Nissan NV200 Combi: This Van Can!

Nissan NV200 Combi: This Van Can!

When not stuck behind my computer writing copy or answering e-mails, I can either be found drumming, cycling or motor racing. And these are activities that are attached to an inordinate amount of gear: objects and things and accessories that regularly need to be moved from point A to point B. And of course none of my cars is up to the task.

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My Toyota MR2 Spyder weeps at the sight of a laptop bag — and its dented garage-mate, an old Opel Corsa Lite, barely has enough space for a dismantled mountain bike. It’s frustrating. Which is why I got all excited when Nissan recently dropped off a NV200 Combi at our offices. Designed to straddle the gap between work and play, this handsome van couldn’t have arrived at a better time. My pop band, The Near Misses, was gearing up for its first official gig, so most of our evenings had been reserved for last-minute jam sessions. Which meant that I needed to schlep cymbals and drums and hardware to and from our practice venues. Normally this would be a source of intense irritation, but in the Nisan NV200 it proved to be nothing short of a pleasure. After folding up the third row of seats (two chairs that take the Combi’s seating capacity up to a generous seven), I was left with a wide, flat loading bay that easily swallowed up all noise-making equipment.

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And as it didn’t impinge on the second row, I still had extra space available to seat rogue band mates and/or groupies (yeah, dream on dude). If the cargo space was impressive, so too was this van’s accessibility. With sliding doors on either side and a large rear hatch that opens and closes with minimal elbow grease, loading and unloading the NV200 is a breeze — even in the confines of a crowded car park it was easy to unpack all my gear. Despite being designed as a packhorse, Nissan’s rival to the VW Caddy turned out to be quite a nice thing to pilot. You see, any good city van worth its salt needs to be manoeuvrable and, thanks to the fitment of teeny 14-inch alloys (last seen in the late Iron Age) and a 10.6m turning circle, this is what the NV200 does best.

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Whether parallel parking or alley docking, I never found myself struggling to position this nimble brick on wheels. Adding to the ease of use was a fairly large glasshouse that provides a useful amount of all-round visibility. Another welcome surprise was the 1.5-litre diesel engine Nissan decided to use. Although I thought this little oil-burner was going to be somewhat underpowered, there was actually more than enough torque on tap to propel me and my musical cargo forward at an acceptable lick.

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Unfortunately, and no doubt to extract the best possible performance in the stop-start urban environment, the short-ratio five-speed manual gearbox quickly runs out of revs when cruising at higher speeds out on the highway. Venture beyond 130km/h and things start feeling a bit too loud and busy for my liking. Yep, the NV200 might not be the world’s best long-distance cruiser, but for drudging through chaotic city traffic it’s ideal — even more so when, after a week of driving, you check the fuel economy gauge and see a very respectable 6.8l/100km.

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Luxury levels are high too, with features like Bluetooth, air conditioning and a multi-function steering wheel; all installed as standard. There’s even an auxiliary-in and USB port to keep the music fans happy. Despite being an almost perfect package, I did have a few honest gripes about the NV200. For example, the driving position seemed sculpted only for people with orangutan proportions (read superlong arms and stumpy legs). The rear-view mirror also has no day-night toggle switch, which means that after the sun slinks below the horizon, you spend your evenings being dazzled by everybody else’s xenon headlights.

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The third and final annoyance was the inexcusable absence of a rear windscreen wiper. Come on, Nissan, this should be a mandatory piece of safety kit. Aside from these niggles, the NV200 was an absolute joy: a load-carrying godsend that again demonstrated how badly I need a van like this in my hobby-filled life. In fact, I think that in the next year or so, I’ll probably have to take the plunge, sell the Corsa and buy one. Should this happen, the NV200 would definitely feature as a possible candidate.

Thomas Falkiner

The Facts: Nissan NV200 Combi
Engine: 1 461cc, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 66kW at 4 000rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 1 750rpm
CO2: 134g/km
Consumption: 6.8l/100km (Achieved)
Price: R303 900