If Dr Who drove a van, he’d probably drive Nissan’s new NV200. That’s because, like the TARDIS, it’s a lot bigger inside than it looks from the outside. Thanks to an intelligent bit of packaging it has the footprint of a short wheelbase van but the cargo space of one with a long wheelbase; a key reason why it’s our Light Van and Van of the Year for 2010 award winner.
Getting as much carrying capacity onto as small a platform as possible is vital if you’re on urban delivery work because parking anything like a big van is a major challenge in most city centres. Park your vehicle where you know you shouldn’t because there’s no room to leave it anywhere else and a traffic warden will be sure to pounce.
NV200 is at the forefront of Nissan’s plan to rejuvenate its light commercial range completely and move away from having its van catalogue dominated by re-badged Renaults. The front-wheel drive newcomer replaces the smaller Kubistar, which was Renault’s old-model Kangoo marketed under an alias.
Nissan is, however, making use of its Alliance partner’s components wherever it can in order to cut costs. That’s why NV200 is powered by an 86hp 1.5-litre Renault dCi four-cylinder eight-valve common rail turbodiesel which has also found employment in Kangoo. Top power kicks in at 3,750rpm while peak torque of 200Nm makes its presence felt at 2,000rpm. With a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg, NV200 looks set to be frugal and CO2 output is a modest 137g/km. The engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox. If you want more power, then you’ll be pleased to hear that a 106hp version of the 1.5-litre is set to debut in a few months time.
So how has Nissan achieved the TARDIS-like effect? Creating a 4.2m3 cargo box in such a compact vehicle has involved some rather clever design. The seats are positioned as far forwards as they can possibly go without compromising legroom, the 55-litre fuel tank is mounted beneath them and the van is fitted with a compact rear suspension system employing wide single-leaf springs. Combined with 14in wheels shod with 175/70 R14C tyres, it also gives NV200 a low rear loading height of just 524mm.
Access to the load area is by means of twin, side-hinged, 70/30 split asymmetrical rear doors — the narrower one is on the offside — plus a sliding nearside door. A sliding offside door is on offer as an optional extra.
The doors open to reveal a cargo bed that is 2,040mm long and 1,500mm wide, narrowing to 1,220mm between the wheel boxes. As a consequence it can swallow two Europallets, always assuming that you’re willing to let a forklift anywhere near your pride and joy. Maximum load height is 1,358mm. Half-a-dozen floor-mounted cargo tie-down points are provided and the driver is protected from being clobbered by anything that slides forwards because it hasn’t been lashed down by a ladder frame mounted behind his seat.
That’s in E specification models. Opt for the more upmarket SE spec instead and you’re upgraded to a full steel bulkhead. Opt for the Versatility Pack too and you can extend the cargo bed to 2.8m by folding the passenger seat flat. Part of a mesh bulkhead can be swivelled through 90° and locked into position to ensure that whatever is loaded into the passenger area doesn’t end up in the driver’s lap. Adjustable load lashing rails that can be positioned above the wheel boxes also figure on the options list.
Top payload is 783kg and NV200 grosses at 2,000kg. It can tow a braked trailer grossing at 1,100kg and an unbraked trailer grossing at 640kg.
ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution come as standard on all models along with Brake Assist and it is interesting to see that Nissan has opted for a traditional braking set-up; discs at the front and drums at the back. Electronic Stability Programme is on the options list.
Electric power-assisted steering is fitted offering a 10.6m kerb-to-kerb turning circle; 11.1m between walls. For the record, Nissan’s new baby is 4,400mm long, 1,690mm wide and 1,860mm tall.
Although the seats have been moved forward, there’s no lack of room in the cab. Nor is there any shortage of storage space. Facilities include bins in each of the doors, a deep glovebox and a lidded storage box between the seats along with an oddments tray and a couple of cup-holders. There’s a shelf on top of the dashboard too and it’s good to see a 12v power point.
The driver’s seat is set at just the right height to make it easy to get in and out and the occupant enjoys ample head and shoulder room. A driver’s airbag is included in the deal.
E trim is in many respects quite basic, although it does have remote central locking, and Nissan believes that the vast majority of buyers will opt for SE trim instead. It includes electric windows and mirrors. The options list includes air conditioning plus a reversing camera with a dinky, but perfectly adequate, full-colour screen mounted in the instrument binnacle.
Based on the same platform as the tried and tested Micra car, NV200 is an excellent little package, no question about, and a worthy award winner. It’s just a pity that it’s been launched at a time when the van market is deep in the doldrums and likely to remain there for sometime to come.
It is not, however, the only impressive package on the market. Citroën’s Nemo, Peugeot’s Bipper and Fiat’s Fiorino have collected the Highly Commended Light Van of the Year award. Slotting in between car-derived vans such as Ford’s Fiesta and high-cubes such as Vauxhall’s Combo, they are the fruits of a joint venture between PSA, Peugeot and Citroën’s parent company, Fiat and Turkish manufacturer Tofas.
Top payload capacity is 610kg and you get a 2.5m3 load bay for your money. They’re all pretty much identical aside from their badges, although Fiorino employs a 75hp 1.3-litre diesel also used by Vauxhall rather than the 70hp 1.4-litre HDi diesel found in the other two.