Until last year, all Nissan’s light commercial vehicles were rebadged Renaults (Kubistar = Kangoo, Primastar = Trafic and Interstar = Master).
The manufacturer’s first “home grown” product, the NV200 on test here, pitched Nissan right into the hardest-fought section of the market, against some incredibly tough opposition such as the new Fiat Doblo Cargo, Ford Transit Connect, Volkswagen Caddy and Citroën Berlingo.
To battle against such titans, Nissan needed a USP – and that USP is space
For while in standard format the opposition offers 3.2 cubic metres of loadspace, the NV200 has 4.2 cubic metres.
To have that much room in a Caddy, for instance, you need to opt for the Maxi version, which weighs in at £14,510 ex-VAT against the NV200’s £12,885.
On paper, the NV200 looks great value for money but of course – as with most things in life – it just isn’t that simple. For example, while the NV200 is predicted to retain 30% of its value after three years/60,000 miles according to CAP Red Book, the Caddy Maxi retains 35%.
There is also the question of general fit and finish.
While the NV200 is adequately screwed together and offers a reasonable driving experience, there is no doubt that the Caddy’s build quality is superior.
To try to rebalance the books, Nissan has upped the spec of the NV200.
Top of the billing is the standard fitment of Bluetooth connectivity across the entire range. Step up to SE grade and a rear view camera becomes standard.
The new £13,585 n-tec variant adds Nissan Connect satellite navigation and communication system along with cruise control and a speed limiter which can be adjusted by the driver.
There is also a HI-TEC option package for the n-tec variants, with air conditioning and intelligent key both added to the kit list.
Enginewise, in addition to the existing 85hp 1.5-litre dCi, a more powerful 110hp version of the same engine will be offered.
Our test model is the lower-powered one – it’s the same as the engine in the Kangoo and various other Renault cars – and offers 54.3mpg on the combined cycle, which rather curiously is exactly the same as that of the Caddy Maxi mentioned earlier.
Gross vehicle weight is bang on 2.000kg while payload is 731kg.
Standard equipment includes twin sliding side doors, a driver’s airbag, ABS brakes with EBD and remote central locking.
Behind the wheel
There can be no doubt that the NV200 is a hugely practical vehicle but I must say I am rather put off by its rather curious outer appearance – the wheels don’t seem to be the right size for the body.
Luckily, buyers tend to weigh practicality heavier than looks when choosing a van so fleets may not be deterred by this fact.
In the cab, the seats are nice and comfortable with lots of side support and there are plenty of nooks and crannies for bits and pieces, plus two coffee cup holders.
In the rear, the two side-loading doors are unique as standard in the sector and proved pretty handy too, although I was annoyed that the rubber floor mat didn’t fit properly and kept rucking up when I tried to push cargo into the load area.
Against some of the opposition, however, those side doors appeared a trifle tinny too.
The Renault diesel powerplant is a delight, firing up quietly and smoothly. Under way, the NV200 cuts along at a pace but, despite a slick gear-change, the power steering is much too light for me, leaving little ‘feel’ for what’s going on between steering wheel and road.
There’s plenty to recommend this perky performer – and if its space you need, this is the cheapest van you can get with more than 4.0 cubic metres. Build quality can’t match some top-notch contenders, though.