Cargo vans, by their very nature, are utilitarian conveyances that are tremendously useful if you have a small business or practice a trade. Beyond that, they have little or no value in the ordinary household fleet, or at least not the same appeal as say a pickup truck. Still, when you need to haul stuff, as we did in supplying some household goods to our son's new apartment in Phoenix, the 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo SV fit the bill, proving to be both capable and comfortable in the process.

The work area of the Nissan NV200 is bare bones, with no windows on the twin sliding doors, a rubber mat and no insulation on the walls. The 60/40 rear doors have windows in them and a unique hinge arrangement that allows you to disconnect them with the simple pull of a handle, freeing the doors to open 180 degrees. Up front, the accommodations are a bit more inviting; the twin bucket seats are comfortable, although the passenger seat lacked the fold-down arm rest of the driver's side as well as a grab handle. There's also a handy bin in the center console and our test vehicle was equipped with a backup camera, satellite radio and navigation as part of a $950 technology package. Including destination, the sticker was $23,645.

The long and short of it

In loading the vehicle with an extra-long single bed measuring 80 inches, we discovered that the tumble home-that's the inward curvature of the body as it meets the roof and a closure for the bulkhead behind the rear seats, made it impossible to put the mattress and box spring on its side. The bottom fit perfectly, but the top stuck out making it impossible to close the rear door. Instead, we found that it would fit lying flat. Still, for a vehicle that is essentially built on a compact/mid-size platform, the NV200 has a tremendous amount of carrying capacity, 112.7 cubic feet. We loaded in a desk and desk chair, several boxes, a nightstand, wall hangings and other assorted odd shaped items like a bike, fan and bowling ball. 

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The compact size of the NV200 makes it easy to drive, and it was surprisingly quiet especially on the trip out with the cargo area fully loaded. On the return trip, there wasn't as much noise transmitted through the uninsulated walls and sliding doors, however, both tire and wind noise were noticeable in the front cabin. 

The little engine that could

The front-drive NV200 is powered by a 131-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. It has enough torque, 139 lb-ft, to give decent acceleration and allowed the vehicle to easily run with 70-75 mph traffic. However, the decidedly non-aerodynamic boxy shape does work against you in the fuel economy department, as evidenced by the 24 mpg city/25 mpg highway fuel economy figures. We saw mid-20s on our trip, not particularly stellar fuel economy from a small 4-cylinder, but also, not bad considering the vehicle profile and its utility.

Overall, the 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo SV was well-suited to the job of a light move. A few extras that might enhance the vehicle would be blind-spot warning and Nissan's all-around view camera to make up for the lack of visibility. For small businesses, though, the NV200 sets the standard-so much so, that a version of the vehicle will be marketed later this year as the Chevrolet Express. And we expect the vehicle to hold its own against a growing list of competitors that includes the newly redesigned 2015 Ford Transit Connect Van and the 2015 Ram ProMaster City. For light duty utility, Nissan, with the NV200, has gotten the formula just about perfect.

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