2012 Nissan NV200 Combi review

* Van-based MPV reviewed * Prices start at 17,200 * Five- or seven-seat versions available...

2012 Nissan NV200 Combi review

The Nissan NV200 Combi is a five- or seven-seat MPV based on the NV200 van.

Given its commercial-vehicle roots, the NV200 Combi is a rival to the likes of the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life.

However, unlike the Caddy, the NV200 is set to become one of the world's most well known cars next year, because Nissan is supplying New York with 13,000 NV200s to replace its iconic, but ageing yellow cabs.

So, the NV200 must be good enough for discerning New Yorkers, but how does it stand up to the requirements of UK car buyers?

What's the 2012 Nissan NV200 Combi like to drive?
Power comes from an 88bhp 1.5 dCi diesel engine. The car is quick enough once you get going it's moving off that's an issue. All of the power seems to come at once, but only above 1500 rpm, so you have to rev the car quite high to pull away. The engine is boomy, however, at any speed.

Nissan NV200 Combi: noisy engine, bouncy ride, steering is short on feel

The suspension is designed to take heavy loads, but this translates into a bouncy and unsettled ride, whether the car fully laden or just with the driver only. The steering is light and the NV200 has a tight turning, but this doesn't translate into excellent manoeuvrability. You have to turn the wheel a lot simply to go around corners and on open roads, the steering feels sloppy and devoid of feel.

The VW Caddy doesnt roll as much around corners, is more refined and offers an all-round better driving experience.

What's the 2012 Nissan NV200 like inside?
The dashboard is uncluttered, clearly laid out and easy to use, and visibility is good, but that's about all the plus points for the driver. The steering wheel adjusts for height, not rake, and lies at an awkward angle. This, combined with limited adjustment on the driver's seat, means the ideal driving position is hard to find, whatever your height. You might like the upright van-like driving position, but overall this is an uncomfortable car to drive.

Clear and simple dashboard

Things don't get much better for the passengers in the second and third rows because the seat squabs are small, narrow and not particularly comfortable.

In the Caddy Maxi Life you have to lift out the heavy rear two seats if you want to make the most of the boot space. In the NV200, the seats fold up to the sides of the car and are kept in position by straps hooked to the roof. This is certainly easier than lifting them out, but it narrows the load space.

The middle rows of seats split and can be tumbled forward to create even more space there's 2900 litres of stowage with the seats folded. Like the rear seats, the folded middle-row seats are held in place with straps and hooks. It seems a very basic answer given the flexible seating systems in modern MPVs.

Uncomfortable driving position

The plastics in the cabin are hard to the touch but durable-looking, while passengers in the rear seats will notice lots of bare metal.

Should I buy one?
There are three trims available S, SE and SE +. If you have to buy an NV200 Combi we'd recommend the top spec because it's the only model that comes with stability control as standard. In this guise the NV200 averages 51.3mpg, emits 144g/km of carbon dioxide. It costs 19,813 for the five-seat version and 20,173 for the seven-seater (if you are a private buyer.).

Huge loadbay

It's therefore cheaper to buy, tax, fuel and insure than the VW Caddy. The NV200 Combi isn't as powerful, but it has a smaller turning circle and a larger loadbay, so is more practical. Bear in mind, though, that the eight-seat Hyundai i800 is not that much more expensive but is bigger and more powerful.

Still, a more traditional MPV such as the Peugeot 5008 is far more comfortable, better to drive, more flexible, comes with more safety kit, yet costs similar money to the NV200 Combi.

There are many more reasons to steer you away from a Nissan NV200 than into one.

Read the full What Car? Nissan NV200 Combi review

Hyundai i800
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life.

What Car? says

Iain Reid