Next summer’s new small commercial van from Chevy leverages the Nissan NV200 ’s tough-but-cheap new platform with hopes that the powerhouse Chevrolet fleet network can work its magic in delivering significant commercial sales volume.
Called the Chevy City Express, the new small van has twin sliding doors and a massive load bay – all while driving the front wheels and offering an overall 24 mpg.
The small commercial van segment is heating up since the arrival of the Ford Transit Connect . Despite the Transit Connect ’s popularity and niche-filling role in the Ford empire, bringing it to America from Europe has been a labor-intensive process that also means the vehicle offers much slimmer profit margins than the old-school Econolines that were previously Ford’s only answer for van shoppers.
The Chevy City Express path is a shortcut to gain access to this growing market segment without a huge investment in a new platform or assembly line. Nissan’s NV200 is the ideal candidate for a shared model because it offers federalized engines and crash structures, yet can also be sold globally with a variety of tiny gasoline and diesel engines.
As catchy as the old ‘badge engineering’ description is, it does not really apply in this case across the two unrelated companies. This is more like R&D engineering, or supply chain engineering – a rapid way to get this car into dealers with a Chevy badge without any of the risks associated with a years-long, multi-billion-dollar engineering program to build one from scratch.
Will adding some bow-tie grilles and Chevy’s huge network of existing fleet customers to the Nissan package be enough to deliver results for American businesses? Does the new City Express’s efficiency and maneuverability outweigh its lack of towing, off-road or heavy hauling stats?
Update 8/15/2014: Chevy has announced official EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2015 City Express. It gets 24 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
Click past the jump for the full preview of the 2015 Chevrolet City Express, including full specs on the shared platform dimensions, features and mechanicals.
The City Express is a very light restyle of the existing NV200 cargo van, with a unique upper front grille and badging the only differences between the Chevy and Nissan. The similarities extend down the exact same optional wheel covers.
Basic City Express models will not look nearly as posh as the models in these photos, due to the standard steel wheels and unpainted bumpers, door handles and door mirrors that appear on base trims. The Nissan model has two possible specifications: S and SV at the top of the range. Chevy is expected to mirror the NV200’s trims with base LS up to LT (or possibly LTZ) as the top trim level.
The distinction is important because the higher-priced models offer more optional goodies that are not available on the bare-bones standard trims. On the exterior, the primary options are: privacy glass in the rear doors where there is otherwise just painted sheetmetal, wheel covers and powered and heated outside mirrors.
In terms of the vehicle’s design, it is a modern and practical shape marked out by is high roof and long front overhang design. In profile, the City Express closely mirrors the first-gen Transit Connect with a sloping front cab design. The City Express has a sharply sloped windshield glass for improved aerodynamics and builds in large front quarter windows for a better view of pedestrians or other cars hiding behind the A-pillars.
A unique accent line flows from the front bumper area with an up-kick toward the door window glass up front. Another deep crease flows forward from the sliding door rail area before flicking downward just before the driver’s door. The combination helps give the City Express a slightly advanced feel that is absent from the larger Chevrolet Express line-up.
In back, low-mounted twin-circle brake lights appear on the outside edges of the 40/60 rear French doors that swing out to a huge angle for loading cargo. A slim rear bumper and low step-in height increase the versatility of the City Express’s huge cargo bay.
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Exterior Dimensions:
|Track - Front (in.)||60|
|Track - Rear (in.)||59.8|
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Standard Exterior Features:
- 15-inch steel wheels with 185/60R15 all-season tires; Full size tire, steel wheel; Under rear cargo area
- Headlights: Multi-reflector halogen
- Outside mirrors: Folding, Black; Integrated spotter mirrors (wide angle): Manual Adjustment
- Black bumpers and door handles
- Grille: Silver
- Dual sliding doors
- Rear 40/60 split French doors
- Wipers: Variable intermittent
- Integrated roof rack mounting points
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Optional Exterior Features:
- Exterior Appearance Package: Body-colored front and rear bumpers, door handles, outside mirrors; full wheel covers; chrome grille ($190)
- Rear door windows w/privacy glass ($190)
- Door handles: Body-color
- Grille: Chrome
- Outside mirrors: Folding, Body-color
- Integrated spotter mirrors (wide angle): Power and Heated
- Bumpers: Body-color
- 15-inch steel with covers
The interior of the base-model City Express will be just as basic as the exterior’s black plastic bumpers. Seat ing for just two front passengers is offered in a pair of durable bucket seats with vinyl on the outside bolsters that are typically the first ripped areas of cloth seats. Manual adjustments and armrests are standard fit on a six-way driver’s seat that also includes a lumbar support. The four-way passenger seat is less accommodating but does fold forward to create a longer load area or a mini desk for the driver.
The desk and workstation theme continue with the filing cabinet center console and primitive manual climate and A/C controls. Mercifully, A/C comes standard, but the stereo system takes a few levels of optional upgrades before reaching mainstream audio quality levels.
The base system is a two-speaker AM/FM/CD player with an aux-in jack for playback of music on a mobile device. This double-din head unit design can be equipped with Bluetooth voice calls and audio streaming, plus steering-wheel-mounted controls for the radio and cruise control.
The top system is a 5.8-inch touchscreen radio with navigation and numerous app integrations for Android and iPhone compatibility. The Chevy will stick with the Nissan-designed systems, but unique splash screens and welcome graphics pack Chevrolet branding, as does the steering wheel.
Cargo is the name of the game behind the two front seats: the City Express can haul nearly 1,500 pounds within its 123-cubic-foot rear cabin.
The floor comes standard with a durable plastic liner and the up-level trim gets six D-shaped cargo mounting points.
Twin rear sliding doors add practicality versus the single door of the largest vans, even the next-generation, full-size 2014 Ford Transit . These can optionally be equipped with tinted side glass but most will prefer the panel van design’s privacy and cargo security.
The Nissan NV200 commercial van does offer a five-passenger configuration in the rear for light taxi duties or other people-mover needs. The low-mounted solid rear axle helps to create a flat and ultra-low floor height for easy loading of passengers but also heavy cargo or packages.
Chevy is not likely to add the passenger version of this van in the U.S. market but it is possible in the numerous other global markets where the City Express will be sold.
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Interior Dimensions:
|Front Seating Capacity||2|
|Rear Seating Capacity||0|
|Headroom - Front (in.)||41.7|
|Legroom - Front (in.)||12.6|
|Shoulder Room - Front (in.)||51.3|
|Hip Room - Front (in.)||54.1|
|EPA Cargo Volume (cubic-feet)||122.7|
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Interior Features:
- Bucket Seat Materials: Cloth with outboard vinyl wear patches
- Driver’s seat: 6-way manual w/armrest; Manual lumbar
- Passenger seat: 4-way manual, Fold-flat
- Cargo floor covering: Durable TPO (Thermoplastic PolyOlefin)
- Interior cargo area mounting points – body side: 20 (for cargo area customization)
- Double head unit (2-Din) AM/FM/CD w/Aux, 2 speakers
- Cup holders: 2 in center console, Map lights – 2 front; Sun visors – Driver and passenger side; Driver and passenger front door map pockets
- Glove box: Recessed storage area on upper instrument panel
- Center console: dual level w/12-volt outlet, tissue box and pen holders
- Air conditioning/heater – manual temp control
- Front window defogger
- Power windows – Driver/front passenger’s one-touch auto up/down with auto reverse
- Remote keyless entry system; Power door locks selective unlocking and anti-lockout (Standard on LT Only, N/A on LS)
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Optional Interior Features:
- Cruise Control Package: Cruise control w/steering wheel controls ($200)
- RearView Monitor
- Inside rearview mirror: Man. day/night
- Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System for standard audio with steering mounted controls ($250)
- Bluetooth streaming audio capability for standard audio
- Rear door glass defroster
- Rear 12-volt outlet
- 2-Din AM/FM/CD/MP3 w/Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, RDS, Aux and USB, 2 speakers, navigation (Opt.)
- Technology Package: 5.8-inch touch screen display; Bluetooth: NissanConnectSM Navigation with 5.8-inch touch screen display, Nissan Voice Recognition for audio and navigation, NavTraffic and NavWeather (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately), POIs powered by Google, Google Send-to-Car, Pandora radio capability (iPhone only), Streaming audio via Bluetooth, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant ($950)
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
The City Express’s American specification will come with just one Nissan engine and automatic transmission: an extra-durable 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 131 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque.
Power is channeled to the front wheels via a CVT automatic for a 9.8-second 0-to-60 mph time and 108 mph estimated top speed.
This engine is the well-known and reliable MR20DE unit with chain-drive dual overhead cams for a smooth and relatively low-rpm power peak. The City Express has a tight 37-foot turning circle and a high rear ride height to ensure that the van is capable in its commercial duties. This combination results in a choppy urban ride quality.
The largest available wheels are 15 inches, which easily limit the Chevy’s handling potential as their squishy sidewalls give up in even modest corners. The City Express matches the NV200’s max payload of 1,500 pounds but the CVT automatic prevents any towing whatsoever.
Overall, mileage stats are impressive: 24 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined.
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Mechanical Details:
|Engine Size and Type||2.0-liter Gasoline 16-valve I-4 With Chain-Driven DOHC|
|Peak power (Horsepower)||131 @ 5200|
|Peak torque (Pound-feet)||139 @ 4800|
|Transmission||Xtronic CVT Automatic|
|0-to-60 mph||9.8 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||108 mph, est|
|EPA Fuel Economy MPG (City/Combined/Highway)||24/25/26|
|Max Payload (Pounds)||1,500|
The City Express will come with six standard airbags, ABS and stability/traction control systems as standard. The similar Nissan Evalia (an NV200 under a yet another different name) achieved just three stars in the EuroNCAP performance but much of this is down to technicalities in the testing program. This model runs a different engine and front crash cradle, with the American version receiving extra crash structures.
Neither the Nissan nor its Chevrolet spin-off have been tested yet by the NHTSA or IIHS, but both are expected to return top-ranked Good scores. The overall body strength of the design is visible in the NCAP test, with almost zero A-pillar and door deformation from the frontal collision.
2014 Chevrolet City Express – Standard Safety Features:
- Daytime Running Lights (DRL); Center high mount stop light
- Dual-stage front Air bags; Driver and front pass seat-mounted side impact Air bags; Roof-mounted curtain side-impact Air bags
- Outboard seat belts: 3-point w/pre-tensioners and load limiters; driver’s side height-adjustable
- Energy-absorbing steering column; Zone body construction with front crumple zones and rear crumple zones
- Side-door guard beams
- Shift Interlock System
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
- Immobilizer; Steering wheel locks when key is removed
- Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)
- Traction Control System
- Audible Brake Pad Wear Indicators
- Brake Assist and Electronic Brake force Distribution EBD)
- Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
The 2015 City Express starts at $22,950 in its LS trim, plus a $995 destination fee. In its upper-scale LT trim, prices start at $24,510, plus the same destination fee. The City Express will hit showrooms in the fourth quarter of 2014.
2015 Chevrolet City Express - Pricing
|City Express LS||$22,950|
|City Express LT||$24,510|
Big changes are afoot with the Transit Connect. A facelift for 2014 is expected to bring an optional passenger model and extended-wheelbase option for the first time. The Transit Connect offers more comfort features up front in a design that is more like a Focus than a stripped-out commercial vehicle.
Gallery Ford Transit Connect
The NV200’s global roll-out is still gaining momentum three years after the car’s initial debut as a future Taxi concept. While competing with the Chevrolet, the shared features and design mean most sales will go to loyalists who did not consider the other.
This can be a result of deliver proximity, sales rebates or past purchase history of Nissan commercial vehicles.
Gallery Nissan NV200
Re-badging a vehicle from a direct competitor is never a choice taken lightly by major automakers. When done poorly, it can dilute both brands and cause shopper confusion.
The decision can be good, though, by putting customer needs ahead of some the belief that they do better with a proprietary design. In the low-margin commercial and fleet sides of the business, there was just no appetite for the challenge of making a cheap, durable and global urban cargo van.
Chevy’s new entry into the small business van segment will be a boon for nearly all of their commercial and fleet customers, who have been clamoring for a nimble and efficient van like this for many years. In this regard, the City Express finally shows Chevy putting commercial buyers higher up in the pecking order.
The City Express will therefore be a valuable addition to the Chevrolet’s core offering. In a global market that values space and efficiency... the City Express’s Nissan mechanical reliability might actually be a an additional selling point.
|Driving||C+||Good Access To Tight City Delivery Zones|
|Performance||B-||Standard Automatic Transmission Is Helpful|
|Look||B||Modern Styling Looks Fresh And New|
|Value||A-||Good Pricing And Fuel Economy|
|Overall||B||City Express A Great Van Option For Small Businesses|
- Extra low floor and large split rear doors help loading
- Dual sliding side doors mean the City Express is super versatile in tight environments
- Interior has simple trim choices but a high-tech touchscreen Nav option
- Tiny wheels look like they might burst if van is loaded to the brim
- Exterior bumpers and trim need $190 painting option for best appearance
- Chevy-branded upper front grille is a pretty light facelift that leaves most Nissan panels unchanged