Join me as I take a very short spin in Nissan’s new 2013 NV200 Compact Cargo Van.
Commercial vehicles typically put function over form, that’s why the American options use short hoods and engines stuffed under doghouses. Unfortunately up till recently, all commercial vans except Chrysler’s slow selling C/V have been rear wheel drive. That means there is a trade off between interior space and somewhere to put that driveshaft. The NV200 is based on Nissan’s small car platform, but doesn’t share much with the Cube. That’s a good thing when it comes to hauling because if you look at a RAM C/V, the touted “under floor storage” compartments are caused by the passenger car floor stamping. Rather than change the stamping, they turned the fold/tumble seat “wells” into storage. That means the load floor in the NV200 is close to the ground making loading easy.
On the down side Nissan missed a few opportunities for the American market. At just over 122 cubic feet of storage the NV200 fits just below the RAM C/V and between the 2014 redesigned Transit Connects short and long wheelbase models in terms of widget schlepping. The folding front passenger seat allows you to toss 10-foot long items in NV from the dash to the rear doors and the wheel wells are just over four-feet wide but the distance from the driver’s seat back to the rear doors is 18-inches shy of 4X8 hauling nirvana. Nissan tells us they just couldn’t stretch in the NV any further for Yankee duty which is a pity when American construction is dominated by four-by-eight sizes. Note that the C/V can handle 4×8 sheets of something (barely) but the Transit Connect has the same limitation.
Payload is truly the limiting feature of any of the current crop of small cargo vehicles. Nissan has the NV200 rated for 1,500lbs in the S model and 1,477lbs in the SV. That’s 100lbs lower than Ford’s baby-hauler and 300lbs less than Chrysler. When looking at those numbers keep in mind that the driver and passenger’s weight is included in the payload. Toss in two 200lb Americans and you have 1,100lbs of payload left. Nissan softens the blow by tossing in large sliding doors on both sides of the NV.
Before the 2010 model year the commercial cargo market was a stagnating mess. If you needed something more utilitarian than a Caravan or Odyssey you had to step up to an enormous cargo van with thirsty engines and old 4-speed automatics. Truth be told 2010 only got a little better with the option of Nissan’s own full size van, also a thirsty big-boy albeit with a slightly newer 5-speed auto. Fast forward a few years and we have the new Ford T-Series on the horizon, GM stuffing 6-speed autos in their commercial line, Fiat’s ginormous front-wheel-drive Ducato landing as the Ram ProMaster with a small diesel and Nissan’s first foray into the growing small commercial market. How well the NV200 ultimately up depends greatly on Ford’s new Transit Connect for 2014. Until then the NV200 is the king of the compact cargo hill.
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