When this awkwardly shaped box was awarded the distinction of New York City's "Taxi of Tomorrow" contract, many wondered how Nissan planned to make this not-designed-for-U.S. van a viable replacement for the 13,000 cabs on the road in the Big Apple. The compact NV200 van showed up in taxi livery at a "sneak peek" clinic in Times Square late last year, showing off its skyview roof panels and innovative interior layout. But many questions remained: Would it be powerful enough? Was the shape distinct enough to represent New York's iconic taxicab fleet market? Was replacing a heavy-duty Ford Crown Victoria with the lightweight 2013 Nissan NV200 a good idea even? This van was never designed to be sold in the U.S. But it is. And Nissan thinks it has a winner on its hands.
Who It's For
Medallion holders, fleet operators, cab drivers, and shuttle runners should all be able to appreciate the 2013 Nissan NV200 Taxi, which the automaker says will start at $29,700 and include a long list of standard, exclusive features. At the past few auto shows, Nissan has been showing non-liveried NV200s alongside the bigger NV commercial vans to gauge public reaction. Nissan expects that the NV200 will be fighting directly against the Ford Transit Connect for city taxicab contracts. The NV200 will likely also find use in fleets for other services outside of taxicabs. As some markets or more regulated than others -- Chicago uses anything from Ford Crown Victorias to Scion xB compacts for taxi duty, for instance -- Nissan will have different concentrations of focus to gain market share for long-term contracts.
The 2013 Nissan NV200 Taxi isn't just an Asian design brought straight over. Not only has Nissan lengthened the NV200 for our market, relocating the gas tank for U.S. safety standards, but it also:
- Replaced the NV200's smallish four-cylinder engine with a bigger 2.0-liter borrowed from the Nissan Sentra.
- Installed skyview windows to be able to check out New York's iconic landscape.
- Installed heated and cooled rear seats. The seats have antimicrobial fabric, and the headliner has charcoal embedded in it to dissipate odors.
- Adapted a USB charging station in the back so that passengers can charge their cell phones and electronic devices, as well as reading lights.
- Added a wheelchair-capable option via Braun. Older taxis have generally had to use minivan platforms for handicap access. Otherwise, the NV200 will seat four.
- Included lights that flash behind the vehicle to let other drivers know its doors are open.
- Made a rearview camera and navigation system standard.
What We Think
Much like the Checker taxicabs before it, we have a certain amount of love for the Ford Crown Victoria. It's sad to see it go, but necessary. The Crown Vic was a V-8-powered gas hog. It was huge on the outside without much space on the inside. It would skid around on the snow and slush that would plague New York's winter streets.
The NV200 should alleviate all of those issues and usher in a truly modern vehicle, one which should be able to achieve fuel economy in the 20s instead of the teens or even single digits. It'll have traction and stability control. And Nissan will even be testing a handful of Leaf electric cars as taxis for emissions-free driving, pending one New York will have a lot more electric taxis. The NV200 has all the makings of a really good taxi for the heavily traveled Big Apple.
Back to Auto Show Coverage: New York 2012