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Nissan has been absent from the medium-sized van sector since 2014 when the Primastar ceased production, but it’s back with the new NV300 which is the final piece in the Nissan commercial vehicle puzzle. The Japanese brand aims to be a “one-stop shop” for van buyers with a wide range of vans.
The NV300 is based on the Renault Trafic, which means it’s the same van as the Vauxhall Vivaro and Fiat Talento, and is built by Renault at its factory in Sandouville, France, taking aim not only at the vans listed above, but also the new Peugeot Expert, Citroen Dispatch, Toyota Proace and ubiquitous Ford Transit Custom.
While Nissan has its own bold nose grafted on the front – it was designed at Nissan’s London design office like the latest Qashqai crossover – everywhere else you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Renault Trafic.
Inside, everything is lifted straight from its French contemporary – the steering wheel, dials, window switches, air-con controls and infotainment system are pure Renault, similar to those you’ll find in its passenger cars like the Clio and Captur. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, because it’s all user-friendly and makes the NV300 feel that little bit more car-like on the inside.
There’s a total of four engines available in the NV300, sourced from the familiar Renault/Nissan stable, so that means you get a 1.6-litre dCi diesel similar to that found in the Qashqai and X-Trail, available in four power outputs – 95, 120, 125 and 145hp. The first two are single-turbo engines while the latter pair are twin-turbo engines.
The NV300 comes in a variety of sizes too. There’s the standard version (L1H1), standard wheelbase with high roof (L1H2), long-wheelbase with standard roof (L2H1) and long-wheelbase with high roof (L2H2). There’s also a six-seater crew van, nine-seater NV300 Combi (available in standard and long-wheelbase form) and a platform cab for bespoke commercial vehicles. A variety of door combinations are available, too.
Aside from the Toyota Proace, the Nissan NV300 is the only medium-size commercial vehicle offering a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty, adding extra appeal over its Renault, Vauxhall and Fiat stablemates. It’s the Renault that comes closest with a four-year offering.
Nissan is also making bold claims about the NV300’s running costs, with CO2 emissions from as low as 145g/km and longer service intervals of two years and 25,000 miles. Five-year roadside assistance is also included.
Like the Renault Trafic, the Nissan NV300 feels more like an MPV than a full-on van, thanks to details you’ll find in several Renault cars – the dials look to be lifted straight from the Clio supermini, while the touchscreen infotainment system available higher up the range is slick to use and makes it feel more car-like.
While the plastics feel largely hard-wearing, the panel ahead of the passenger where the airbag is feels very flimsy indeed – it’s soft to the point of being able to push it in a good couple of centimetres.
It’s very easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, while there’s 89 litres of storage space available inside the cab, some of it more useful than others – the fold-down cupholder, for example, is very shallow meaning most drinks are likely to fall out if you take a corner even a little bit enthusiastically. There’s a useful tray area on top of the dashboard, though, and the dash-top cubby is a good size too.
Nissan is aiming to appeal to modern buyers with the NV300, so there are plenty of options available to turn it into a “mobile office”. That means there are various cradles available for smartphones and tablets, laptop storage and a delivery note holder. There’s even a removable clipboard holder attached to the back of the centre seatback that can be adjusted into various positions when the centre seat is folded down.
There are four 1.6-litre dCi turbodiesel engines to choose from in the NV300 in various power outputs, all of which are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox:
The expected best-seller is the 125hp twin-turbo version which we drove on the launch alongside the more powerful 145hp version in the nine-seater Combi bodystyle. Nissan also claims it’s the most efficient of the bunch.
Like its installation in Renault and Nissan passenger cars, the 1.6-litre dCi unit is smooth and refined on the move, making it feel even more car-like at higher speeds. The twin-turbo of our test van helped with providing that extra punch for overtaking manoeuvres, too.
Lumps and bumps on rough Moroccan roads were soaked up admirably, even with a payload on board. We suspect it’ll be a bit bouncier when empty, but it was a solid performer and never uncomfortable.
The steering is well-weighted, if a little lifeless, but the NV300 is very easy to control at both high speeds and when manoeuvring, helped by great visibility thanks to large side mirrors and a large area of glass.
The six-speed manual gearbox is precise enough, but it has quite a long throw. It’s easy to use though and the NV300 does feel much more like a large MPV than cumbersome commercial vehicle.