First Look: 2011 Nissan NV

For the past decade the commercial van segment has been idle with the same stale vehicles: Ford E-series, Chevrolet Express, and Mercedes-Benz (formerly Dodge) Sprinter. So the addition of another player to the game with a whole new model is big news.

Enter the 2011 Nissan NV (Nissan Van), which catapults Nissan into the North American commercial vehicle market. If the NV name sounds familiar, it’s because Nissan currently has an NV in Europe, called the NV200, and has had success with the Ford Transit Connect-sized vehicle. Nissan has now designed a full-size NV for North America that is based on a redesigned Titan chassis with a fully boxed frame, heavy duty suspension components and brakes. Under the hood are two choices of engines: a 5.6-liter V-8, or a smaller 4.0-liter V-6; both are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage numbers have not been released.

The Nissan NV will come in three variants: 1500, 2500, and 3500. Although only one wheelbase is offered, there are two styles of roofs to choose from: standard or high, with the latter being available in only 2500 and 3500 variants. The high roof provides an astonishing 76.5 inches of cargo height (just over six feet) while the standard roof offers a respectable 55.4 inches. Cargo width is an equally impressive 70.3 inches (53.9 inches between the wheel wells) and will easily swallow a standard 48-inch wood pallet. All NVs offer 120.7 inches of cargo floor length, meaning the entire cargo area of 300+ cubic feet is almost large enough to surround a MINI Cooper like a cocoon.

While designing the NV, Nissan interviewed current van owners to obtain information on what consumers would like to see improved. As a result the NV received lots of clever features; the passenger seat folds down and doubles as a work table; the wheel houses are squared off inside the cargo area; the sidewalls are vertical all the way to the roof for optimum cargo space; there’s an abundance of lighting, wide door openings, multiple power outlets, and multiple attachment points for shelves and racks.

The NV will be built at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant, which has just undergone a $118 million renovation to incorporate the new model. Nissan says 200 dealers have already expressed interest in selling the new commercial truck, and each one will need an overhaul of their own: larger garage-bay doors, heavy-duty hydraulic lifts, and sales/technician training are all on the agenda. If all goes to plan, the first NVs should be on dealer lots by November 1, 2010. Nissan also said a 12-passenger bus version will be coming later in 2011. Pricing for the Nissan NV has not been released.