The new 2013 Nissan NV200 compact cargo van, which debuts this spring at dealerships around the country is one of the first compact vans to come to our market in some time that may be a good candidate for a wheelchair ramp conversion.
Coming from the factory in a basic and efficient package, it may hold promise as a conversion for disabled drivers by offering a less loaded and expensive chassis to start with that also has lower operating costs.
At least one mobility van conversion company we have spoken to is looking closely at the Nissan NV200 as it’s likely to be priced at or just under $20,000 in base trim from Nissan. And with a fuel-efficient 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine it could be a substantial opportunity to get better gas mileage than the current V6 powered mid-size minivans popular for ramp and lift installations.
Measuring just 186.2 inches in overall length, on a 115.2-inch wheelbase, NV200 is highly maneuverable in traffic and negotiating city parking spaces. Yet it allows for an estimated 1,500-pound maximum payload. Since most ramp mobility van conversions add 600-900 lbs, that’s good.
One of the bonuses is that the styling is crisp and modern, which may appeal to many younger customers that prefer the less dowdy lines. In the rear, NV200 features tall 40/60 split opening doors with dual opening positions (90 and 180 degrees). There are also wide sliding doors on both sides.
It has a low native floor height, but most conversion companies will still want to lower the floor for best outcomes. It offers the same tall interior afforded by other minivans and the Ford Transit Connect in particular, but maintains that height into the upright driver and passenger areas.
Even though the NV200 is aimed at commercial cargo uses, it still has power windows with auto up/down, a 12-volt power outlet on the instrument panel, AM/FM/CD with auxiliary input and two front door mounted speakers.
It’s also available with upgrades like navigation with Bluetooth wireless communications, XM Satellite radio, and rear view Monitor.
Standard safety features include the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS), roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front occupant head protection, front seat mounted driver and passenger side impact supplemental air bags, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
The SV model adds power heated outside mirrors, power door locks with auto-locking feature, remote keyless entry with two key fobs, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, rear cargo floor mat, additional 12V power point in the rear of the center console, six floor-mounted cargo hooks in the cargo area, and full wheel covers.
Several option packages will be available, including rear door glass for visibility. Important for consumers eying the NV200 for a wheelchair accessible conversion, there is an exterior appearance package with body-color bumpers, door handles and outside mirrors and chrome grille.
What’s not clear yet is whether Nissan will offer the same second row seating that is available in other markets. Our guess is that like Ford with the Transit Connect, they will soon see the wisdom in offering a passenger-centric version.
The reason the Nissan NV200 may be an attractive van for a mobility conversion is because with its expected MSRP of around $20,000 give or take, it has the potential of being out the door with a full conversion for under $40,000. Add that to having 25-30% better fuel economy than larger V6 vans and it may just be the next best thing.
Also something to watch is that Nissan recently announced the production of an all-electric version of the van called the e-NV200 which utilizes the proven EV powertrain from the popular Nissan Leaf. If Nissan brings the e-NV200 to America, it may open yet another door for disabled drivers.