It's a rare event when a new or even redesigned full-size cargo van comes along. Yet the Nissan NV is not only just a new make and model on the scene, it is a distinctly different and modern take on a formula that really hasn't changed much in decades. Take the basic shape of the NV, for instance. Nissan engineers' decision to push the engine out front pickup-style creates significantly more room for the driver and front seat passenger. This layout also allows for easier servicing, thereby reducing downtime for business users who depend on their vans day in and day out.
Nissan NV models are also available with a high roof that creates a positively cavernous cargo area that neither of the GM or Ford leaders offers. There are a number of equally appealing small details here, too, including an available lockable center console set up to hold hanging file folders or laptop computers and equipped with 120-volt AC power outlets. Add improved fuel economy and an attractive price tag that can be significantly lower than some competing models, and you have a well thought-out workhorse that nicely addresses the many shortcomings of traditional cargo vans.
Current Nissan NV
The full-size Nissan NV is new for 2012. It's offered in three different load ratings (1500, 2500 and 3500), two different roof heights and two trim levels. Powertrain choices include a 4.0-liter V6 engine (1500/2500 models only) that puts out 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, and a 5.6-liter V8 (optional on 2500, standard on 3500) that's good for 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. All that power is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.
On the road, the NV's 4.0-liter V6 has enough guts for light-duty applications, while the 5.6-liter V8 offers all the power most buyers are ever likely to need. Handling is better than you'd expect from a vehicle this size and the ride quality is reasonably comfortable by work-truck standards. Steering effort feels precise and nicely weighted and the turning circle is surprisingly small.
As for the interior, there's a lot more room to stretch out and move around than you'll find in the Chevy and Ford vans, though it's about the same as Mercedes' Sprinter. The cargo hold features wide-opening rear doors and near-vertical sidewalls that make for easy loading, plus a low step-in height, built-in mounting points for shelves, ladder racks and other work-related hardware. Between the rear wheelwells there's enough space to accommodate standard 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood or drywall with room to spare. High-roof models also offer nearly 77 inches of headroom, making them ideal for folks looking for a workshop on wheels they can walk around in.
The Nissan NV has ample storage here for smaller items, too, including large door pockets, a full-width overhead shelf on high-roof versions and a pull-out drawer underneath the driver seat. As for that seat, it provides good support for long days behind the wheel. It also features water-resistant cloth upholstery with specially reinforced strips along the outside edges that tend to see the most wear-and-tear.
Visibility, always an Achilles' heel of such large vehicles, is actually fairly good thanks to big windows and generously sized mirrors with built-in convex sections. That said, having the rear parking sensors that come standard on the SV model is still a big plus.
Read the most recent 2013 Nissan NV review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Nissan NV page.