For all its popularity, the modern MPV isn’t for everyone. You might need the flexibility and the space of such a vehicle, but with everything getting a premium makeover these days, an active lifestyle and plush upholstery doesn’t always mix well.
And it’s for this reason that van-derived people carriers make a lot of sense. Before you switch off at the sight of the ‘V’ word, it’s worth noting that today’s commercial vehicles are a world apart from their clattery, unrefined and slow predecessors.
A case in point is Nissan’s NV200 Combi, based on the firm’s award winning NV200 platform no less. For buyers from all walks of life – business customers and private buyers on a budget – the NV200 Combi offers the familiar MPV combination of a flexible seating arrangement plus room for belongings. Where it departs from the car-based norm is the price and a greater focus on reduced running costs.
In simple terms, what you see is what you get with the NV200 Combi. A refreshingly simple and honest people carrier of solid commercial vehicle stock, Nissan’s big box on wheels offers twin sliding side doors for easy access to the rear of the cabin, plus a tailgate large enough to shelter under if it rains.
Available with either five or seven seats, the Combi’s main focus is moving people. And while the five-seat model will be enough for most, the seven-seater still offers enough storage space behind the rearmost row, plus those seats will accommodate adults – something very few alternative models are capable of doing.
With its handy sliding side doors, access to the Combi’s third row of seats requires you to fold forward the second row backrest. Once installed, head, leg and elbowroom is perfectly adequate. As you’d expect, second row occupants fare even better, while those up front benefit from a lofty seating position and great forward visibility.
Being based on a commercial vehicle, it’s true that passengers aren’t spoilt by an abun-dance of storage space. It’s a different story up front, as the general facilities are more car-like. The same is true of equipment levels, which include twin front airbags, ABS, EBD and luxuries such as a quality audio unit plus electric windows and mirrors.
If that sounds very car-like, the driving experience is also surprisingly good. Sure, the Combi’s lofty seating position is a constant reminder as to its origins, but with direct steering offering plenty of assistance, the slick five-speed manual transmission every bit as good as something from a regular car and a ride that exhibits very little of the ‘empty van’ experience, suddenly the bad jokes about white van man disappear.
No one will be laughing at the Combi’s economy or emissions performance, either. Alt-hough clearly aimed at the wallet of commercial operators, it’s hard to find fault with 139g/km of CO2 and 53.3mpg from the 1.5-litre diesel engine. It might have ‘only’ 85 horsepower, but the eager little engine possesses bags of torque and widely spaced gear ratios allow for relaxed cruising plus sprightly town driving antics.
Available in three trim grades and five or seven seats with increasing levels of standard kit, plus the option of parking sensors and a low-cost sat-nav unit, Nissan’s NV200 Combi might lack the sparkle of more expensive car-derived MPVs, but it lacks nothing if you need an affordable, easy to drive, durable and versatile people mover with family hatch running costs.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Nissan NV200 Combi SE Plus 7-seat, from £17,888.33. Range from £15,685.
Engine: 1.5-litre diesel unit developing 85bhp.
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 98mph.
CO2 Rating: 139g/km.