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2014 Nissan NV200 is a versatile van that might double as a N.Y. cab

2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van
2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van
Nick Yost

2014 Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo Van

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Unless you own a business you probably won't be planning to buy the 2014 Nissan NV200 compact cargo van. But, if you live in New York City, you could be seeing them all over the place.

That's because a specially adapted version won the competition for Taxi of Tomorrow during the administration of ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg and it may become the one-and-only cab choice for the next decade under a contract said to be worth $1 billion.

The program had an initial setback when a judge ruled that the city's taxi and limousine commission had exceeded its authority in granting such exclusivity to Nissan.
A promised appeal has now been heard and a second judge has ruled that the taxi and limousine commission did not overstep its bounds.

Whether or not the little van becomes ubiquitous on the crowded streets of New York, it could become a familiar sight on the streets of towns and cities elsewhere. That's because it has the right stuff and its only real competitor is the similarly sized Ford Transit Connect.

I recently spent a week piloting a standard NV200 around town and through the suburbs and developed a real appreciation for just how useful one can be.

The NV200 is easy to maneuver, priced right, relatively fuel-efficient, deceptively roomy and sufficiently peppy. If you are a florist, own a bicycle shop, sell appliances or operate one of countless other enterprises, this could be the right-size vehicle for you.

The major key to the NV200's desirability is the large amount of cargo that will fit in its relatively diminutive body.

Thanks to its compact drivetrain, the wheelbase stretches 115.2 inches of the vehicle's total186.3 inches. The short overall length makes it easy to dart in and out of urban traffic and allows the NV200 to have a turning diameter of only 36.7 feet.

But the important statistic is interior volume A total of 122.7 cubic feet is available in an area 82.8 inches long, 54.8 inches wide (48 inches between the wheel wells) and 53 inches high. Payload is approximately 1,500 pounds.

The 60/40 rear doors can open to 90 degrees or 180 degrees and the liftover height for cargo is only 21.1inches. There also are sliding doors on both sides of the trucks to make loading and unloading easier. Much like a box truck, the NV200 has no windows on its sides to allow businesses to post their advertising information. Inside, there are mounting points for the installation of shelves or racks. In addition, there are six available floor-mounted hooks in the cargo area.

Power is supplied by a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 131 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. The engine is teamed with a continuously variable automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels.

The combination does not provide exhilarating acceleration, but there is enough pickup for most traffic situations. Importantly to a businessman, the 3,260-pound truck returns an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. In my week of mixed driving conditions with no cargo aboard I averaged 25 mpg.

The front suspension is independent, the rear set up has multi-leaf springs with a solid axle and twin-tube shocks. The result is a reasonably comfortable ride with no crashing over most road imperfections.
Steering is electrically assisted and the brakes are discs in front, drums at the rear.

At first glance, the interior of the upscale NV200 SV looks kind of spartan, with only two bucket seats covered in cloth and an ordinary looking instrument panel. But, it's obvious a lot of thought went into the layout.
The center console can act as an office space with room for a laptop or hanging files, two cupholders, a pen and pencil tray and a CD holder. Also, the passenger seatback folds down to create a work table or extra space for long items.

The audio system has two front-door-mounted speakers and an auxiliary input. In addition, the NV200 SV comes with one-touch power windows, 12-volt power outlets on the dashboard and at the rear of the center console, cruise control, air conditioning and remote keyless entry.

Base price of the NV200 SV is $21,280. An extra $950 brings the Technology Package, which includes a rear-view monitor, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, satellite radio, and Nissan Connect, which adds a navigation system with traffic and weather, color touch-screen display, voice recognition for navigation and audio, hands-free text-messaging, Pandora radio capability for Iphone users and streaming audio via Bluetooth.

Add some appearance options, the back-door glass package, and the $860 destination charge, and the total comes to $23,645.

Considering its obvious practicality and versatility, that's a small price to pay.