27.11.2018Nissan e-NV200 Combi 40 kWh review
Nissan's e-NV200 almost has the electric van/MPV market to itself, but that hasn't stopped the Japanese manufacturer developing it. The latest update to the e-NV200 is the most important one; the current-generation Leaf's 40 kWh battery has been fitted beneath the Nissan's floor, giving a huge increase in range. NGC tests the e-NV200 Combi Evalia 7-seater to see how it performs.
Review by Chris Lilly
Although a new, larger capacity battery has been fitted, the e-NV200's electric motor remains the same as the previous generations. Nissan has upped the power in the Leaf with its 40 kWh battery, moving from 80 kW to 110 kW. Here, in the e-NV200, it remains an 80 kW motor (109 hp). This allows for a 0-62mph time of 14.0 seconds, and a top speed of 76mph. These are pretty sluggish speeds, but the e-NV200 - like many EVs - feels anything but slow. The instant pick up from the electric motor sees drivers get going faster than most other vehicles on the road, and short bursts of acceleration are dealt with easily. It is only at motorway speeds, when you are looking to accelerate to overtake, do thngs become a bit breathless, and more power would be welcomed. Stick to urban areas - the e-NV200's natural environment - and there won't be any issues with the level of performance on offer. Although not tested out with seven fully-grown adults and a load of kit, the e-NV200 was tested with five and some luggage, and it still performed well, thanks no doubt to the 254 Nm of torque on offer. The e-NV200 might not be at home on open roads then, but it zips around town and at lower speeds very happily.
Like the motor, the suspension and chassis for the updated e-NV200 remain largely the same as before. This means that the handling will be familiar to those who have driven the 24 kWh model, and the Nissan is certainly more van-like to drive than its EV-stablemate, the Leaf hatchback. It's to be expected, and is not an issue for most buyers. Those wanting a sporty driving experience will want to look elsewhere, but they won't really be considering an e-NV200 to start with. Other drivers will forgive the lean when cornering for the high seating position and comfortable suspension. Unlike van variants, the e-NV200 doesn't need to be fully laiden to see the suspension work well, and the e-NV200 Combi feels just like a normal MPV when driving. It's not going to create huge smiles in terms of driving dynamics alone, but it does a good job of protecting occupants from terrible road surfaces, and allowing the driver to confidently pilot it through tight gaps and around car parks.
The styling means that few will be surprised at the e-NV200 Combi's van-based development, as it is clear that the 'one-box' shape is designed for practicality above just about all else. As such, the e-NV200 Combi isn't going to win many design awards, but it does mean that the interior is huge for a car of this footprint. Head room is - as you would expect - excellent throughout, with leg and shoulder room very good too. The driver sits high up, close to the pedals and steering wheel - all very un-car like - but it's not unusual for this to be the case in van-derived MPVs. Essentially, rear interior space is the priority. It's a set-up that needs to be got used to rather than uncomfortable. In the rear, the third row of seats are not full-sized offerings, but they're not far off - and they are far more usable than many rival MPV set-ups. Adults can use them without an issue, and they can be folded up to the sides of the boot when not needed to create a huge boot. Even when in place as a seven-seater, the load area is good, with enough space for a few bags or a decent supermarket shop. Fold them up though, and that space expands to allow for a well kitted-out family camping holiday. If you fold both middle and rear seats away, the rear can be loaded with all manner of outdoor equipment, such as bikes with the wheels in place. It's a very versatile interior, transforming from demi-minibus at one end of the spectrum, to well appointed van at the other.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin is not close to the Leaf's in terms of material quality or equipment, and again the van-foundations shine through here. Plastics are hard-wearing rather than plush, though there is a welcome gloss black panel on the centre console that livens up the interior and houses the infotainment system & heating/ventilation controls. There are few other switches around in fact, with the dashboard fairly clean to look at, with a few buttons sited just below the gloss black trim, a couple of switches close to the floor, and a few others by the driver's right knee. The key controls fall easily to hand, with the Eco button just above the dash-mounted gear selector. Most of the other controls are either via the infotainment system, or the heating/ventilation panel, which will be familiar to anyone that has driven a Leaf. Likewise, the same air of familiarity comes from the driver's instruments. Although they are different from both the previous generation and current Leaf's set-up, the broad design themes are there. Essentially, there is one large round screen to display speed, range, and battery charge, plus a standard Nissan trip computer - though tweaked for EV needs - to the right of it. It's all easy to read if not visually exciting, and the instruments feel built to last.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Here we come to the key change in the e-NV200 - its range. It has shifted from an official range of 106 miles (NEDC) on the old model, to 174 miles (NEDC) - 125 miles on the tougher WLTP tests - in this new version. In the real-world, as we've found with other EVs, the WLTP figure is easily achievable. It's a target that doesn't seem unrealistic, and in normal driving conditions, I averaged 3.2 miles/kWh after almost 400 miles of driving. Basic maths sees a range of 128 miles on a single charge, though there are some factors involved that see it realistically come in at a little less. Drivers should be confident of reaching 120 miles at least in decent autumnal weather, and with a fair amount of motorway/dual carriageway driving. It's a very useful range, particularly for those covering ground in built up areas. There are already a number of previous-generation e-NV200 Combis in use as taxis for example, and the much longer range will make life easier still for those with a similar idea in mind. Equally, for those regularly needing to carry large items or a lot of passengers, the e-NV200 Combi will comfortably complete the school run say, or a trip to the nearest mountain biking centre. Since the e-NV200 has both zero-tailpipe emissions and costs less than £40,000, there is no VED to pay at all.
All the usual features that help make an EV so efficient are available with the e-NV200. There is brake energy recuperation to top-up the battery on the move, when slowing down or travelling downhill. Like the Leaf, there are D and B settings on the gearstick for different levels of regen, plus an Eco button to alter the strength of each of those modes. The Eco button also reduces throttle response to increase the range a little further. Charging is carried out via the Type 1 and CHAdeMO inlets at the front, with rapid DC charging capability from the latter. The on-board charger will take 6.6 kW AC as standard, allowing for an overnight charge in around seven hours, or a rapid charge on 50 kW DC in a little over half an hour. There is also access to NissanConnectEV, the company's connected car app to allow for pre-conditioning, charger timing, charger status check, plus other features. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 26.
As with many EVs, the e-NV200 comes pretty well equipped for the class of car it's in. Standard equipment includes seven seats, air conditioning, automatic headlights & wipers, 15-inch alloys, twin sliding rear doors, folding middle bench seat, NissanConnectEV, reversing camera, multi-function steering wheel, touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Bluetooth, DAB, and USB connectivity. Nissan also adds the Cold Pack, which includes heated front seats & steering wheel, and heated door mirrors.
The Nissan e-NV200 Combi won't be for everyone. The van-like looks & cabin, plus relatively limited range - compared to current mass-market car offerings of at least 150 miles WLTP - mean many buyers won't consider it at all. That would be a shame though, since the range available is now more than enough for the majority of trips drivers make, and the space inside is simply cavernous. As a practical car, there are few better, and as a zero-tailpipe emission practical car, it's in a class of its own.
Model tested: Nissan e-NV200 Combi Plus Evalia 7-seater
Engine / CO2: 80 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim levels:Visia, Acenta, Evalia
On-road price: £30,847
Warranty: Three year / 1000,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.0 Stars