2012 Nissan NV 2500. Click image to enlarge
The seats are comfortable, clad in a water-repellent cloth fabric but with a vinyl patch on the cushion’s side, where full days of getting in and out tend to wear that area faster. The stitching is on the bottom as well, rather than across the top of the seat where the threads would be more prone to wear. A pocket on the front of the driver’s seat can be used to stash a cell phone, along with cubbies in the dash and front floor console. The door pockets are huge. The passenger seat folds flat and has a deep plastic cove in it. It’ll work as a table or lunch stand, and long lumber can be tucked into the cove to prevent it from sliding forward into the dash.
There are storage drawers under both seats and they slide out sideways, which makes it easier to pull them open when you’re standing outside the vehicle. The centre console is deep enough to hold a briefcase, laptop or files, and there’s a spot on the upper part of the lid where papers can be clamped, turning it into a quasi-clipboard. For those who need to access the rear part of the van from inside, the console can be unbolted and removed entirely to leave space between the seats.
The interior is also pre-drilled with numerous threaded holes on the walls and ceiling so that racks can be accommodated. Buyers can opt for a no-charge interior rack system or a roof rack – and holes are pre-drilled up top as well. The wheel wells are flat-topped, and the fuel filler tube is hidden and protected to prevent damage from cargo being knocked against it.
As with the Sprinter, the rear doors can be opened straight out, or the hinges unlatched and folded against the side. The sliding door can still be fully opened even when the back door is swung around. However, while the hinges are easy to open, they’re not as simple as the Sprinter’s to close back up again. You have to pull on a small metal lever to release them – it takes a fair bit of pressure – and if you forget to do this before closing the door, it pushes the mechanism back into the latch. I learned to keep a small stick in the rear door pocket, because if I forgot and pushed the latch in, I had to use the stick to pry it back out.
While most of us will never drive an enclosed work van as a pleasure vehicle, those looking at it for the job site will be pleasantly surprised. Making 317 horsepower and 385 lb.-ft. of torque, the V8 is strong and quiet. The V6 makes 261 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque, and I’ve driven both of them fully loaded; neither one leave you wanting for more power. The five-speed automatic includes a tow-haul mode and manual shift mode mounted on the shift lever, and with the factory-installed hitch, the V8 is rated for a 9,500-lb towing capacity. The NV is large enough that it doesn’t have official fuel figures, but in a week of driving it primarily empty, I got 17.1 L/100 km (17 mpg Imp).
The ride is springy when it’s empty, and smoothes out when it’s loaded. The short turning circle makes it easy to work your way around city traffic and into tight spaces, while those fold-back rear doors let you back it right up to a work station or loading dock. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are standard. The convex spotter mirrors are a great design: a car has to be directly behind you and right on your bumper before it disappears from sight.
It’s a small segment, but Nissan is hoping to tap into it in a big way. GM and Ford’s vans have been virtually unchanged for several years, while the Sprinter, having switched from the more mainstream Dodge badge to the upscale Mercedes-Benz star, must overcome perception from buyers who might now see it as pricier (the MSRP has come down, which helps to offset dealers’ higher labour rates) and worry about customer perceptions (as in, is my plumber charging me too much when he can afford a Mercedes?). For trades people who don’t want a diesel or need an extended-length van, the NV is a must on the test-drive list.
Pricing: 2012 Nissan NV 2500 V8 Standard Roof
Crash test results