2012 Nissan NV 2500 SV
Unless you’re a building-trades person who favors cavernous rolling crates, you’re not likely to get terribly excited about the all-new vehicles from Nissan.
But if you are such a person, the 2012 Nissan NV line of commercial vans opens up a host of possibilities. It’s rare that closed-vehicle manufacturers pay much attention to plumbers, electricians, carpenters and handymen.
Except for the Ford Transit Connect, a recent small panel truck, and the Sprinter, a relatively expensive van developed by Mercedes-Benz and sold for a time as a Dodge and Ram, big vans are mostly inconspicuous and inoculated against much in the way of innovations.Until now, the choices have been similar and few. Ford and General Motors account for nearly 95% of the sales of big vans: the Ford E-Series, Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana. But they’re not insignificant, with 158,154 sales nation-wide in 2010. In addition, Ford sells a passenger version called the Club Wagon, which accounted for another 23,799 sales.
Nissan enters the fray with a lineup, designed in the U.S. and built in a plant in Mississippi, which includes something not offered by the competition: a high roof version that is nearly two feet taller than the standard van. Inside, it can accommodate someone standing up who is more than 6 feet 4 inches tall.
It delivers 323 cubic feet of cargo space with a load floor that not only can accommodate the traditional 4X8-foot piece of plywood lying flat but could handle something 10 feet long by 4 feet 6 inches wide between the rear wheel wells.
The standard NV, which is the focus here, has the same dimensions except for the interior height, which is 4 feet 8 inches. It has 234 cubic feet of cargo space.
Starting with a clean sheet of paper, Nissan improved the big van concept. Most prominently, from the cab forward, the NV mimics a full-size pickup truck. The engine is out front under the hood, with no intrusion into the passenger compartment.
That’s a good thing. Aside from the fact that the NVs are giant vehicles more than 20 feet long with rear-wheel drive, the seating, driver position and driving experience are not unlike that of full-size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. Handling is relatively benign and competent, though this is a vehicle that works best in slow motion.
Nissan also vertically straightened the sides of the cargo area to make the van basically slab-sided instead of curved like the Ford and General Motors vans. That makes installation of shelves, drawers and storage compartments more efficient because it minimizes wasted space.
Nissan offers a choice of standard interior functional storage configurations that are included in the base purchase price, along with exterior graphics. Custom installations and exterior designs, of course, are extra.There are seven different NV models with three load capabilities. Each model has two trim levels: S and SV. Following pickup truck nomenclature, there’s a light duty 1500, which comes only with the standard roof and the 261-horsepower, 4-liter V6 engine; heavy-duty 2500, which comes with standard or high roof with the V6 or a 317-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8, and the heavy-duty 3500, which comes only with the V8 in either standard or high roof.
In response to at least one admirer at a stop light who was driving an extinct big Ford Excursion, there’s no diesel engine option. There’s also no all-wheel drive; all versions are rear-drive with a five-speed automatic transmission. A passenger model is in the offing for 2013.
Prices start at $25,570 for the standard roof NV 1500 S with the V6 engine and climb to $33,170 for the high roof 3500 SV model with the V8 engine. There are a number of factory options, including a technology package with a rear camera and satellite radio; side air bags and side-curtain air bags, a tow package, as well as windows in the side and rear doors. There is only one rear side door, a slider on the right side.
The tester was the mid-level NV 2500 SV with the V6 engine, the technology package, rear-door windows, side air bags and the towing package. Standard equipment included cruise control, power windows and remote door locking, and a power driver’s seat along with chromed bumpers, grille and door handles. The base price was $28,170 and, with the options, topped out at $30,255.
For such a big vehicle, the tester had decent acceleration and competent handling in traffic in Miami, Fla., at the national introduction. Most of the driving was with the test vehicles empty, although Nissan also loaded them with $35,000 worth of building materials that it donated to Miami’s Habitat for Humanity, which were effortlessly hauled from Loew’s to the Habitat warehouse.
Because these vehicles are in a heavy-duty truck category, they are not rated by the EPA for fuel economy. Much depends on how they are loaded and used, but no one should expect much in the way of economy, as witness the inclusion of a 28-gallon gasoline tank.