January 25, 2017 @ 02:08 PM

Review: Nissan NV200 - Not just a box on wheels

Vans hardly stir the loins of the faithful readers but we beg to differ. Not only does the NV200 have to fill some intimidating shoes; which it does brilliantly, it kind of found a soft spot within the office as well

“You know what the problem with the Nissan Vanette was?” bellowed a mentor once. Himself a doyen of the motoring industry, and one that cultivated a particular interest in the commercial vehicle sector, his deep insight would understandably be appreciated.

Being new to commercial vehicles then, the stage was set for a phenomenal reply but what a burst bubble it popped out to be. His answer was a simple, “Nothing.” Not one to withhold knowledge though, he delved into the details.

“You see, when Nissan designed the Vanette they made it too durable and robust. There was no lifespan engineered into it which is why you still see a ton of them on the road. They simply keep going so owners have no reason to replace them.”

You know how the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke...”

That’s turned out to be quite the damper on Nissan’s efforts to push the Vanette’s replacement, the venerable NV200, which is quite a bleeding shame because as far as compact commercial vans go, the NV200 is light years ahead of its predecessor and makes a perfect accessory for budding businesses.

It was designed from the get-go to be as functional, capable and convenient for its intended purpose with the very same robustness as the Vanette. Almost every possible feature that a mobility partner for a business would require is ingeniously worked into the design.

The interior has more cubby holes, storage spaces and cup-holders that any two-man team would require. Large door pockets, a card slot for your Touch ‘n Go, upper and lower dashboard compartments as well as a huge gulf between the seats that make the perfect spot for a briefcase or the like; it’s all there.

Adding to it is the flip-down passenger seat whose back doubles up as a work station and you get the general idea that this van had a lot of thought put into it. After all, it had some large shoes to fill in succeeding the Vanette.

Where the Vanette displayed some shortcomings was with creature comforts and that is one area that the NV200 addresses quite comprehensively; or as much as can be for a commercial van.

The high roof makes ingress and egress easy, a convenience that extends into the cargo area as well for loading. Once inside, the driver and passenger enjoy a very car-like seating position and the electric power steering makes manoeuvring effortless. Power windows are standard as well.

Dual sliding doors and a large rear hatch that pops up the full 90-degrees ensures filling up the 4.3-square metres of cargo volume is a cinch while floor-mounted anchorage points helps with securing the goods that can weigh in as much as 740kg, the maximum payload capacity that the leaf springs will accommodate. Those in the business will appreciate the ability to slide in two euro-sized pallets back-to-back. The vast room in the rear can be retrofitted to handle almost any situation that a business might need and the flexibility is astounding.

Going the extra mile for you readers, anything that we could get our hands on in the office was shoved into the cargo bay in an attempt to approximate its limits. Furniture, heavy car components and even a motorcycle all went in sans fuss with plenty of options in securing them during transit.

Safety wise, it’s the bare minimum with a single airbag for the driver, ABS and EBD as well as child locks for the sliding doors. Some stability control would have been welcome but the commercial vehicle sector here is still lagging behind in that respect.

Up front, the NV200 rides on MacPherson struts that shape up the ride department to resemble that of a passenger vehicle. The van is surprisingly quite adept at taking on the imperfect roads here, with the front struts soaking up bumps rather proficiently. A turning radius of 5.2-metres and the aforementioned electric power steering add up for a fine city van.

Being purveyors of the Car brand, the NV200’s time with us was not without some shenanigans but mostly limited to within the speed limits hexed on commercially registered vehicles. For a box on wheels intended to haul cargo around town, the NV200 impresses with its handling; exhibiting composure and stability at speed.

That Nismo livery may or may not have fuelled the mischief.

Keeping costs down is paramount in turning a profit or even just operating a successful business. Fuel and maintenance will inadvertently contribute significantly to that and having a fuel efficient engine is a good starting point.

The HR16DE engines utilised here is 1.6-litre, four-banger with variable valve timing and fuel sipping qualities. Outputs are a modest 108bhp with a 152Nm of torque but the figures never felt overwhelmed in motivating the NV200, even with a full load and passenger.

Only a five-speed manual is available, unsurprisingly, and gets the front wheels rolling without much to neither write home nor gripe about.

Replacing the Vanette is a daunting task and the sheer number of them still running around is testament to the durability engineered into them. The NV200 has proven to be more than up to the task and if you keep an eye out on the road, its numbers will surprise you and for good reason.

Does the NV200 take over the mantle as the king of the compact commercial van? Yes, it absolutely does.

Nissan NV200
Engine: 1598cc, DOHC 16V, inline-four, fuel injection, variable valve timing, 108bhp @ 6000rpm, 152Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4400mm, 1695mm, 1855mm
Weight: 1220kg
Price: RM63,217.26 OTR w/o insurance

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