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Driving the all-new 2014 Nissan NV200 down the sunny streets of San Diego this past week put a funny thought in my brain: could this compact cargo van, and its rival the Ford Transit Connect, be the one-two punch that finally finished off mid-size pickups in the United States?
Think about it for a minute. For a starting price of less than $20,000, 2014 Nissan NV200 buyers get a vehicle that can haul 1,500 lbs of cargo inside an enclosed area that offers 122 cubic feet of total volume, combined with a ceiling height of 53 inches. Not only that, but the NV200 also turns in fuel mileage of 24-mpg combined and features the startling degree of cargo management flexibility that only a rectangular box on wheels can offer. You’re not going to find a truck out there that offers that kind of practicality and efficiency together, and you’re certainly not going to be able to snag one that doesn’t feel like you’re riding in a stripped-down tin can unless you spend considerably more money.
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Of course, there are caveats, but the quibbles are minor. The 2014 Nissan NV200 is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that feeds 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a continuously-variable automatic transmission. That’s not the kind of package that’s going to appeal to the more rough-and-tumble members of the mid-size pickup crowd, and the NV200 certainly can’t hack it off-road. But for the huge number of would-be truck buyers who want a useful vehicle that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg to fuel up every week – especially business owners – the NV200 and vans like it make a lot of sense.
I can picture it now. Fleets of NV200’s prowling the calm suburban streets of Anytown, USA, parking only to disgorge their cargo of lawn care implements or pick up junk for the local recycling company. Drivers never getting lost thanks to the Nissan’s available touchscreen navigation system, cargo not getting wet because of, well, the roof, and fleet managers living longer, happier lives due to the reduced stress associated with cheaper operating costs.
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The demise of the Ford Ranger, which had always been the go-to cheap-and-practical option for compact fleet shoppers, has left a huge hole in the market that just isn’t being filled by the Toyota Tacoma or the four-door-only Nissan Frontier – vehicles which long ago left the compact segment behind in search of sales-killing near-parity with the full-size segment. With rumblings that any truly new compact trucks will feature a unibody-style platform in place of a traditional ladder frame, the potential for the Nissan NV200 to step up big time and score legions of disaffected pickup owners is bubbling right under the surface.
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