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NV350 set to spearhead Nissan’s van return

Boxy number: Nissan chalks the NV350's resemblance to the Toyota Hi-Ace up to Japanese regulations.

Nissan focuses on cracking the Hi-Ace/iLoad duopoly with a familiar looking van

6 Dec 2011


NISSAN is preparing a business case to take on the Toyota Hi-Ace and Hyundai iLoad with an equivalently sized and like-priced mid-sized van.

Thought to be the NV350 unveiled at the Tokyo motor show last week, even the Hi-Ace-like styling suggests the company’s intentions.

“It is a candidate for part of the medium van segment,” Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson told GoAuto in Japan last week.

“It’s not something for our mid-term plan time horizon, but certainly a strong candidate for post (mid-2012).

“We’re pursuing it with prudence … when we launch a van we want to ensure it is the right product, right price and at the right time, but it’s certainly not a top tier priority, not a core product, but we have an ambition to get into the van business and the NV350 is one that fits into that space.”

The NV350 follows Nissan’s aborted attempt to return to the van segment in Australia with the smaller NV200, before the effects of the global financial crisis scuttled that for the time being.

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“Three years ago, we clearly thought we had product that would do the job for us, but over the course of the global financial crisis we decided to invest in more core product,” Mr Thompson said.

“There has been quite a big shift in the van segment over the last three years in terms of product and pricing … and we feel we just didn’t have it nailed back then. But we’ll get it right – it’s just a matter of time.”

Unlike the smaller car-based NV200 and Renault Master-derived NV400 that sits above it, the NV350 is a traditional Japanese forward control vehicle designed with low price in mind.

According to Nissan’s head of design, Shiro Nakamura, the Hi-Ace comparisons are unavoidable due to ever-increasing pedestrian-impact and other safety-related legislation that basically dictates the design of such vans.

“We almost had no choice,” he admitted, pointing to the proportion of payload to cabin volume required, and the consequence this has on the windscreen angle and shape, instrumentation pack, seating and other hard points.

“Japanese regulations dictate everything when designing a box (like the NV350) … we cannot exceed it by 1mm.”

Details are still sketchy, but Nissan says the three-metre long payload is segment-leading, as is the fuel consumption from the available petrol and diesel powerplants.

But while the interior is typical forward-control van in layout, its style is more contemporary, with a dash-mounted gearshift, floor-mounted parking brake, and the option of push-button start and a reversing camera.

Van and people carrier configurations will be available in some markets, though Nissan is not expected to offer the latter if the NV350 makes it to Australia.

Japanese market sales commence in the middle of next year.

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