The Nissan NV is a cargo van, so the normal metrics by which I evaluate a car are irrelevant. Sure, the steering feel is pretty lackluster, but it's light enough to make maneuvering this van a breeze. Yes, the air conditioning takes a long time to cool the cabin, but it does have 420.5 cubic feet of air to chill. The lack of side windows may make for horrific blind spots -- I turned my head when changing lanes, only to see bare metal -- but that's why the mirrors have convex inserts. The metal frames of the rear doors block the view of cars directly behind you -- OK, that's just plain annoying.
Of course, none of those things really matter. The real story is just how much stuff can be carried inside this van. Our NV 2500 was the high-roof model, meaning it is nearly nine feet tall outside and can fit things just over six feet tall inside. I went grocery shopping and found that my shopping bags only filled about 0.1 percent of the NV's colossal cargo bay. The van's size and lack of interior finishing means it echoes inside; when the doors lock as you drive off, the noise ricochets around the cabin like a gunshot.
There also is an amazing amount of storage space up front, including a lockable cubby between the two seats that is large enough to fit my bulky laptop bag. There are big storage bins above the windshield, slide-out trays beneath each seat, extra-deep door pockets, and four big cup holders. The seats are surprisingly comfortable, and the optional radio has navigation and satellite radio. I can absolutely imagine the Nissan NV serving as a comfortable and practical vehicle in which to spend a day delivering packages, cakes, furniture, or whatever else was in the back of the big van.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
From the first time you slip behind the wheel of the NV, it's apparent how much time and thought Nissan's designers and engineers have put into this van. Each console and cupholder is within reach and is large enough for any kind of workhorse duty. The center console will easily swallow a laptop or two, has space for pens and cards, and has a handy spot for clipping papers to the top of the console cover. Importantly for a work van, everything appears extremely durable and should hold up well over numerous years' use and abuse.
What's most remarkable about the NV is the fact that it is extremely easy to drive. The V-6 has plenty of power and has no problem cruising at highway speeds. However, the five-speed automatic seemed somewhat unsorted at times around town, not always quite sure of what gear it should be in. Luckily, that can be easily remedied by using the manual shift function on the column shifter.
Best of all, the Nissan's price undercuts that of its competition. Our high-roof NV2500 HD retailed for $31,975 and comes equipped with such creature comforts as a navigation system, backup camera and sensors, and Bluetooth. A comparable Mercedes-Benz Sprinter comes in at about $38,000, the Ford E-150 at about $33,000, and the Chevrolet Express at $28,000, but lacking a number of upmarket features.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Nissan's NV2500 is possibly the most interesting vehicle I've driven this year. Cargo vans are no longer penalty boxes for their commercial drivers now that Nissan offers navigation, satellite radio, an auxiliary input, and an integrated iPhone USB port that allows the stereo to take control of the device. Everything inside the NV is very well planned and makes for a very versatile space. I don't know how the V-6 would handle towing my race car, but the idea of keeping the inside of the van stocked with spare parts and still having room to work inside and be shielded from the sun when I'm at the track is pretty appealing. The NV even drives surprisingly well for being so long and tall - it's much easier to pilot around town than a heavy-duty pickup truck.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
This is a motorhome without a couch (which could be added quite easily). Our NV is completely empty in the cargo area, which makes imagining customization possibilities very easy: Game room complete with card table and dart board? Easy. Walk-in closet for Imelda Marcos? Simple. The coolest tailgating pad ever? Sure thing. Those are in addition to all the professional applications that Nissan envisions customers using NVs for. Indeed, the consumer site for this vehicle includes "vocational solutions" for cargo-management systems specified for cable TV workers, heating-and-cooling specialists, and electricians.
Since I had the NV for only one evening and am far less skilled than its typical customer, I used its vast empty confines as a playroom for my two young daughters. The padded floor made it very easy for my eight-month-old to crawl around, and my two-year-old had lots of fun climbing all over the cabin and checking out the 243-degree-opening rear doors.
Once I'd ditched the offspring, I was impressed with the NV's relatively quiet ride (for a vast steel box, at least). However, I'm very skeptical that a V-6-powered high-roof 2500 model would be able to get out of its own way once loaded down with gear and equipment ... unless your business is hauling helium-filled balloons.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
We have a 1997 diesel-powered Chevy 3500 Express panel van in the DeMatio family fleet, so I have more experience with big work vans than most of my colleagues. The NV has decently accurate steering, which is THE dynamic quality that you care most about when you're piloting a big box like this. Acceleration from the V-6 is fine, even if the engine sounds raspy and taxed, and you can cruise easily at 80 mph, but I missed my diesel when I was driving the Nissan. I know, I know, a diesel engine would add greatly to the NV's cost, and the NV's calling card is its affordability.
Our test vehicle was completely empty, so there was a huge amount of road noise and exhaust boom reverberating through the cargo hold and up into the cabin area. Most owners will, I predict, have the vehicle outfitted with whatever shelving, storage units, and other equipment apply to their particular profession (electrician, plumber, woodworker, cable repair, utility company, catering company, mobile dog groomer, mobile blood collection unit, etc.). Most will also have a divider between the cab and the rear compartment, so that should cut down tremendously on the noise that echoed through our empty tester, and it will also negate any problems with heating or cooling the cabin to a comfortable temperature for its occupants. Even if you don't have a divider, a lot of the noise will be absorbed by whatever is in the cargo hold.
In general, I say "Bravo" to Nissan for building a vehicle that will, I'm sure, ably serve the needs of many tradespeople and other specialty-needs owners.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
My parents loved the NV perhaps more than any other press car I've brought over to their house, but I have a feeling it was because it allowed me to move so much of my junk out of their basement in one fell swoop. Between two trips, I moved a large dining room table, a four-drawer filing cabinet, a tall bookshelf (standing upright), an ungainly stereo cabinet, several pieces of audio equipment, a La-Z-Boy recliner, and a 20-year-old two-stage snowblower. Impressive - but even more impressive is the fact that there was still considerable room to spare on both trips.
I remember hearing the talking points of the NV during the original press launch, but it was great to be able to put them to use. The bolt-on grab handles in both the side and rear doorways make stepping in and out of the truck an absolute breeze. The three dome lamps spread across the cargo compartment are nice when trying to work inside at night. The D-rings built into the load floor -- each rated to withstand 1000 pounds -- came in handy for cinching down cargo. I never had a chance to use the 120-volt outlet in the cargo space (perfect for powering work tools, I imagine), but I did make use of all the cubbies. The center console is big enough for hanging file folders, the overhead racks perfect for extra bungee cords, and the underseat drawers ideal for throwing in a few hand tools before hitting the road.
I'm perhaps most impressed with the space provided to the driver and passenger. Pulling the engine compartment forward is a little unconventional, but it's a great decision: neither driver nor passenger need share their footwells with the traditional engine doghouse cover. The only real downside I can see is when trying to maneuver in tight spots - the elongated wheelbase inherently makes the NV a little more cumbersome than some of its competitors.
Nissan has quite a few good ideas bundled into the NV -- but will it gain footing in an industry all but dominated by the traditional Ford E-Series and General Motors G-vans? Perhaps -- I'm already starting to see a number pop up at job sites around town, perhaps a sign that Nissan's offering the right content at the right price.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Edidtor