2012 Nissan NV Van - FROM $25,050
A tall roof option, a pair of capable engines, 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 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 van.
There would seem to be room for improvement, since the Chevy and Ford haven't changed that much since Chevy Van was a top 10 single. Their snub-nose architecture and lack of a high-roof option can mean limited legroom, sore backs (from stooping) and bonked heads. Only the European-influenced Mercedes-Benz-built Sprinter offers a high-roof option, but it's also expensive and arguably underpowered. The Nissan NV promises to offer the best of both worlds.
The NV will come in three models (1500, 2500 and 3500), two roof heights (standard and high-top), two trims (S and SV) and with two strong engines (V6 and V8). By using an SUV/pickup-like front end, the Nissan NV provides more spacious footwells than the typical big van. And the high-roof option allows even those up to 6-foot-3 tall to stand up inside the truck. Other key features, such as the available massive center console box that can accommodate hanging files and a laptop computer, further make it an amenable ally for small businesses.
Compared to the E-Series and Express, the NV provides more driver and passenger space, more pleasant driving dynamics and more practicality via the available tall roof. It's also priced very competitively. Pitted against the Sprinter, the NV provides more power for hauling and towing (up to 9,500 pounds) while listing for about $10,000 less. True, there's no diesel engine option or passenger van configuration offered yet, and reliability and service support are nascent. But by offering the burly work capability of the traditional American van and the practical advantages of an available high roof, the 2012 Nissan NV should be a solid pick for commercial users and fleet operators.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan NV is a full-size cargo van available in three models: 1500, 2500 and 3500. The 1500 comes only with a standard roof, while the 2500 and 3500 offer a choice between a standard or high roof. They all have the same wheelbase and length, but as you move up in the model range, payload and towing capacities increase.
There are two trims. The base S comes with the bare necessities including cloth upholstery (with vinyl bolsters in high-wear areas), air-conditioning and a two-speaker audio system (with a CD player and auxiliary jack). The SV adds chrome exterior accents, full power features, upgraded audio (four speakers instead of two), cruise control and rear park assist. Available options (depending on trim) include rear door windows, a glass breakage sensor, a rearview camera and a Technology package (which includes satellite radio, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and a rearview camera).
Powertrains and Performance
Depending on model choice, the 2012 Nissan NV is available with either a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine or a 317-hp 5.6-liter V8. The 1500 is V6 only, the 3500 is V8 only and the 2500 offers a choice of either. Both engines are paired to a five-speed automatic and all NVs are rear-wheel drive. Properly equipped, an NV 3500 has a payload capacity of 3,925 pounds and 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 optional. Also optional is a rearview monitor (which is mounted in the rearview mirror).
Interior Design and Special Features
The NV's 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. The sun visors are huge and the available center console storage box is large enough to accommodate a laptop computer and hanging files.
All gauges and controls are large and intuitive and there are plenty of small cubbies for things like parking cards, cell phones and Power Bars. The four cupholders between the seats are generously sized for voluminous morning-size coffee cups. Unfortunately, Nissan uses industrial-grade plastic for the armrests and the console lid, a lone glaring defect in an otherwise comfortable cabin.
The NV cargo cabin sports nearly vertical side walls, which means more space inside for racks and such without encroaching on center walk-through space. Getting into 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.
The standard-roof NV offers 234 cubic feet of cargo space, while the high-top version provides 323 cubes. In the latter, people up to 6-foot-3 can stand up straight. Six D-rings on the floor allow you to secure cargo, and each is rated for a tensile strength of 1,124 pounds. Integral mounting points (bolt holes) in the cargo area make the NV easy to modify with racks or mounts.
For its considerable size -- 18 inches longer than a Chevy Suburban -- the 2012 Nissan NV 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 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.