By Keith Buglewicz
American urban and suburban roads are taking on a distinctly European flavor thanks to the growing popularity of compact work vans, such as the 2016 Chevrolet City Express. Sharing its architecture, drivetrain and suspension with the Nissan NV200, the City Express joins the Nissan and other compact vans like the Ford Transit Connect and Ram ProMaster City as alternatives to the bulkier and more expensive full-size vans that used to dominate the marketplace. While this is strictly a work van -- there is no passenger or "wagon" version like with the Ford Transit Connect -- it's worth a look if your business needs a small, flexible, cargo-friendly vehicle with a nice big white space on the side for advertising.
If you're currently using a full-size van and want something more efficient, more maneuverable, easier to load, and better suited to a modern urban environment, the Chevrolet City Express is worth a good long look.
Note we said urban and suburban; if you're doing long-distance deliveries that will require extended highway driving, look elsewhere, since like the NV200 going faster than 70 mph is a chore. Also, the Chevrolet City express is a little more expensive than its Nissan counterpart.
All-new for the 2015 model year, the 2016 Chevrolet City Express offers no changes this year.
The 2016 Chevrolet City express is essentially a Nissan NV200 with a Chevy-specific nose and name. So it's no surprise that the way the little Chevy drives is basically identical...
... to the Nissan. The ride stays composed on rough city streets, tight alleyways or cruising down the highway. On the highway, the City Express has a built-in speed limiter, in that if you try to go over 70 mph the little 2.0-liter 4-cylinder just can't give the van much more oomph, at least, not without excessive droning. But so what? This is an urban and suburban work van, with tons of cargo space, easy maneuverability, and while its little engine may not be a powerhouse, it's exceptionally fuel-efficient, which will bring long-term savings in any company's fleet.
There's 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the Chevy City Express, meaning there's more than enough room for shelving, large or bulky items, or for even a standard-size wood pallet.
The $945 Technology Package adds extras like a USB port, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Sirius XM radio, and a touch-screen infotainment and navigation screen. Luxury features? Maybe, but considering how much time City Express drivers will spend in their vans, features like Bluetooth and navigation quickly become necessities.
Utility is the name of the game inside the Chevy City Express. The interior is awash in hard plastics, which are durable and easy to clean. Likewise, the 6-way-adjustable seats give you a commanding view of the road, and they're upholstered in durable and easy-to-clean vinyl. And there are storage nooks everywhere. A pencil tray and laptop storage are located in the center console, and there's a sliding drawer situated under the front-passenger seat for even more storage.
The biggest styling difference between the City Express and the Nissan NV200 is the Chevy-specific nose and badging on the former. Otherwise they're very similar, sporting the stubby nose, upright windshield and high-looking roof that have come to define this class of vehicle. It's available in the usual Chevrolet LS and LT models, with the latter offering access to more options, such as the aforementioned Technology Package. An Appearance Package available on both paints the mirrors and bumpers the same color as the rest of the van, as well as the door handles.
The Chevrolet City Express is about as bare-bones as you can get these days. Power windows and door locks are standard, as are an easy-to-clean vinyl floor and a rear cargo mat. The rear doors are solid, there's a locking glovebox, and the driver information screen on the dash shows fuel range, oil life, average speed and tire-pressure monitoring.
Multiple configurations exist for the City Express, including things like glass panels on the side doors and side panels instead of solid metal. Other options include the Technology Package on LT models that adds Bluetooth and navigation among other things. Cruise control, a rear-window defogger and rear park assist are all optionally available. Note that rear seats are not available, as the City Express is a cargo-only model.
There's only one drivetrain configuration for the 2016 Chevrolet City Express: a 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that sends 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission. This Nissan-supplied drivetrain works out to some good fuel-economy ratings, with the City Express getting a combined rating of 25 mpg from the EPA. In the real world, that 131 horsepower is put to work hauling 3,200 pounds, so it's not too surprising that it struggles at speeds higher than 70 mph. Traction control and antilock, front disc/rear drum brakes bring the City Express down to a halt in a controlled manner.
2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder engine
131 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
139 lb-ft of torque @ 4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/26 mpg
The 2016 Chevrolet City Express has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $23,000, including the $995 destination charge. Step up to the LT, and you're looking at a price right around the $24,500 mark. Check all the boxes and you're looking at a price somewhere in the neighborhood of $26,000. That's competitive with vehicles like the Ford Transit Connect, which has a price range that starts a tick over $23,300 and can climb over the $30,000 mark. The Ram ProMaster City also starts higher, although its loaded price stops short of the $30,000 figure. Curiously, the similar Nissan NV200 starts lower than the Chevy, and tops out lower as well. Do check KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the City Express. Over time, we predict that the City Express will hold its value well.