The full-size, heavy-duty 2014 Nissan NV passenger van isn't your typical Nissan. Yet here it is, with a 5.6-liter V8 engine and seating for 12 people. At a little more than $40,000, the big blue NV we drove came with a navigation system, Bluetooth, a USB port, rear air conditioning, and dual-zone automatic climate control for the front passengers. Not bad for a big hauler like this.

It's also surprisingly easy to drive, despite its size. Its footprint is about the same as a pickup truck, and ultimately it's not any more difficult to maneuver. The 10 seats and their headrests completely block the rear window, but the large outside mirrors -- with standard convex reflectors -- made lane changes easier, and the backup camera and front and rear parking sensors helped at low speeds. However, where even heavy duty trucks offer a soft spot to rest your elbow, the NV has rock-hard plastic.

We weren't expecting good fuel economy from the 5.6-liter V8, but we were surprised by how low it was. The barn-like aerodynamics and 5-speed automatic conspired to keep observed fuel economy somewhere around 10 mpg, and that was with plenty of highway driving. The V6 might do a little better, but with a 57-horsepower deficit to the V8, you'll likely have to be a leadfoot just to get moving. Unlike many of its competitors, there is no fuel-friendly diesel option.

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Tight quarters

All of that paled compared to the fact that, despite its size, the NV was surprisingly close-quartered. There was little knee room, especially in the second row. Even the kids complained, and one passenger complained of back pains after a 3-hour journey in the van. Then there's the absence of cargo space behind the fourth row. We expected better thanks to the more than 146 inches between the front and rear axles, but quite a bit of that is taken up with the NV's truck-like nose, leaving less space inside for people. The high step in is also a challenge. If you have smaller kids or passengers with bad knees, you might want to get a stool to help them get in more easily. At least headroom was OK, but note that the NV passenger van doesn't come in a high-roof model like its cargo sibling or for that matter, the competing Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

While Nissan's high-roof cargo model may be a solid contender in the full-size van market, the reality is that the NV's tight quarters, lack of a high roof, and relatively small cargo area leaves a lot to be desired compared to other passenger vans.

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