Brian Joss –
I could have earned myself a pocketful of cash, non taxable, if I had stopped to collect all the people who tried to wave me down while I was tooling around in Nissan’s Combi, the 1.5 TDCi Visia, last week. The seven-seater Combi, there is also a petrol variant powered by a 1.6 litre engine, is miserly with fuel. And that’s good news in the light of the hefty increase at the pumps, on April Fool’s Day, except it was no joke. I recorded figures of about 5.6 litres/100km on a test route that took in all sorts of driving conditions. And for the “greenies” it uses just 134 g/km of CO2. Nissan’s Combi is built on a commercial vehicle platform so the ride is not all that smooth, especially over road imperfections. The seats are comfortable and there were no complaints from the three passengers. When the vehicle was launched about two years ago Nissan said there were plans to replace 13 000 of New York’s famous Yellow Cabs with the NV200. However, it will still boast the iconic yellow livery as it goes about transporting more than 600 000 people around the city every day. Aesthetically speaking, the NV200 is not much to write home about: it has a sharp angular face, well-defined headlights and a clean grille, a hallmark of Nissan products. It is not just a panel van with seats. There are numerous storage spaces in the cabin which has a neat and uncluttered look. The instrument panel includes a 2.8 inch information display and shows the distance you can travel, fuel range and average consumption, as well as a gearshift indicator, among others.
You can control audio and Bluetooth telephony from the multi-function steering wheel. A storage tray on top of the dashboard, trays in the centre console and a cubbyhole without a cover, complete the picture. All controls are close at hand and the gear lever is placed centrally on the console which makes it easy to reach and use. The gear changes on the five speed manual, though, were a bit notchy and at times I felt a sixth gear would have been good. The Combi is 4.4 metres long, and surprisingly, it is quite easy to park, mainly because of its small turning circle. The tailgate is big and heavy, it opens upwards and if you parked in an average-sized bay you wouldn’t be able to load the boot, which incidentally is enormous. And you don’t have to go through a complicated exercise to create more space in the cargo area. With the back seats folded up against the sides of the vehicle, there is 2.3 cubic metres of space. However, folding the middle row forwards opens up a massive 3.1 cubic metres of space, enough to put everything and then the kitchen sink, inside.
There are sliding doors on both sides which make it easy for passengers to clamber in, and you don’t have to be a contortionist. However, I found it difficult to get into the driver’s seat and I think another grab handle would have been a big help.
There is plenty of leg and head room but the third row may be a bit cramped for adults. The seat material appears to be quite durable and look as if it can be cleaned quite easily. I enjoyed driving the Nissan NV200 , although it did struggle up the hills a bit and at the legal limit there was quite a lot of wind noise in the cabin. The diesel engine uses 66 kW of power at 4 000 rpm and 200 N.m of torque from as low as 1 750 rpm. Standard features include remote central locking and an immobiliser, air conditioning, a radio/CD audio system with aux and USB input ports as well as Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free cell phone use, an anti-bacterial gear knob, electric windows in front, electric mirrors, a full-size spare, underneath, and front fog lights. The steering wheel, though is not adjustable for reach. Also absent is a badge indicating the model, there is just a nameplate that says Nissan NV200, which I assume is a cost-saving measure. There is no automatic door-locking system but there is a central locking button on the dashboard. There is no service plan. Having lived with the NV200 for 10 days I believe it is a versatile vehicle.
It can be used as a mom’s taxi, for regular family transport or a fleet bus that can easily be converted into a cargo carrier. It’s not a budget-breaker especially for what it offers. And the diesel version, especially, is economical. The Nissan NV200 Combi models come standard with a three-year/ 100 000 km warranty. Service intervals for the diesel are 15 000 km.
BLOB) The Combi will set you back R300 00. But business must be good. When I phoned a few dealers in the Cape Town area to check on the latest price not one sales agent asked whether I would like to see one, drive one or offered any information about it.