The 2014 Nissan NV cargo van is a big, solid truck designed around the idea of maximizing efficiency, capability and cargo hauling. Once the sole domain of the domestic auto industry, Nissan's entry into the full-size van market has set off a wave of followers, including larger, European-based vans brought into service by Ford and RAM. For its part, the NV draws its strength from the hefty Titan pickup truck platform, offering a gasoline V8 engine choice as opposed to the smaller, less-powerful diesel engine options in the Ford and RAM vans.
Because buying American is important to many companies these days, the NV is assembled at the same Canton, Miss. plant that builds the Titan truck and the Armada SUV. With a clean-sheet approach to its design and specification, Nissan put everything on the table, including overall design, powertrains, interiors, customer needs and dealership practices. The result is a full lineup of three platforms (1500, 2500 and 3500), a choice of two engines and both high- and low-roof variants, as well as a 4-row, 12-passenger version of the big van.
What's New for 2014?
Minor changes to the 2014 Nissan NV include additional content added to the S and SV, a standard tow package for V8-equipped models and some revised equipment packages.
What We Like
Maximum utility from a platform designed in this century; secure storage; stand-up headroom in the High Roof version; some semblance of comfort and composure
What We Don't
Modest power with V6; no diesel engine option; was an Etch A Sketch used for the final rendering?
The NV comes with a choice of two well-regarded Nissan powertrains, a 4.0-liter V6 and a 5.6-liter V8. Neither is taxed in Nissan's pickups and SUVs the way they are in the NV. The NV is substantially heavier than Nissan's pickup line, and because it has all the aerodynamic attributes of a barn door, it is considerably more difficult to push through the air. But if most of your time is spent in stop-and-go, delivery-type or carpool-type driving, the 261-horsepower V6 with its 281 lb-ft of torque might serve you well. If you spend a lot of time on the interstate, or if you intend to keep the NV filled to the max with people and/or things, we'd advise you to opt for the 5.6-liter V8. It provides a small bump in hp to 317 hp, but torque is elevated dramatically to 385 lb-ft.
Even with the smaller V6, don't regard this as economical transportation. Given that the NV lineup has a gross combined vehicle weight of more than 8,500 pounds, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't provide economy figures. But if you take the Titan pickup's 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway and deduct 10 percent for poorer aerodynamics, you should be fairly close with either the V6 or the V8. This truck begs for the introduction of a light-duty diesel.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Nissan NV comes in both commercial and passenger models, with two roof heights and three trims: S and SV for the cargo van, and S, SV and SL for the passenger van.
The Nissan NV 1500 S ($26,665) includes a V6 engine, 17-inch steel wheels, a single sliding right-hand door, integrated roof-rack mounting points, an AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input and two speakers and 12 cargo-area mounting points in the floor with an additional 24 cargo-area mounting points in the side walls.
The NV 2500 S ($27,665) features the same equipment as the 1500 but in half-ton configuration.
The NV 3500 S ($30,565) features the same equipment as the 1500 but in 1-ton configuration and with the V8 engine.
The NV 1500 SV ($27,667) adds cruise control, 17-in styled steel wheels, a 4-speaker stereo, power windows with driver 1-touch up/down, power door locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls and rear sonar assist.
The NV 2500 SV ($28,655) includes the same equipment as the 1500 SV plus a center console with lockable storage, two additional cup holders and a sliding table. High Roof models get an overhead console, while heated side mirrors are standard on models equipped with the V8 engine.
The NV 3500 SV ($31,555) includes all the same equipment as the 2500 SV plus a standard V8 engine.
The NV 3500 S Passenger ($33,235) has power mirrors, side privacy glass with manual flip-out venting, 12-passenger seating, second- and third-row 65/35 split-bench seating, fourth-row 50/50 split-bench seating and ceiling-mounted side airbags covering all four rows.
The NV 3500 SV Passenger ($35,435) adds Bluetooth, 17-in chrome-clad wheels, an 8-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, full carpeting, 6-speaker audio, cruise control, power windows, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power door locks, keyless entry, a center console, rear map lights, two 120-volt outlets and the rear sonar system.
The NV 3500 SL Passenger ($39,235) adds a V8 engine, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lights, leather seating, heated front seats, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic temperature control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass and front sonar assist.
The High Roof option adds roughly $2,500 to the 2500 and 3500 models, while the V8 engine adds another $1,200 to the NV's bottom line.
Other options are bundled into packages unique to each trim. They include power windows, locks and mirrors as well as side airbags for the S trims, while the SV can be equipped with a rear vision camera, navigation, Bluetooth, side-door and rear-door glass, an all-around glass package (high-roof models only) and various dealer-installed cargo management packages.
Active safety, which is the ability to avoid an accident, is enhanced by a relatively low center of gravity in commercial-van terms. Should you collide with something, Nissan's advanced airbag system with dual-stage front airbags is there to protect. Side-impact airbags for front-seat passengers and roof-mounted supplemental curtain airbags are standard on the passenger van and optional on the cargo version. The NV van has not been crash-tested.
Behind the Wheel
Unlike many commercial vans, which make the driver and front passenger skew their legs and feet to straddle the truck's engine cover, the NV's ergonomics are much closer to those of a pickup. The engine and transmission are located ahead of the firewall and A-pillar, creating a much more conventional position in which to operate the vehicle.
Once behind the wheel, you'll find that the driving dynamics make the NV feel much more like a pickup than like a domestic commercial van. That is, unless you've opted for the high-roof version and high winds are buffeting the vehicle -- in that case, you'll know you're in a commercial van, with all the noise and other negatives that piloting a big box at highway speeds will entail. None of the above is problematic, but for the first-time owner or user, piloting the NV does require a modified skill set for safe driving.
Other Cars to Consider
RAM ProMaster -- The RAM ProMaster features an economical diesel engine and an equally large cargo compartment, but it starts about $2,000 more than the NV and has an unproven track record. The ProMaster can also be had in chassis-cab and cutaway configurations.
Ford Transit -- Like the ProMaster, the Ford Transit is a modern European van brought stateside and, despite its 2015 model year designation, is currently on sale. It features numerous engine and configuration options as well as high-tech features designed to improve productivity, but its base price is much higher than the NV's.
Chevrolet Express -- Although the Express van is nowhere near as roomy or tall as the NV, it has its perks, including a powerful diesel V8, extended wheelbase models and available all-wheel drive.
For fleet limo service, you'd be hard-pressed to improve on the NV passenger van. After all, it has seating for 12, easy access in and out and plenty of cargo area, even with four rows of seats. If you're carrying only cargo, the standard-roof NV is more than adequate, especially when equipped with the Titan's 5.6-liter V8. We'd resist the urge to load it up, preferring a middle-of-the-road approach.