The Chevrolet City Express is part of a new market segment, that of the small commercial van. Other countries are crawling with these useful little vehicles, but here in the United States they have been all but unheard of until recently. A handful of manufacturers offer these smart little vans; Chevrolet's City Express is not a home-grown design but rather a rebadged version of the Nissan NV200. Aside from the badging, the two vans are virtually identical.
Anyone who has tried to shoehorn a full-size cargo van through traffic-choked urban streets or tight parking lots will see the advantage of the City Express. Parking a full-size van can be like docking a cruise ship; the City Express feels more like a ski boat, and not just because of its small size. We like the light steering, sharp turn-in and small turning radius. And yet the City Express hauls more than you might expect: Cargo capacity maxes out at 122.7 cubic feet, with a maximum payload of 1,500 pounds. This puts it toward the lower end of small vans, but it's still a lot of capacity for a vehicle the size of a small car.
Unlike some of its competitors, the City Express does not offer a passenger version; this is a dedicated cargo van with just two seats. The passenger seatback can be folded down to serve as a work desk or impromptu picnic table. Interior accommodations are basic, and the non-telescoping steering wheel means finding a comfortable driving position can be a challenge. But cargo fares pretty darn well. The City Express has dual-sliding doors at the side and wide-opening barn doors at the back, and the cargo area is festooned with cargo tie-downs and mounting points for shelving installation.
The City Express offers just one powertrain: a Nissan-sourced 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 131 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Fuel economy is a strong point. The EPA estimate is 25 mpg combined (24 city/26 highway). But performance isn't all that brisk — we timed the City Express to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds, slow by car standards but about average among small vans, and a heavy load will only make it feel slower. The City Express' braking performance was also poor; a hard stop from 60 mph took a lengthy 143 feet.
Chevrolet offers the City Express in LS and LT models. The former comes decently equipped for a basic work van, while the latter adds features that make a day spent in the van more bearable. Which model is best? Edmunds can help find the perfect 2017 Chevrolet City Express for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.