Is Nissan NV 200 the global City Taxi of the future?

Contrary to what most of us think, catering to the taxi market is a very tough job. Cabbies generally have their own set of requirements that are sometimes pretty similar and at most other times totally opposite to what private buyers want and expect in their vehicles. Imagine this. Taxis are expected to be very fuel-efficient but they also need to be powerful enough to lug far more than the usual load that they were designed to carry. Taxis have to be very reliable despite the harsh reality that most of them are going to be abused on the roads. Moreover, they have to be very cheap to maintain, both in terms of regular service and accidental repairs though nine out of ten taxis aren’t going to follow a periodic maintenance schedule. Isn’t that a list that would make even the best automotive manufacturers in the world concerned? So, think twice before you start abusing Tata Motors the next time you get to a ride in a rickety Indicab.

Despite all these hardships, there is one model that seems to have perfectly cracked the ‘taxi’ code in recent years, not just in one particular city or country, but across the globe. When we say across the globe, we mean it and the list even includes some of the biggest and most demanding cities of the world like New York, London, Tokyo and Barcelona. Surprisingly, this model that has taken the taxi market by storm is a van and unsurprisingly, it comes from a Japanese manufacturer. Before you go mad scratching your heads guessing the identity of the vehicle in discussion, we will break the ice ourselves. It is the Nissan NV 200, which was awarded the International Van of the Year 2010. And yes, there is an Indian connection too. A more personalized variant of the NV 200 has just been unveiled in India as the Nissan Evalia where it is going to be fighting with Toyota Innova. The launch is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

If you are thinking what is such a big deal about a taxi, think again. Being certified to run as taxis in those cities isn’t easy at all. Take New York for instance. There is this organization called New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission which chose the vehicle that was going to replace the legendary but aging Ford Crown Victorias that are as iconic and popular as other landmarks in the city. Even Ford’s highly acclaimed and globally successful Transit Connect was one of the contenders from which the Nissan NV 200 came out on top. It is now officially certified as the 'Taxi of Tomorrow’ and come 2014, the NV 200 will start servicing passengers in the streets of New York. With a fully transparent roof for a clear view of the city's skyline, germ-fighting seats, USB slots for passengers and enough space for three and their luggage in a smaller footprint, the NV 200 is already being hailed as the perfect taxi for New York’s crowded roads.

"The Nissan NV 200 will be the safest, most comfortable and most convenient taxi the city has ever had. New York City cabs have always been iconic and now they will set a new standard. The 600,000 passengers who use taxis to get around every day deserve the cutting-edge technology and top-of-the-line safety features that this model delivers", commented New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at the 2011 New York Auto Show where the NV 200 'Taxi of Tomorrow' was unveiled to the public. What is really commendable is that Nissan has not skimped on safety features for the taxi variant. The NV 200 is the first ever taxi to be crash tested and certified with the partition inside. Moreover, curtain airbags for rear occupants, seat-mounted airbags for the front row, traction control and vehicle dynamic control ensures that passengers don't feel insecure when seated inside.

As much as the Ford Crown Victoria is an integral part of New York, the TX4 (popularly called as ‘black cab’) manufactured by the London Taxi Company exclusively for doing duty in the British capital, is even more so to London. Nissan has not spared it too. The NV 200 London Taxi was unveiled recently complying to all specific requirements including handicap regulations and the tight 25-feet turning circle, which is a major deterrent for most manufacturers from entering the fray. But Nissan has managed to achieve this in a front drive vehicle by modifying the front suspension. Unlike the New York taxis that are powered by a gasoline engine, the London cabs are powered by the same 1.5-liter K9K diesel engine that does duty in almost the entire range of Renault and Nissan models in India. Nissan claims that the NV 200 Taxi is close to 50% more efficient and less polluting than the iconic black cabs.

Further consolidating its position, the NV 200 has also made inroads as taxis in the streets of Tokyo and Barcelona. With major cities in the world adopting it by the hordes despite its frumpy looks, we just have one question lingering in our minds now - Is the Nissan NV 200 the global City Taxi of the future? At the moment, all pointers sway towards a big 'yes'. It would require a long, tiring and dedicated effort from a rival manufacturer to even try and challenge what Nissan has achieved with the NV 200. Kudos to Nissan for targeting a profitable niche and coming out on tops.

With such lineage behind it, will the Nissan Evalia conquer the Indian market when it is finally launched? Watch this space to know.

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