• Feb 28th 2011 at 11:57AM
  • 54
Building A Better Box For Your Budding Business

2012 Nissan NV – Click above for high-res image gallery

Nissan has been a player in the world's commercial vehicle market for a long time. In fact, 2011 marks the company's 75th year in the industry, and these workhorses represent 20 percent of Nissan's total annual sales volume. Nissan's commerical trucks and vans are used around the world, with over 700,000 units sold in 2010 alone. Yet, it's highly unlikely that you've ever even seen a Nissan commercial vehicle.

Nissan doesn't sell its commercial vehicles in the United States and Canada – instead, General Motors and Ford own the market. Things could change very quickly, however, because the 2012 NV commercial van is poised to hit the U.S. market. The Japanese automaker set out to build a commercial van to the exacting needs of this country's small business owners. It asked them questions and incorporated the thousands of answers it received. GM, Ford and even Mercedes-Benz should pay close attention, because the NV could be just what this country's blue-collar workforce ordered.

Continue reading First Drive: 2012 Nissan NV...

Photos copyright ©2011 Jeff Glucker / AOL

The 2012 Nissan NV is offered in three versions with a choice of two roof styles. The NV1500 is offered only with the Standard Roof, while the NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD can be ordered with either the Standard Roof or a High Roof. In Standard Roof guise, the NV looks like the automotive equivalent of a pit bull – it's handsomely ugly. The High Roof model still looks like a pit bull, but this pooch prefers a high-top fade that would make Kid and Play jealous. Neither version will win any vehicular beauty pageants, yet either one might just win you over should you press it into service. That's because the NV is basically a slab-sided cargo shed on wheels designed to maximize interior space. Its designers were only allowed to only throw in so many curves before Nissan's engineers stepped in and took away their pencils.

2012 Nissan NV

Those designers were granted a few of their wishes for the production model, as seen in the flared front fenders, sinewy hood bulge and set of 17-inch styled-steel wheels. The nose is filled out with a super-sized Nissan grille and large headlamps, while sharp lines traverse across the flat plains of the NV's side and converge at a crisp edge that sets up the rear end. Out back the design is more function trumping form, and the upright rear doors stand straight at attention. Particularly on the High Roof model, the van's substantial posterior takes on a monolithic appearance, and when wearing black paint, the whole thing looks downright Kubrickian.

The exterior proportions start to make far more sense when you see the inside of the NV, which is an engineering odyssey for interior space. Once you open the sliding side door and 243-degree-opening rear doors, you're treated to 234.1 cubic feet of cargo space in the Standard Roof NV, while the High Roof model adds an additional 89 cubic feet up high for a grand total of 323.1 cubic feet of storage. Both versions feature a low floor for easy loading and easy-to-reach grab handles for simple entry and exit. You'll have to bend down when standing in the Standard Roof NV but, at six-foot, three-inches tall, your author had an inch or so to spare standing straight up in the High Roof.

2012 Nissan NV side view2012 Nissan NV front view2012 Nissan NV rear view

You'll want to take a seat, however, in the front cabin of the 2012 Nissan NV. Instead of stuffing the NV with the cheapest seats in its factory, Nissan fitted a pair of thrones covered in premium cloth. The material is waterproof and has wear-resistant patches built-in to help the seats survive the grueling indignities of commercial duty. Traditionally, full-size work vans are fitted with stereos plucked from Wal Mart's bargain bin. In this Nissan, the base S trim NV gets a simple AM/FM/CD audio system with an auxiliary input as standard equipment. Opt for the SV trim level and you get an additional two speakers (four in total), power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat and rear parking sensors.

The ideal interior specification, however, come courtesy of the available Technology Package. A five-inch color touchscreen featuring the Nissan Navigation System and XM NavTraffic gets mounted into the center stack. When in Reverse, that five-inch screen shows you exactly what's happening behind the big-butt NV thanks to a rear-mounted camera. Bluetooth, USB ports and XM Satellite radio round out the optional upgrades and the entire bundle costs just $950. Nissan is quick to remind that a similar setup in a 2011 Ford E-Series will run you $3,275.

2012 Nissan NV interior2012 Nissan NV gauges2012 Nissan NV nav2012 Nissan NV seats

Regardless of how the 2012 NV is equipped, the driver's seat is comfortable and offers a high level of visibility from its perch. Large side mirrors enable clear views of both sides of the NV, and built-in convex spotter mirrors help reduce blind spots. If you want to increase visibility further, an all-around window package is offered. It's not entirely necessary thanks to those side mirrors and optional rearview camera, plus the sheetmetal keeps prying eyes away from your tools and cargo.

Pushing those tools and cargo around requires an engine with some grunt and Nissan has two options available. The NV1500 and NV2500 HD are equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 281 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. A stout 5.6-liter V8 is optional on the NV2500 HD and the only engine offered with the NV3500 HD. The eight-cylinder engine develops 317 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 385 pound-feet of torque at 3,400 rpm. Both engines are paired with a five-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually from the column shift lever.

2012 Nissan NV High Roof sliding door2012 Nissan NV High Roof cargo space

The six-cylinder engine is perfectly qualified for the task of lugging a loaded NV. Throttle response is a tad sluggish, but after a quick beat, the 4.0 leans back and powers forward. The 5.6, however, is a very different animal and responds instantly to a light touch of the gas pedal. It roars like a linebacker leaning into a vicious sack, and with the optional Tow Package equipped is capable of pulling 9,500 pounds, the same GVWR as Ford's E-Series.

Around town, both Standard and High Roof Nissan NV vans are surprisingly easy to maneuver. Up front sits an independent double-wishbone suspension, while out back the NV sports a solid rear axle surrounded by rigid leaf springs and a stabilizer bar. Driving a full-size van often feels like hustling around a scaled-down city bus, yet the NV feels more like a full-size pickup truck. If it starts to rumble down the road a little too quickly, the NV is easily reeled in by its four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution.

2012 Nissan NV cargo area2012 Nissan NV with pallet

Nissan is positioning the 2012 NV as a step above the full-size offerings from Chevrolet and Ford, yet the company is also aware that the NV sits a notch below the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Both the E-Series and the Express are offered in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions just like the NV, yet the Ford and Chevy have higher base MSRPs across the board. The NV1500 starts at $24,590 compared to $24,860 for the Blue Oval and $26,055 for the Bowtie. The price discrepancy is similar as you climb up their respective trim ladders. On the flip side, the Sprinter is available as a 2500, 2500 High Roof and 3500 High Roof, costing $35,995, $38,350 and $39,915, respectively.

Thus, the 2012 Nissan NV represents a real value for business owners. It's offered with attractive standard features, affordable options and pricing starts just below the competition. Nissan isn't stopping there, however, as NV buyers can choose between a free interior cargo system upfit or an Original Wraps custom graphics package with their purchase.

2012 Nissan NV headlight2012 Nissan NV grille2012 Nissan NV wheel2012 Nissan NV badge

Nissan has also gone out and spent time with business owners to determine what they need from a commercial van. This wasn't a marketing ploy where Nissan simply jotted down notes and collected emails to spam later. Nissan listened to what people were saying and then incorporated their needs into its heavy-duty work vehicle. The 2012 Nissan NV is easy-to-drive, offers a huge volume of usable cargo space and comes with a choice of free upgrades that should help ease the pain felt in a business-owner's wallet when making a big investment like this. It's also built in America in Nissan's Canton, Mississippi plant, something that many business owners are particularly conscious keen on.

Since those owners will need to work with dealers, it's also vital that Nissan lays the ground work for a strong network of support. A number of dealers are already eager to be a part of the new Nissan Commercial Vehicle network. By the end of 2012, Nissan expects to have 300 locations around the country ready to handle the unique demands of selling and servicing commercial vans. It already has 250 dealers signed up.

2012 Nissan NV rear 3/4 view

Nissan Commercial Vehicle dealerships will feature dedicated service bays, heavy duty vehicles lifts, in-stock parts, extended service hours and priority service scheduling. The company's commitment to serving business owners is evident in both the design of the NV and amount of support at the dealership level, but it will take at least a few years to know if Nissan has well-and-truly nailed the commercial brief... or if they've made a costly misjudgment.

Photos copyright ©2011 Jeff Glucker / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've decided that Nissan has lost their mind.

      Driving through a lot yesterday, you've got the Cube, the Juke(Puke), the new Quest - ugh. Their styling has taken a turn off the deep end.

      This vehicle isn't as bad as some of their others, but the front screams 2002 Pathfinder to me, for some reason.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All of Japan,Inc has lost it's mind style-wise. I'm not sure if its their American design studios or their aging Boards of Directors, but something has gone senile.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree that it's ugly, but unlike the other vehicles you list, this one is a result of function over form.

        Basically Nissan said "Yeah it's ugly, but if we make the nose like this, we make it a helluva lot more comfortable than a normal van."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Considering that Nissan posted record sales, 21.5% global sales growth, and record market share last year while also posting consistent profits, I don't think they lost their minds... maybe you are just out of touch.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Perusing car lots is a fun past-time for car guy friends of mine and myself, and I've yet to take a person, car guy or otherwise, to a Nissan lot and not have the entire car-full express their disgust at Nissan's latest offerings.

        The 350/370z is a beautiful piece of precision machinery, and the Maxima is gorgeous, but some of these quirky/weird offerings are just plain ugly.

        I think the premise of the NV - a budget-minded Sprinter - is pretty cool and definitely nifty for those who need this type of vehicle, I just think they could have made it less ugly. Also, that 4.0 seems incredibly inefficient by today's standards, especially considering how well Nissan's other sixes are in terms of power. I guess that's the reason for the low price, though...
      • 4 Years Ago
      No Diesel?

      (i don't know if one is available in Ford or GM's offerings)
        • 4 Years Ago
        They want to stick with regular gas. They looked at diesel and decided against it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I doubt Ford and GM have much to worry about. I mean after all, this is a Nissan truck, and we know how crappy the Titan and Armada are.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You have the wrong person...I drive Fords! And is there some reason why you cannot handle the truth? Please tell me you aren't defending that hideous ancient 3rd rate interior Titan and Armada? lol.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I almost wish they would offer an 9-passenger version with windows. I'd be more than mildly amused to take one of those for a test drive just to pi$$ off the wife. She'd be appalled, but that might make a pretty cool family hauler with a rumbly exhaust and decent set of rims.
        • 4 Years Ago
        you do not want a bowtie express as a family car....the engine is underneath the van and not within reach of the hood.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Check out that strange rounded rectangle on the side of the van, seems like that's where the windows will go.

        It's a shame they couldn't post any mileage figures, something the Sprinter may still have an edge in (and the Ford Transit continues to be a distant competitor instead of the direct competition that is was said to be when the NV was first talked about). IMO, what Nissan has made is a solid choice for someone in the market for a full-size van, but if it were me putting down the money for a full-size van, I'd still opt for a Ford. Their consistant reputation for reliability (for their vans at least) is really what'd win me over, though I'd be willing to give Nissan a chance before choosing a Chevy or a Sprinter.

        GMFanBoi- Your buyer's advice continues to be as helpful as AIDS.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @psarhjinian: When we replaced our diesel Savanna last year we found that the Sprinter 2500 std roof (still a lot more headroom than the GMC) was only $1500 more expensive and they threw in RH slider glass (very important for visibility) and the divider for that price. The dual sliders on this sprinter are great and the fuel milage is much better than the GMC. The only complaint I've heard is that the cab is a little awkward to get into because it is so upright. The other thing we hadn't thought about, but realized as soon as the Sprinter rolled into the parking lot - these slab sided vans make great billboards.

        I haven't seen anything yet on whether the Nissan has a LH slider option. For a route runner that is a really handy thing to have. I know they are working on a diesel because they have gotten a ton of feedback that they need one (and maybe the Nissan engineers have actually had to feed their V8 before?). Overall the Nissan looks to be fairly well thought out.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Then stay tuned... they are working on it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Express and Savanah as some of the most unpleasant, low-quality vehicles you can buy new. The powertrains aren't bad, but the trim and body poor (when was the last time you'd seen closing the sliding door nick paint from the front?) and the chassis so bad that it's actually unsafe. The Econoline is no great shakes, either, but it's not actively terrible like the GM vans are.

        The Sprinter, mind you, buries them all, but at a much steeper price.

        I worked for an aftermarket van body company for five years, and Ford outsold GM something like 10:1 chiefly because GM's offerings were utterly awful. It was curious, because no such disparity in sales existed between the stuff we sold that was based on the super-duty truck chassis. It's like GM didn't care.

        The NV is not a bad truck, but it's also in a tight spot: people who want big will choose the cheap and well-established Econoline; people who want new are going Transit Connect. People who want to spend money for go Sprinter. More than a few people will go Caravan CV. People who are contractually obligated to buy GM (or ignorant, or obstinate) get the Savannah/Express. Many, many people just get pickups. There's not a lot of room there.
        • 4 Years Ago
        We have a fleet of of Ford E Series Shuttle Vans... I would love to switch into something from Nissan with the 4.0lV6. The mileage on the Ford 4.6l V8 Sucks! I'm sure the Livery shuttling market can cure the looks of the front if needed.

        Give me a configuration that has a 15 passenger setup (including driver) with a 2500HD High Roof in the 4.0l V6, and space for luggage in the back for airport pickups/drop offs. I can just imagine the drivers not complaining about the crappy interiors!
        • 4 Years Ago
        who cares if the engine is under the van, its not like you will ever work on it.. they are super reliable!!
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Chevy Express and GMC Savana already answer your needs there, they are both way more reliable than anything Nissan or Ford puts out now, no need to buy this crap or an econocrap over those
      • 4 Years Ago
      When did Ford start making a Super Duty Transit Connect X-tra Large? Oh wait, thats a Nissan. Nevermind! Carry on!
      • 3 Years Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think Nissan hit a sweet spot in the Market for people wanting space of a Van with the look and feel of an Pick up truck....certainly looks like a super size Ford Transit...The option of high roof with out seeking fiberglass aftermarket option for the Chevy and Ford is a good option.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the likes of the TransitConnect have a brighter future in the land of $4+/gallon of fuel. It seems the monster-van category is well-served; however, the market is large and Nissan is wise to grab a slice, I suppose.
        • 4 Years Ago
        huh...good observation. The article made it seem like Nissan already had the R+D spent on this truck for overseas market- making even a low volume of sales profitable? i dunno just guesses over here
        • 4 Years Ago
        True...though I imagine the excess capacity at the truck plant in MS has something to do with it as well.
      • 4 Years Ago
      where's the milage information? :(
      • 4 Years Ago
      In the 1950's all big three american vehicle manufactures built their truck vans just like this Nissan. It's a shame they don't have the forward thinking to install a smaller diesel in this truck. Isn't that the definition of commercial vehicle. If more trucks and cars were to use the diesel we would not need to use alcohol and increase many related costs.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dang that nose makes me think of recent GM minivans.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This article reads like an advertisement.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @NightFlight: I'm not allowed to enjoy a vehicle that I review? I'm not allowed to answer questions or respond to comments?

        I think Nissan has produced a good work vehicle with the NV... and I tried to express that in the review.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, it really does and I have no idea what is going on here. It sounds fishy, that's all I know.

        It doesn't help that Jeff Glucker is running around in the comments heaping praise on the thing either.
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