Near downtown Dallas, I’m at an intersection in the middle of rush hour – a classic misnomer if ever there was one. In the next lane sits a nondescript Chrysler minivan, its faded yellow paint quietly speaking to it intended mission: soliciting fares. As you’d guess, it’s not even in ‘fair’ condition, with bald tires on the front, and nothing else to give you confidence in either the vehicle or its operator. In point of fact, the cab is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the All-American, big city taxi: ‘Dump and Circumstance’. Into this maelstrom of mediocrity (cue Howard Cosell) strides Nissan and its NV200 taxi, spec’d for New York City but available to most people in most places. And it promises to be – along with Ford’s Transit Connect and whatever else might be percolating among product planners – a breath of fresh air.
Aesthetically, Nissan’s NV200 ain’t no GT-R, but then, neither does it resemble the much bigger, box-it-came-in NV. Here we have proportions more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the two-box hatch: an aggressively sloping front end and windshield, sides cut almost vertically, and an abrupt end to the business via a tallish rear hatch. Unlike Ford’s first Transit the NV200 looks to be all of a piece, and feels that way, also; Nissan has constructed a compact hauler that impresses as almost vault-like.
But then, with 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, its acceleration might be called vault-like. Obviously, no one is using a NYC taxi to race for pink slips (the thing is yellow), but in the transition from side street to freeway the cabbie had best be aggressive, as the combo of two naturally aspirated liters and a CVT makes the board games at Leisure World seem almost frenetic. We were never frightened by the taxi’s lack of oomph, but neither were we delighted.
The real story, of course, is inside. Up front, New York’s ‘Taxi of Tomorrow’ provides the driver with supportive, ‘vinyl appointed’ seating with six-way adjustability; manual heating and A/C controls; two front door-mounted speakers and NissanConnect with Navigation. Of course, no cabbie worth a day’s wages will actually use Navi, but we can’t blame Nissan – or New York’s cab czar – for trying. We found the driving position comfortable, visibility good, and the plastics fully appropriate to their commercial application. If recorded on a DVD, however, it’s a commercial that we’d skip…
Those paying for the ride will enjoy anti-microbial vinyl seating surfaces (if you upchuck, the seats won’t know it), an integrated partition, rear passenger assist grips and their own HVAC system. And for those having ‘enjoyed’ a cab in sweltering heat where the cabbie absolutely refuses to TURN ON THE AIR, you’ll know your own HVAC is worth its weight in gold. Also of note: the seatbelt clips are highlighted in yellow.
The integrated partition is great for the livery business, but would grate when used by civilians. With more cubic volume than some New York studios, the partition reduces the NV’s innate functionality to that of hauling people and their things; you can basically forget about hauling your things. And should you want to settle the kids down in back, fugget about it. They can’t hear you, and you can’t reach them!
What New Yorkers could hear was its cab industry bitching and moaning through the entire city-mandated process. It goes without saying that there was legal action, but we’ll say it anyway. As this is written, however, courts have sided with New York and its Taxi of Tomorrow initiative. There remains a perceived gap in how the new cab model will meet the needs of the disabled, but then, the NV is better prepared for necessary modifications than were the old Crown Vics. Those, by the end of their service, were disabled!
With enhanced functionality, easy ingress and egress, and an MSRP comfortably around $30K, Nissan’s solution would seem to work equally well in the Lincoln Tunnel and Lincoln, Nebraska. We wish it was a tad more feisty under the hood, and perhaps a titch more efficient (EPA estimates 23/26/24 combined) at the pump, but you can’t knock either Nissan or New York for attempting to move the needle. It’s about time people hailing a cab don’t go through hell when riding in one.