2012 Nissan NV Passenger Van - FROM $31,690
Versatile seating, relatively pleasant driving dynamics and attractive pricing make the 2012 Nissan NV a solid new entry into the commercial van market.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Nissan NV Passenger is all-new.
Like Coke and Pepsi for soda, there have traditionally been two segment favorites for full-size vans: the Chevy Express (and its GMC Savana twin) and the Ford E-Series. But for 2012, Nissan is hoping to shake things up with its all-new 2012 Nissan NV Passenger van.
The NV Passenger joins the NV cargo van that's already been on sale for about a year. The Passenger is pretty similar to the cargo van, utilizing the same truck-based architecture and choice of either a 261-horsepower V6 or a 317-hp V8. Unlike the cargo van, though, the Passenger comes in just one heavy-duty 3500 configuration, and there is no tall-roof option offered.
Of course, the real difference between the two is seating. The NV Passenger comes with four rows of seating for a maximum capacity of 12 passengers. These seats are pretty easy to remove and are split either 50/50 or 65/35, meaning owners have a lot of flexibility as to how they want their van set up for seating. How much is a lot? Nissan says there are 324 different combinations. We'll take its word for that, but there are some other nice details here, too, including integrated seatbelts, extra power ports and standard full-length side curtain airbags.
Indeed, compared to the Chevrolet Express and Ford E-Series, the NV provides more comfortable seating for passengers, easier entry/exit and more pleasant driving dynamics. Admittedly, the same could be said for the more accommodating Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but it's considerably more expensive.
True, there's no extended-wheelbase NV model that can carry 15 passengers, and reliability and service support are nascent. But overall we think the 2012 Nissan NV Passenger is a solid new pick for businesses, groups and organizations in need of full-size van capacity.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan NV Passenger full-size van comes in just a single model: the 3500. There are three trims.
The base S comes with 17-inch steel wheels, a sliding passenger-side door, 50/50 rear doors that open 243 degrees, rear privacy glass, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. Optional is the Power Basic package that includes power windows and locks, cruise control and keyless entry.
Those features are standard on the SV along with chrome-clad steel wheels and other exterior trim, rear parking sensors, an eight-way power driver seat, manual lumbar, interior carpeting, a front center console, rear map lights and six speakers.
The SL trim level (V8 only) adds foglamps, front parking sensors, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Optional for the SV and SL is the Technology package that includes a navigation system, an iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio and a rearview camera. The SV's version also includes Bluetooth. V8-powered SV and SL models are available with a tow package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Nissan NV is available with either a 4.0-liter V6 engine (261 hp and 281 pound-feet of torque) or a 5.6-liter V8 (317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque). Both engines are paired to a five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Properly equipped, an NV Passenger has a maximum tow rating of 9,500 pounds.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Nissan NV include antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. Front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
The NV's front seats are well-shaped and firm enough to provide solid back and leg support on longer drives. The van's longer nose provides notably more space for the driver and front passenger's legs and feet than a typical van. All gauges and controls are large and intuitive and there are plenty of small cubbies and cupholders. Unfortunately, Nissan uses industrial-grade plastic for the armrests and the console lid, a lone glaring defect in an otherwise comfortable cabin.
The NV Passenger comes with four rows of seating for a maximum capacity of 12 passengers. The second and third rows are 65/35-split, while the fourth row is 50/50-split. Each section can be individually removed, allowing owners considerable flexibility for accommodating both passengers and luggage. With the fourth row removed, the second and third rows can be repositioned farther back for additional legroom.
Should you want to use the Passenger as a cargo van, removing the second, third and fourth rows will provide up to 234 cubic feet of space. Access to the business end of the van is aided by rear doors that swing open 243 degrees (and stay open thanks to magnets on the van's sides), well-placed grab handles and a relatively low step-in height.
For its considerable size -- 18 inches longer than a Chevy Suburban -- the 2012 Nissan NV Passenger is fairly easy to handle, with good sight lines to each front corner, precise steering and wander-free tracking at freeway speeds.
Even when carrying a moderate load of building materials, the V6 provides smooth and ample performance on city streets and while merging onto freeways. As expected, the V8's thrust is more effortless and its performance less affected when the van is burdened with a full payload. With either engine, the automatic furnishes smooth and timely gearchanges.
When not loaded with passengers or cargo, the NV gives a decent ride; adding some payload softens it up a bit. Wind and noise levels are fairly muted for such a boxy vehicle, even at higher cruising speeds.