|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
See, it’s not a luxury people carrier nor is it pretending to be one. It’s an honest-to-goodness van that looks like it’s designed more to ferry lots of people or cargo. Nissan’s modernized its Jurassic-era Urvan with some Chris Pratt love; isn’t that good enough? Anyway, expect a minimalist interior. As in bare. There are no plastic panels separating you from the metal doors and frames. You want to know if your van’s white or gray, just stare at the side. You can’t miss it. And there’s no radio too. So it may not get plush, soft-touch plastics but what it does get is a dual air conditioning system with vents spread across the cabin. It’s cool and comfortable even when the weather’s scorching. Also, the instrument panel’s modern. It’s got a multi-function display and a shift indicator that promotes fuel efficient driving.
Loaded with six people on board, it’s a willing performer thanks to its torque-y engine. It’s got 356 Nm of torque (more than a Volkswagen Golf GTI or Subaru WRX) available from 1,400 to 2,000 rpm. This makes climbing steep grades such as the entrance/exit to Tagaytay Highlands a breeze. But with a drivetrain designed for pulling power rather than hauling ass, it loses steam fairly quickly. Still, it’s quite surprising that the 5-speed manual does offer nicely spaced gears enabling it to remain comfortable at higher speeds. Expect a highway figure hovering around 8 to 10 km/L when pushed.
The interior offers a degree of ergonomics not found in other vans. For once, the driver doesn’t feel so bankrupt with a seat that adjusts for both fore and aft along with a reclining seatback. Also, the steering column’s tilt adjustable; it’s got an airbag too! The dash-mounted shifter takes some getting used to, but the placement here is logical given you can squeeze another person upfront. But speaking about the room, some seats (such as the aforementioned front middle seat) don’t offer that much headroom and knee room because you do have the engine mounted underneath the front row seats.
Still, the most surprising part of the entire Nissan NV350 Urvan is the ride. It does have the typical Torsion Bar/Leaf Spring combination system, but it’s much more adept at handling uneven terrain even if you just have six people onboard. It still has the tendency to bounce up and down when going over larger obstacles like potholes (especially if they’re in a series), but it’s easily smoother than the outgoing Urvan as well as its competition. On the highway, it doesn’t hop as much. In other words, if you need to ride a refrigerator van for a long commute, get the Nissan NV350 Urvan. That’s assuming you and 13 (or 16) of your friends can live without headrests (only the driver gets a proper headrest). And fully-loaded or not, you have the surefooted confidence to stop properly thanks to the standard load-sensing valve which keeps the brake balance properly distributed.
For all its technological advancements though, for some people, especially the commercial minded set, will probably buy this new Nissan NV350 Urvan for one reason: the warranty. Yes, it’s the only van in the market that’ll honor its warranty program even if it’s used for commercial purposes. And it’s a three-year warranty to boot!