Choosing a base vehicle for a conversion is one of the toughest decisions to make, as once you start its not easy to change your mind! There are various reasons to choose a van, height, length, overall size, brand, and convertability.
Lots (and lots!) of people convert VWs – but for us, the footprint is too big – its pretty much Transit sized, so if we wanted something that big we would’ve kept the old van. Anything smaller than that (all we’re interested in) goes to:-
- Transit Connect: SWB is too short inside (1.7m on a 4.4m van) LWB van is too long >4.8
- Peugeot Partner: SWB is too short inside (1.7m on 4.4m van) LWB is 2.1m on a 4.6m van, but also only 1.2m tall
- Merc too big
- VW too big (or too small)
The only one that fits our size criteria, and turns out to be the best internal size for external dimensions is the Nissan NV 200
- External: 1.86h x 1.695w x 4.4l
- Load area: 1.36h x 1.5w x 2.04l
So, pretty much size requirements forces NV200 as a van.
New or Second Hand
The Nissan is a new (ish) van, released in UK in 2010 with a model range revamp in 2013. Being a van, most second hand ones are white, and most are average spec.
On a conversion, a significant cost is the conversion cost in terms of equipment and labour. So its a fine line to get the balance right – do you do a cheap conversion on a cheap van, or an expensive conversion on an expensive van? Doing expensive conversion on an old cheap van, or a cheap conversion on a new van isn’t optimal. So we looked at nearly new vans. But, wanting high spec and non-white the choice is limited.
As we plan to use and abuse the van for a long time, and knowing how much we use it for camping, having a high quality fully kitted (and thus pricy) conversion rules out a cheap van.
What made our mind up, was Nissan changing the warrantee from 3 to 5 years (from September 2015) – so a new van would have better warrantee. In addition, there was a huge discount that made a top spec new van cheaper than 2nd hand ones advertised….
So new it is!
In line with cars, Nissan have 3 trim levels, the top being Tekna. Which, for a van, is hugely well equipped so we’ll go with this. The next choice is 90ps 5-speed or 110ps 6-speed…. We actually opted for the 90sp 5 speed as we prefer a 5 speed box, and the 90ps engine is simpler (non VNT) and less stressed. If needed, it can be chipped to 110 later and keep the 5 speed box. In addition, we want it stealthy gray…
So the spec from Nissan includes:-
- Nissan NV200 Tekna 90ps 5 speed
- Twilight Gray
- Option: Versatility Pack (folding front seat & mesh bulkhead)
- Option: Mud guards
- Option: Rear visibility pack (rear view mirror, glazed rear barn doors, rear glass heater & rear wash/wipe
- ABS, EBD, ESP
- Driver & passenger airbags
- Remote locking, deadlocks, immobiliser
- Twin sliding doors & 60/40 barn doors
- Colour coordinated bumpers
- Elec mirrors
- Nissan connect system:-
- Integral Satnav
- Bluetooth Hands free
- CD/USB/MP3/AUX/iPod connections
- Rear view camera
- Cruise control & user defined speed limiter
- Air conditioning
- Front fog lights
- Alloy wheels (& full size spare)
- Electric windows
- Apparently, 56mpg….
Note A few people are buying NV200 Combis as a start vehicle. These are SIMILAR but not the same. the load area has different mounting points; air bags are different; seat mountings are different; and windows and rear door are different. If you plan NV200 check both options out to see which is the right base for your plans.
So whats it like?
Well its a van! Some reviews are a bit mediocre, but some are good. So when we went for a test drive we had fairly low expectations. However, it was fine. For the type of driving we will do, and the style we drive, the van was fine. Quick enough, smooth enough, quieter than expected and overall pretty good. The cab area is more comfortable than expected and quite spacious. We like the look of it too, bit cuter and stylish than most vans, so overall nothing really to put us off.
We will say, the cab is a bit plasticy, the switches feel a bit cheap, and the plastics don’t feel the best quality. As a builders van I would expect things to fall off, but respected, it should be ok. It is clearly built to a price but I think its more very good value and price/performance feel rather than “budget”. (For comparison, a basic Transit is 2x the price; a connect is +50%. Nothing comes close pricewise at the moment)
I will also say whilst the van is smooth & quiet and quite easy to drive, you can tell the engine is not the most perfect engine (Probably the 90 vs 110) – but thats being picky.
So overall, we’d say a good looking well spec’d van, well priced, well made, well thought out, but a bit cheap on the plastic quality!