Carry Me Home, and Home

Christie Schweinsberg Blogger, Senior Editor

May 12, 2014

3 Min Read
Carry Me Home, and Home

Once upon a time, buying a van in the U.S. didn’t involve flip-down video screens and stain-resistant fabrics.

Yes, in the days before they were “mini” and carrying kids, vans primarily were used for transporting stuff, and lots of it.

The humble cargo van never went away (hello Ford E-Series, er, Transit) but it has been rethought in recent years by some automakers.

First came Ford’s decision a few years back to bring the small-but-not-mini Transit Connect to the United States from Europe, recognizing business owners with small goods to transport didn’t need as much van as the E-Series, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Chevy Express offered.

Last year Nissan followed Ford’s entry into the small cargo-van segment, bringing over its European model, the NV200.

I had the chance on a recent weekend to drive an NV200 Cargo van, a $23,645 SV grade with Nissan’s 2.0L 4-cyl. gasoline engine mated to the automaker’s nearly-standard transmission, a CVT.

The NV keys arrived in our office at the right time, just after my husband and I had moved to a new home. We still own our old house and still had plenty of stuff in it that needed to go.

So last Friday evening we made the first of many trips between the old place and the new place, repeatedly loading and unloading our NV, which had some niceties such as remote keyless entry, power-heated exterior mirrors and, in a $950 technology package, a rearview monitor and Nissan’s telematics system.

Perhaps the best feature of the NV is its double sliding doors. With these you don’t need to worry about carrying a heavy box up to the “wrong” side of the vehicle. And with both doors sliding both spouses can be loading cargo. Ah, marital bliss.

The doors open and slide easily enough, although getting them to stay open sometimes requires a gentle-but-firm slam backward to stop them moving.

The rear doors are a standard 40/60-split design, which came in handy on Sunday when my husband wanted to transport two vintage bicycles without contorting them through the side openings.

The 82.8 ins. (2,103 mm) of cargo length behind the front seats, and 53.0 ins. (1,346 mm) of cargo height, is plenty of room for bikes to ride straight up on their kickstands.

As the bikes are slim we were able to pack plenty of boxes around them to stabilize them for the short-but-bumpy ride over to the new house.

Yes, one of my dislikes after hours of driving the NV was the not-well-damped suspension.

Riding with the bikes, and on Saturday a Craigslist-find metal bookshelf, in the back over pot-holed Metro Detroit roads exposes the need for better chassis tuning.

If I were a delivery driver who had to spend all day in this thing I’d probably crank the radio up and pop a couple Advil.

More sound deadening beyond a thin foam mat on the cargo floor also is needed to subdue the echoing that can come from driving around in a big empty metal box.

While our NV lacked side windows it did have rear glass, a $190 option on the SV grade. This was helpful but backing down our long driveway still was a slow and careful endeavor.

The rear camera was only semi-helpful. Bright sun washed out its picture half the time.

Climbing out was easy enough, but A-pillar-mounted grab bars are needed for easier entry – there’s nothing for the driver to grab for leverage other than the steering wheel.

Seats are supportive and storage spaces plentiful, with pockets in between the front seats and on both front doors. Standard power windows and door locks and non-standard satellite radio also were appreciated.

All in all, my husband and I were impressed with the NV200.

I think, after renting a large, unwieldy U-Haul truck two weeks ago, I’d almost rather move in multiple trips in an NV200 or similarly sized van, which brings up a possible business venture for Nissan, Ford, and Chevrolet, the latter of which will be selling its version of the NV200 this year.

Near as I can tell, none of the usual moving-van suspects offer small commercial-van rentals. Memo to marketing!

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