fresh trade-in-quality rankings revealing Hyundai and Kia’s offerings to be considerably less durable than most mainstream cars? Only Mazda was worse of cars that one might not expect to suck. They aren’t as bad as VWs, but anyone that chooses a VW to provide their livelihood is beyond help.

    The Toyota Highlander Hybrid might make a good cab. The Prius V does make a good cab. Better than a cab is an Uber. The last one I rode in was a Honda Pilot. That was sweet.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      1st (and so far only time) I rode uber I got to ride in the back of a Chrysler 300. That was a pretty decent back seat with two adult passengers.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      There are plenty of Toyota Highlanders in New York City’s taxi fleet and they seem to work out well for both driver and passenger. I was in one a few months ago and the driver told me he loved it, describing it as “very strong.” Surprisingly, it wasn’t a hybrid, just a FWD four-cylinder model. But the car seemed to get up and go well enough in city traffic, was reliable and reasonbly economical, had decent enough cargo space, was easy for passengers to enter and exit, and was comfortable once one was inside.

      The taller taxis like the Escape tend to be a bit difficult for older and/or physically limited passengerss to enter and exit. Some (but not all) of the van-based taxis have sliding doors that are not easy to open and close for many passengers. And even the last Crown Vickys (the newest of which aren’t really that old yet) are beginning to feel too low (ingress and egress again) compared to vehicles that ride higher.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I thought that one of “Doomberg”‘s decrees was that all NYC cabs had to be hybrid, alt-fuel capable, or anything but normal ICE, by a certain date. (IOW, bye-bye Panthers, like it or not! Of course, how many drowned in Sandy?)

        Naturally, I also have forgotten how the NV 200(0?) cab fits into the whole picture.

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      I’ve only done Uber once, got to ride in a Murano with a lovely lady who owns a winery with her husband here in Indy. I’ve used Lyft a few times, all in lesser vehicles. All in all, I liked the Uber the best, but I’d take them all over a taxi.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Prius-V gets my vote, even with the partition. Legroom is no worse than a Crown Brick, and the poor bugger leasing the thing gets to keep a little more money due to the excellent fuel economy. Win-win. I figure being a cabbie has to be a miserable way to earn a living, so I always tip them very well, and if the car uses less gas, all the better for them.

    Of course the best cab of all time was the Checker.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Also, I thought NYC had limitations on how long a car can be used as a cab. Is it just time? For some reason I thought there was a mileage limit too.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Bring back the Checker Marathon with a semi-decent hybrid powertrain. There is no way it hasn’t got enough space for batteries in that moving living room.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    As a passenger, I prefer the NV2000 followed by the Sienna. I cringe whenever faced with an Escape or a Camry, I’ve found them to be cramped, bone-jarring miseries.

    Most all of my taxi trips are airport-related and, most times, I go with a livery Town Car which I find to be the best experience.

  • avatar
    hachee

    I’d say Prius V – I was in one the other day, and it had plenty of room. I’d guess it’s pretty nimble for the driver too.

    As mentioned above, the Highlander seems big for a cab, but as an Uber for a late night trip to the burbs, it can’t be beat.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Why are we even debating this. As ‘dolorean’ stated Top Gear decided this years ago by declaring the Hindustan Ambassador the best. With nearly 6 decades of proven reliability and durability in conditions even worse than those in New York City, the Ambassador is the clear choice.

    Failing that the TX4, in black.

    Or if you can still find one a Checker Marathon.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Tommorow’s QOTD: What is the best police car for Doug to be brought to the station in?

  • avatar

    If I’m not mistaken, UBER and some other ride-shares let you order a car to specific need such as a light truck, a black limo or even a Helicopter, charter plane or boat.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Caprice.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    My wife and I traveled to Lima, Peru last spring and I was surprised by how decent the Nissan Versa was at Taxi service. It’s cheap, reliable, good on gas, and has a spacious interior.

    For those traveling with a party of 4 or more or need the luggage space, you can’t beat a Toyota minivan.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    O.K. , I’m a geezer so bear with me , alright ? .

    ’39 Plymouth Sedans , *very* sturdy and amazingly economical to operate . Good looking cars too .

    Then there was the guy who operated a 1956 Chevy Sedan as a San Gabriel Yellow Cab well into the late 1970’s ~ when it got centerpunched by a drunk driver , he found a ’56 Chevy Wagon and had it painted yellow , swapped in the tired old 265 V-8 and better tires , seat , door cards and meter….. yes it was a raggedy old thing but it paid his bills and kept him happy behind the wheel for 10 hours a day , the Unit # was 156 .

    Last time I checked Mexico City still had Mexican made VW Beetles as Taxis , no right front seat .

    Death traps yadda yadda yadda .

    Checkers ,of course , as long as not too rusty ! .

    Older Mercedes Diesels , most do not realize the W-123 chassis was available in L form (longer rear passenger compartment) when ordered for Taxi service .

    Those new Austin Taxi things look O.K. to me too ~ roomy and supposedly very sturdy .

    Screw the passengers they’re as big a PIA as shop customers =8-) .

    EDIT : I almost for got the Toyota Hi-Ace Vans ! they’re every where in the West Indies Islands as Jitney Buses , roomy and reliable, they keep on running long after every inch is bent and wrinkled…

    Friendly Drivers too =8-) .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    In New Orleans the taxis were mostly minivans, I don’t even recall seeing a Panther. The two Uber rides we took were a GMC Acadia and Chevy Tahoe. The Acadia was more difficult to use as a taxi for five riders, IMO.

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    I just spent a couple of weeks in Korea, with a couple of those days in Seoul. The standard taxi there is the Hyundai Sonata.

    I can say that every cab I took there was nice and clean and carried four adult “fares” comfortably.

    They were certainly more comfortable than most of the compact car cabs I’ve experienced travelling in Europe.

  • avatar
    riviera67

    I’m curious how the NV200 is able to meet rear end collision standards for a passenger vehicle. Wasn’t it designed as a cargo van? We use a Chevy version at work as a delivery van, and the rear bumper is so low, and there’s hardly anything to it. (I crawled underneath to take a look).

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Well it did poorly on crash tests in Europe. I haven’t seen any crash test data on the NV200 for the US.

      It’s main competitor, the Ford Transit Connect, gets five stars from the NHTSA. It’s score was much better than the previous Transit Connect model.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    New Transit Connect? I find that any minivan makes a good taxi.

  • avatar
    Zeitgeist

    I live in Hamburg, Germany, and from time to time I worked as a taxi driver, since 1982.
    These are my impressions of taxis in which I had some seat time, more or less from a driver’s perspective:

    Mercedes 190 (W201) Diesel
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – exterior size,
    – smooth Diesel engines,
    – durable, ages well.
    (-)
    – interior size,
    – cargo area.

    Mercedes pre E-class (W123) Diesel, sedan or station wagon
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – cargo area (wagon),
    – durable, ages well.
    (-)
    – rear leg room,
    – pre 1980 Diesel engines too loud.

    Mercedes E-class (W124) Diesel, sedan or station wagon
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – cargo area (wagon),
    – smooth Diesel engines,
    – durable, ages well.
    (-)
    – rear leg room.

    Mercedes E-class (W210) Diesel, sedan
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – more than adequate power (direct injection Diesel engines),
    – rear leg room.
    (-)
    – loud Diesel engine (E 290 Diesel, Mercedes’ first direct injection Diesel car).
    – rust prone, does not age well.

    Mercedes E-class (W211) Diesel or natural gas, sedan or station wagon
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – cargo area (wagon),
    – more than adequate power,
    – Autobahn burner.
    (-)
    – rear leg room (the worst E-class),
    – ingress to and egress from the rear seats due to the shape of the rear doors,
    – small cargo area (natural gas sedan due to gas tanks),
    – small range (200 km) in natural gas mode,
    – 1,8 liter supercharged engine sounds awful (E 200 NGT),
    – too many small problems, does not age well.

    Mercedes E-class (W212) Diesel or natural gas, sedan or station wagon
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – more than adequate power,
    – cargo area (wagon),
    – Autobahn burner.
    (-)
    – rear leg room,
    – small range (240 km) in natural gas mode,
    – small cargo area (natural gas sedan due to gas tanks).

    Mercedes B-class (T245) Diesel
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – exterior size,
    – interior size,
    – fine automatic transmission.
    (-)
    – ugly.

    Volkswagen Touran Diesel or natural gas
    (DSG okay – but in a taxi not better than a torque converter automatic)
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – ingress and egress,
    – more than adequate power (fine 1,4 liter natural gas turbo),
    – big range (350 km) in natural gas mode,
    – cargo area.
    (-)
    – spinning front wheels due to FWD,
    – worse visibility than expected (driver does not see the front of the car, thick pillars, lots of big head rests),
    – poor interior materials, hard plastics in the cargo area get scratched very soon.

    Volvo 760 Turbo Diesel
    (+)
    – comfort,
    – best seats ever,
    – interior size.
    (-)
    – 1980s turbo lag.

    Toyota Prius+ (= Prius V)
    (+)
    – quiet,
    – interior size,
    – ingress and egress,
    – cargo area.
    (-)
    – visibility (driver does not see the front of the car),
    – a little slow and loud on the Autobahn,
    – windshield wipers stay frozen in winter.

    Nissan Leaf
    (+)
    – quiet,
    – air condition keeps running when engine is turned off.
    (-)
    – range anxiety,
    and probably (I drove the Leaf only a short time):
    – improper range indicator,
    – rear legroom,
    – cargo area.

    As a _taxi_ I prefer the Toyota.

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    I always thought a U.S. Passat TDI would make a durable and limo-like taxi.

    My former employer found a use for all their unsold Scion xBs: a roomy campus shuttle.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    In Morocco, there’s a large fleet of early 80s W126’s in service as taxis. Most of them are pretty battered even from the inside with torn upholstery and all, and many of the odometers don’t even roll anymore. But I’m guessing a good number of those probably are near the 7-digit mileage range.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    There are a couple left in the paratransit fleet – but the MV-1 is still the best for MYC taxi cabs. BoF, more room than my first apartment share, tried and tested running gear, and it was available with CNG.
    Thank you Mayor Mike for dictating the use of a non-Amerricun vehicle.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    A hybrid makes a lot of sense for cab duty. There’s a lot to be said for the Scion xB too: huge back seat, archaic but bullet-proof Toyota drivetrain, decent mpg.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    When I’m in NYC, the New Yorkers I know always hope to snag a Sienna. If I was a driver, I guess I’d want an Escape Hybrid.

  • avatar

    After some travels around the world, it’s interesting to see what cars each country chooses for their taxi fleets. All have their strengths and represent their cultures

    Japan- Mostly Toyota Crowns, which are in immaculate condition and have the cool remote opening back door. They are very comfortable in a retro 80’s Cressida sort of way

    Korea- Hyundai Sonatas and Kia Optimas- they were comfortable and roomy for our needs. They look good too

    China- Mostly 3rd gen Hyundai Elantras that continue to be built. I guess they’re durable and economical. And easy to manuever on the chaotic streets

    Hong Kong- Old school Toyota Crowns, only without the remote control door

    Australia- Ford Falcons- They large, roomy, RWD, and durable, as well as fast. Like the Crown Vic, they are thirsty

    Germany- Mercedes C-Class- a little extravagent, but very comfy and cushy. I’d assume these would be pretty tough too

    France- Random Citroens, I’m not familiar with these cars, but they were befitting for the French experience

    South Africa- Older Toyota Corollas- They get the job done and are reliable, as well probably easy to work on

    Peru- A lot of Daewoo Ticos- they look funny and are crmaped, but the fact that all are 15+ years old and continue to fill Lima’s streets each day is a testimony to how tough they are. They seem rugged, efficient, and simple to repair

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I’m surprised someone has not tried to bring back the Checker, made in some foreign country with low wages, of course!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Checker would be good with a diesel. With a diesel these would run forever and get good mpgs and be very roomy.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I’m surprised there isn’t a huge forbidden fruit following for the Toyota Crown around here. They are pretty much the Japanese Panthers. And yes, they would be awesome taxis.

    • 0 avatar
      ccode81

      although I hate the ugly thing painted in solid yellow or green with millions of advertisement stickers, ruining the city view of Tokyo, I agree function wise Crown comfort is the very right car for taxi purpose. Old durable platform with FR layout, non slanted square windows, large grip bar on the back of front seats, fender mirrors, surprisingly good leg room, LPG engines, all making sense when it is someone else’s car that I don’t care about performance or appearance.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Cummins could easily provide an inline 4 or 6 for a Checker cab. There are other diesels as well such as Duramax 2.8 that is available in the Colorado.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    This didn’t surprise me. As the owner of an ’09 Escape Hybrid, I take great pleasure in reading such articles. The performance of the Escape Hybrid in such severe service puts the lie to all the bs about hybrids. A few other eye-openers would be: the almost zero replacement rate of the hybrid batteries, the lack of mileage fall-off as they age, and the total amount of gas saved by these things compared to non-hybrid Escapes and especially compared to the alternatives some have offered. Consider the cleaner air and silence when at a standstill. Currently the mileage readout on my AWD Hybrid reads 35.7mpg US.

    I carry adults in the back of my Escape, and no one has complained about legroom. However, I don’t have a security divider. Perhaps the best taxi would be an Escape Hybrid stretched a few inches.

    An interesting fact is that when the Escape Hybrid came along, the NY taxi drivers fought to not have to use them. Now they fight to keep them. Because they save a fortune on gas and upkeep. And when you see street scenes of New York, you often see Escape taxis. So far as I know, all of them are the Hybrids. Long may they run.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As with lots of things in life, cabbies who may put hundreds of miles and lots of hours daily behind the wheel are resistant to change.

      As blasphemous as it may be on this site (j/k ;-) ), when the NYC fleet went from Checkers to Panthers, I’m sure more than a few cabbies were “hacked”-off (see what I did there? :-) ) over it!

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    Reading the item about the company in China resurrecting the dead German brand Borg Ward, and thinking about cars that excel as cabs, it came to me:What New York needs is Chinese Checkers.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    For a 2013 take on this subject:
    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/whats-the-best-taxi/

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