One of the best parts about my job is the ability to try out cars and trucks of all different shapes and sizes. I get to experience fast and rare machines like Lamborghinis and Nissan GT-Rs, but I also get to test things like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Versa. Nothing could have really prepared me for what showed in my driveway the other day though; the new 2015 Nissan NV200 cargo van.

With just two seats, a rubber floor, and no headliner, this was a true workman’s van that was created to make the lives of small business owners across the world easier. I’m never one to shy away from testing a car though, so over the following week I spent as much time as possible beating the Nissan NV200 as hard as I could. I drove it through muddy fields and rough gravel trails, I filled it with hay and horse feed, and I even tried to put some random things inside of it like a motorcycle.

Despite everything I threw at it, the little panel van just begged for more. It’s a smartly designed machine with solid fuel economy, intelligent details, and a face only a mother could love.

Click past the jump for the full review

  • 2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    Xtronic CVT
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    131
  • MPG(Cty):
    24
  • MPG(Hwy):
    26
  • Torque @ RPM:
    139
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    10.0 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    front engine, FWD
  • Price:
    21710
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven Exterior
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2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The outside of the Nissan NV200 isn’t exactly what I would call attractive, but Nissan has done what it can to ease the visual burden. The nose is softly rounded and features that familiar Nissan grille in the center. The lights are elongated, and on their own look a bit dreadful, but when compared to the rest of the cargo van they fit proportionally.

Considering it’s the largest single surface on the NV200, Nissan paid some extra attention to the styling of the flanks

Considering it’s the largest single surface on the NV200, Nissan paid some extra attention to the styling of the flanks. Each side features deep indents into the upper portions of the body panels, this is where the windows are located on other versions of the NV, and Nissan added a cut line that follows the flow of the door slide track. This helps to elongate the shape and shorten its visual height. These sliding doors are relatively large and the sliding mechanism works great. The best part is the windows. The shape of the NV200’s side glass for the two front doors has an elliptical sort of curve to it, and the window appear almost as though they are leaves.

The back of the NV is pretty unremarkable. It’s a pair of doors with a window in each. In a nod to practicality, the doors are unequal length, meaning you need not open both to access most items in the back. The doors also feature a two-stop opening mechanism. The doors will open 90-degrees and lock, but a secondary latch will let the doors open even further on a secondary hinge to fold back onto the sides.

To add that extra touch of style, this tester came with the optional Exterior Appearance Package that covers the bumpers and mirrors in paint, slaps plastic caps on the wheels, and gives the grille a chrome finish.

Interior

2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven Exterior
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2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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At first glance, the interior is a pile of gray and black plastics that merit no more inspection or attention. The seats are plain buckets with almost no sculpting, and the gauge cluster is a simple unit with only speed, rpm, and a trip computer. Take a moment to appreciate the cockpit however, and you will find an entire assortment of features that make the NV200 a perfect companion for lots of small business owners.

On top of the center dash is a slot cubby that is perfectly sized to hold a folder, clipboard, or anything else that is similar to size A4 paper; making it a perfect place for things like active invoices for deliveries. The console between the two seats is sized and slotted to hold a small set of hanging folders like you put in a filing cabinet, and the passenger seat has a hard back so you can fold it down to turn it into an impromptu desk surface. They even put a dip in the hard plastic back to create a slot that keeps your pen from rolling around. Elsewhere around the cabin you will find multiple extra storage areas including a drawer under the passenger seat. In what I feel is a slight oversight, Nissan only included two 12-volt plugs in the interior, one of which is an extra that only comes on the upper trim model seen here.

To keep the driver relatively comfortable on long days, the driver’s seat is six-way adjustable including the ever-welcomed lumbar support. Since I was in an SV trim van I had some extra features like heated outside mirrors, power locking, keyless entry, cruise control, and steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo. The stereo itself is not that great, but with only two speakers to work with, I didn’t expect much. To augment the poor speakers, my van was at least fitted with the SV Tech Package that adds a full NissanConnect system with satellite radio, navigation, and iPod connectivity. Bluetooth, Nissan Mobile Apps compatibility, and a rearview monitor camera come with the package as well.

Nissan may be new to this segment, but the cargo area makes it apparent engineers did their homework

Nissan may be new to this segment, but the cargo area makes it apparent engineers did their homework to give buyers all the features they demand. Riveted to the floor are 6 large steel D-rings for securing cargo, the roof is unlined with access to attachment holes in the support ring-frame for more securing locations, and the whole cargo floor is covered in a huge rubber mat for easy cleaning and limited slipping. The wheel wells in the back are as small as possible to keep them from eating precious cargo room, and the large doors all open fully to give you easy access to anything you may be carrying.

The only real issue with the cargo hold of the NV200 is its total overall size. Nissan is quick to tout that the NV will hold a standard shipping pallet in its rear, but not every potential buyer needs to carry a pallet. One of the all-time great markets for cargo vans is home repair and construction. Builders live in a world that is four feet by eight feet. Plywood, drywall and many other large construction materials are sold in sheets that four feet wide and eight feet long. Nissan made sure that the rear of the NV200 was capable of holding something that is four feet wide, but from the back door to the front seat is an area that is less than seven feet long. Seems like a rather tragic missed opportunity there.

Drivetrain

2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Providing thrust for the small van is an equally small 2.0-liter engine. This four-cylinder unit is modestly sophisticated with a dual-overhead cam design and four valves per cylinder, but all-in it only produces 131 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. The upside to the small engine is better fuel economy; the EPA rating for the NV200 is 24 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.

To get the most out of that power when necessary and maximize fuel economy when possible, the NV200 comes only with the Nissan Xtronic CVT.

Price

2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven Emblems and Logo Exterior
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The Nissan NV200 starts at a bargain price of just $20,720. That is only the base S model though, and it forgoes some really important additions like the power locks, power windows, and the floor-mounted D-Rings in the cargo area. Those come standard on an SV trim level like my tester. The NV200 SV starts at a slightly higher price of $21,710, but that is still a great value. Added to that, my tester adds the back door glass for $190, backup sensors for $250, and the appearance package with the colored bumpers for $190. The only big option was the $1,050 tech package that added the navigation system, SiriusXM radio, and backup camera. Rounding out the additions is a $95 set of rubber floor mats and the $860 destination charge. Total sticker price of this particular NV200 rings in at $24,345.

Driving Impressions


Driving the NV200 is a unique experience. This was my first experience with a van this size, and it feels like it was created for the world’s most crowded cities. The steering is extremely light making maneuvering at low speed simple, and thanks to an exceptionally tight turning radius, you can make a full U-turn in the width of almost any two-lane road. The brakes are strong and have a quick bite to help with both sudden stops in traffic and the extra weight of a large load.

The NV200 is certainly slow, with just 131 horsepower I never expected it light my hair on fire, but feeling the way that the NV200 handles power output is surprising. Nissan makes the most of the properties inherent in the design of a CVT transmission to keep the NV200 in the power band as much as possible. It didn’t matter what I was hauling in the back, the NV200 was willing to pull with all its might, and I never really felt like I was overwhelming the motor or the transmission. During my time with the NV200, I hauled a full load of square-bail hay, a motorcycle, several bags of horse feed, saddles, and tack equipment.

More than putting things in the back, I also took the NV200 to some less than ideal locations. Owning farm animals means farm driving. I took the NV into a few fields – some rather wet from the incessant winter rain we have in Tennessee, down some rutted dirt tracks. I even found my up a couple of loose gravel roads. I did run into a few issues with traction loss, but the NV never got stuck. Considering its only running on 185-series all-season rubber, I expected the little van to be absolutely flummoxed by the farm field, but I was proved wrong.

My only real issues with the NV200 are problems that would be apparent and obvious to anyone who was ever even considering buying one of these. If you aren’t hauling something to add weight to the back, the machine feels a little tall and wayward, the lack of sound deadening and insulation means that the cabin was loud, and the incessant drone of that 2.0-liter can be unbearable at times. That said, this isn’t a commuter car, and its not designed to be such, but if you are just starting a business and you are looking into a machine like this, it’s more of a tool and less of a car than you might expect.

Competition

Chevrolet City Express

2014 Chevrolet City Express High Resolution Exterior
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As far as competitors in the small van space are concerned, there are very few players. Case in point, the Chevy City Express. This is nothing more than a rebadged version of the NV200. It uses the same 2.0-liter engine, same CVT transmission, and even the same navigation head unit if you order the same “tech package” option. The only real difference between the two machines is a different badge on the nose, and the Chevy doesn’t have the NissanConnect apps in the head unit software.

The only difference between the two vans are limited to simple option items. Chevy offers an alloy wheel option, and the backup sensors come standard on upper trim models. Despite being the same van with a different badge, the Chevy carries a heftier price tag. The base model is $22,950 and the up-trim LT model (equivalent to our SV) is $24,510. If we spec the two vans identically, the Chevy costs just over $26,000 (Chevy won’t give an exact quote for the floormats on their online builder), or nearly $2k more than our tester Nissan.

Skip this one.

Ford Transit Connect

2014 Ford Transit Connect Cargo Exterior
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The real competitive player in the small van market is the legendary Ford Transit. The transit name has been around since 1965 and it has continually been one of the greatest cargo vans every created. The Transit Connect is a modern and smaller version of the Transit family. In exterior sizing and styling the Transit Connect is nearly identical to the NV200, but to my eye the Transit takes it on the visual front. Powering the Transit Connect is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 169 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. For even more power there is an available 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder with 178 ponies and 184 pounds of twist. Either choice is far more powerful than the mill available in the NV200.

Even with the extra power, the Transit Connect scores EPA ratings as high as 30 mpg with the EcoBoost, making it more fuel efficient too. Where things start to go south for the Transit Connect comes with pricing. At $22,330 for the cheapest model, the Transit is more expensive than the Nissan by a wide margin. To equip base Transit connect with a similar level of equipment, you are looking at $25,000 or more. The Transit Connect may be more powerful, better looking, and more economical on fuel, but all those advantages come at the expense of cost.

Conclusion

2015 Nissan NV200 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Nissan NV200 is far from a typical machine that I would review, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give it a solid once-over. During my week, I crammed it full of anything I could find, drove it over terrain that would flummox several crossovers I have driven, and when it was all said and done, I was able to open the huge doors and sweep my mess out in seconds. There are tons of cubby places, smart features, and even enough internal technology to keep a gadget nerd like me entertained. It doesn’t have the best driving dynamics, or the most powerful engine, but I enjoyed every moment I spent with the NV200. It is a machine that feels willing and eager to get the job done. If it had the power to haul my horse trailer, I would own this over a pickup truck. It certainly seems to be more practical. I just wish it would hold a sheet of drywall with the doors closed.

  • Leave it
    • Can’t hold sheets of 8x4 building material
    • NVH refinement is poor
    • Power is lacking compared to other machines in class
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