Within the still-growing compact van category, Ford Motor Co. dominates, selling more than 24,000 Transit Connect models in the first half of this year. That’s nearly three times more than its closest rival, Nissan, according to PickupTrucks.com. General Motors is a major player in full-size vans with its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana, but it recently turned to Nissan to supply a new compact variant that it calls the 2015 Chevrolet City Express.
Essentially, this small van is a Nissan NV200 with a bow tie on the grille, and it is every bit as versatile. When New York City sought to replace the existing taxi fleet with a “Taxi of Tomorrow,” it chose the NV200. That’s a strong endorsement for a vehicle that arguably faces just as much daily torture—if not more—than a contractor’s rolling office.
Despite the nameplate change, the Chevrolet City Express offers basic value. Built in Mexico, the base van is priced about $1,300 more than Nissan’s and offers a shorter bumper-to-bumper warranty: three years and 36,000 miles. However, a broader network of dealers—some 3,200 in total—can service it. Chevy and Nissan vans have the smallest cargo capacity in the segment—122.7 cu ft and about 1,500 lb (see chart)—yet they can swallow a standard pallet with room to spare.
ENR recently drove the City Express for a week and found that its simple controls and tight, 36.7-ft turning diameter made the vehicle very easy to drive and quite maneuverable, too, though we detected some torque-steer from the 15-in. front wheels during heavy accelerations.
A 2-liter, four-cylinder engine sounded a bit buzzy but delivered an adequate 131 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. A well-tuned, continuously variable transmission, which didn’t noisily drone on like other CVTs we’ve driven, helped bring up the rated fuel economy to 24 miles per gallon in city and 26 mpg on highway. In mostly stop-and-go traffic, we observed actual average fuel economy of 21.3 mpg.
The City Express comes in two trim levels—LS and LT—and has standard 40/60-split rear doors, sliding side doors, stability control, center console storage, rear cargo tie-downs and a 12-volt power outlet. The passenger seat folds down flat to reveal a hard-surfaced workstation, which is perfect for typing on a laptop or filling out paperwork on the go.
Our test model came in LT trim, which included cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, backup sensors, keyless entry and heated, powered side mirrors. An optional $995 technology package gave us an additional navigation radio and backup camera. The backup lens eliminated some blind spots, but it was mounted at a lower angle than others we’ve tested. When backing up the van, it was, at times, disorienting to see mostly pavement.
For a fleet vehicle that starts at $22,950, the Chevrolet City Express is a capable urban go-getter. With its no-frills design, most anyone could quickly jump into this van and get down to business.