If you're questioning whether you really need a thirsty, full-size work van, the 2013 Nissan NV200 compact cargo van could be the answer. Based on a compact car platform, but stretched and strengthened for work duty, the NV200 potentially delivers the best of both worlds for small businesspeople. Thanks to those car-like underpinnings, the NV200 feels nimble and refined relative to bigger vans, and it's a lot easier to park, too. But when you need to get the job done, there's a whopping 122.7 cu ft of cargo space between the NV200's windowless panels.
Interested in the Nissan NV200? Here's what you need to know. ...
What's New for 2013
The NV200 is all-new this year.
What We Like
Serious cargo capacity; low base price; good fuel economy; manageable size; car-like driving dynamics
What We Don't
Lacks the muscle and space of full-size vans
The NV200 is powered by a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the NV200 achieves a fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon city/25 mpg highway. That's pretty good for a beast of burden.
Options & Standard Features
The 2013 Nissan NV200 is offered in two trim levels: S and SV.
The S ($20,845) comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, cloth upholstery with vinyl wear patches, adjustable driver lumbar support, power windows, a 12-volt power point in the center console, a trip computer, a fold-down passenger seat with a seat back tray table, a Mobile Office center console (including laptop and hanging-file folder storage, a pen/pencil tray, a CD holder and dual cup holders), 40/60-split rear cargo doors that open up to 180 degrees, 20 interior cargo mounting points, six exterior roof-rack mounting points and a 2-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary audio input.
The SV ($21,835) adds power-heated mirrors, six floor-mounted D-rings in the cargo area, power locks, keyless entry, cruise control and an additional 12-volt power point.
NV200 options include Bluetooth with streaming audio, satellite radio, a rearview camera and NissanConnect with Navigation, which features a 5.8-in touchscreen display, a navigation system, voice-command functionality, Pandora Internet radio capability (iPhone required) and a hands-free text-messaging assistant.
The NV200's standard dual sliding side doors make the cargo area accessible from either side of the vehicle. The French-style rear doors are split 40/60, with the wider door on the curb side to ease loading and unloading. Both doors open up to 180 degrees, so they won't get in the way; a 90-degree opening detent is also provided. There's no glass aft of the cabin, but privacy door glass for the front doors can be specified.
Nissan's compact van owes its 122.7-cu ft cargo capacity to the unique extended body for North American models. Elsewhere in the world, the NV200 is 7.9 inches shorter, but Nissan wanted our version to go toe-to-toe with the Ford Transit Connect, which can haul a comparable 129.6 cu ft of stuff.
Payload for the NV200 is estimated by Nissan at 1,500 pounds.
The NV200 comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control and six airbags (front, side, side curtain). It had not been crash tested in the U.S. as of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
The NV200's cabin features no-nonsense materials and controls. There's nothing in here that looks or feels luxurious, but we suspect the durability factor will prove to be high. Hard-working drivers will appreciate the standard adjustable lumbar support, and the vinyl wear patches should extend the cloth upholstery's shelf life. The no-frills knobs and buttons feel sturdy and are intuitively laid out.
On the road, the NV200's carlike unibody construction is apparent. You'll never forget that you have a massive cargo box behind you. Otherwise, though, the NV200 essentially drives like a car. The steering is light yet precise, and the suspension swallows bumps with none of the harshness and clatter you get in larger, truck-like work vans. Plus, if you need to make deliveries, the NV200's compact footprint means you can park it just about anywhere; indeed, this van is smaller than many crossover SUVs.
If the NV200 has a weakness, it's the mandatory 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, which delivers adequate punch but nothing more. European buyers can specify a turbodiesel 4-cylinder, and we think utility-minded Americans would appreciate the diesel's superior torque off the line. However, Nissan reps tell us that it was too expensive to get the diesel certified in this country, so the gas-powered four is all we get. Fortunately, its 139 lb-ft of torque manage to scoot the little NV along with reasonable authority, and the gearless CVT delivers eerily smooth acceleration. The 24-mpg city fuel economy is a nice perk, as well.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Transit Connect -- The similar Transit Connect can haul marginally more than the NV200, but it's pricier and lacks the Nissan's nifty Mobile Office storage system.
RAM C/V -- Sold under the RAM truck brand, this cargo-oriented version of the Dodge Grand Caravan offers more cargo capacity than either the Ford or the Nissan, but it's also a larger, thirstier vehicle.
The NV200 offers some interesting optional features, but if we were in the market for a work van, we'd stick with the base S model and save a bundle in comparison to the rival Transit Connect.