Test Drive: 2012 Nissan NV 2500  trucks car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan NV 2500. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2012 Nissan NV

My neighbour thought I’d called a plumber, and my friend figured she was getting a courier delivery when I pulled up in front of her house. But no, it was just my week’s test vehicle, the 2012 Nissan NV.

The what, you say? Well, it stands for “Nissan Van,” and it’s the Japanese automaker’s first move into the full-size work van market here in Canada. We’re really only familiar with Nissan’s work vehicles in the form of its pickup trucks, but it has been making commercial vehicles for 75 years, and 20 per cent of its business worldwide is in vans, buses and trucks. It’s now poised to compete with the Sprinter – initially a Dodge, now badged as Mercedes-Benz, the company which always built it – along with the GMC Savana, Chevrolet Express and Ford E-Series.

Test Drive: 2012 Nissan NV 2500  trucks car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan NV 2500. Click image to enlarge

The NV is available as a 1500, 2500 or 3500. The 1500 comes with a 4.0-litre V6 borrowed from the Frontier pickup. The 2500 can be had with the V6, or as with my tester, a 5.6-litre V8 from the Titan. The 3500 comes strictly with the V8. Both engines use a five-speed automatic transmission. There is only one body length, but the 2500 and 3500 can also be ordered with a high roof. So far, the only configuration is one sliding door on the passenger side, two seats, and no rearward windows; Nissan hasn’t confirmed if it will turn the NV into a passenger van. It’s also single-rear-wheel only, and there’s no diesel option with none planned. The company says there just isn’t enough interest from van buyers.

Tempting as it may be to think of the NV as a Titan with a body, it shares only its engine and one crossmember with that pickup truck. The rest of it, built in the company’s factory in Mississippi, is unique to it, including the fully-boxed frame. Pricing ranges from $30,998 for the V6-powered 1500 in base S trim, to $39,668 for the high-roof version of the 3500 in the higher SV trim line.

My tester, the 2500 SV V8 with standard roof, clocked in at $35,678. That got me 17-inch steel wheels, Class IV receiver hitch, chrome bumpers and grille, power mirrors with integrated convex spotter tow mirrors, rear cargo mat, rear parking sensors, eight-way power driver’s seat, deep “mobile office” centre console, air conditioning, CD stereo, tire pressure monitoring system, side seat and curtain airbags, and three cargo lights.

Test Drive: 2012 Nissan NV 2500  trucks car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan NV 2500. Click image to enlarge

It’s sold and serviced through specific Nissan dealers that offer priority scheduling for commercial customers, extended service hours, and dedicated service bays that can handle the height of the roof.

While many people think a work van is just a box on wheels, the reality is that an enormous amount of thought and planning went into the NV, and it shows. There are all kinds of little touches throughout that indicate the company didn’t just draw it up on the computer, but listened to people who use their vans each day and incorporated many things that would make it better.

For starters, it’s built similarly to a pickup truck with its engine completely in front. That gives it an odd-looking bulbous nose (which isn’t so bad with the chrome grille, but pretty hideous with the base black one), but it also means that since the engine compartment isn’t protruding into the cabin, there are full-size footwells that will easily accommodate long legs and clunky work boots. That’s part of the marketing too, as Nissan hopes to target buyers who buy pickup trucks because they dislike a van’s tighter seating, but who don’t like burrowing under the truck’s cap to access their tools.