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2012 Nissan NV Performance

This performance review was written when the 2012 Nissan NV was new.

Reviewers are impressed with the Nissan NV’s handling and say that it drives more like a full-size pickup truck than a hulking work van, which is a big compliment. Test drivers say the base engine makes enough power for most uses, but they love the powerful optional V8, which they say should be the engine of choice for anyone planning to tow or haul large loads.

  • "The NV is what Nissan set out to make it, a competent and driver-friendly light-duty cargo van that will certainly catch the attention of Chevy, Ford, and GMC drivers.” -- Consumer Guide 
  • " It's a rear-drive-only commercial van, but the NV feels more like driving a large pickup or SUV.” -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The NV even drives surprisingly well for being so long and tall - it's much easier to pilot around town than a heavy-duty pickup truck.” -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

The Nissan NV 1500 and 2500 Cargo vans come standard with a 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. The optional 5.6-liter V8 engine makes 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, and is optional on 2500 models and standard on 3500 models. Passenger vans, which are only available as a 3500 model, come standard with the V6, while the V8 is optional. Top-of-the-line Passenger NV 3500 HD SL vans come standard with the V8.

Test drivers say that the V6 engine has enough power for most users, as long as the van isn’t weighed down with too much cargo, lots of passengers or a heavy trailer. However, reviewers love the V8 engine, which they say is responsive and powerful. The EPA hasn’t rated the Nissan NV’s fuel economy yet, but shoppers should keep in mind that V8 engines tend to use more fuel than V6 engines.

  • "Even when carrying a moderate load of building materials, the V6 provides smooth and ample performance on city streets and while merging onto freeways. … With either engine, the automatic furnishes smooth and timely gearchanges.” -- Edmunds
  • "The 5.6, however, is a very different animal and responds instantly to a light touch of the gas pedal. It roars like a linebacker leaning into a vicious sack, and with the optional Tow Package equipped is capable of pulling 9,500 pounds, the same GVWR as Ford's E-Series.” -- Autoblog
  • "The V-6 has plenty of power and has no problem cruising at highway speeds. … However, I'm very skeptical that a V-6-powered high-roof 2500 model would be able to get out of its own way once loaded down with gear and equipment ... unless your business is hauling helium-filled balloons.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • "We logged 11 mpg during the van’s two-week stay - not very impressive, but it did include almost 400 miles of towing to and from GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan.” -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Test drivers are surprised by how easy and comfortable the Nissan NV is to drive. They say its light steering makes it easy to maneuver around town, and that its ride is fairly smooth for a work van.

The Ford Transit Connect may be more maneuverable than the NV, but that’s because it’s much smaller and is built on a car-based platform. Otherwise, only the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter can give the Nissan NV a run for its money in terms of handling. Shoppers should keep in mind that the NV isn’t available with all-wheel drive; the only vans available with that feature are the Chevrolet Express and the GMC Savana.

  • "On the other hand, while the 192 feet the NV needed to stop from 70 mph might be 2 more than the Sprinter needed, that figure is actually as good as the average three-row kid hauler, and well ahead of the NV’s workhorse brethren in the heavy-duty-truck class.” -- Car and Driver
  • "For its considerable size -- 18 inches longer than a Chevy Suburban -- the 2012 Nissan NV is fairly easy to handle, with good sight lines to each front corner, precise steering and wander-free tracking at freeway speeds.” -- Edmunds
  • "I was impressed with the NV's relatively quiet ride (for a vast steel box, at least).” -- Automobile Magazine

Towing and Hauling

The Nissan NV 1500 Cargo van can tow up to 7,000 pounds with the optional towing package. NV 2500 and 3500 models can tow up to 9,500 pounds when equipped with the V8, while V6-equipped 2500 and 3500 models are limited to 7,000 pounds. By comparison, the Chevrolet Express and Ford E-Series can both tow up to 10,000 pounds.

The Nissan NV Passenger van is only available as a 3500 model, but all three trims can tow at least 2,000 pounds, with the option to upgrade to an 8,700-pound towing capacity with the available V8 engine. A towing package on V6-equipped passenger models yields a 6,200-pound towing capacity.

Nissan doesn’t list a maximum payload for the NV Passenger van, but Cargo models can haul between 2,535 pounds in standard roof NV 1500 SV models and 3,925 pounds in NV 3500 HD S models.

  • "There didn’t seem to be much degradation when we hooked up some 4500 pounds of trailer and race car, and loaded a few hundred pounds of spares inside, either.” -- Car and Driver
Review Last Updated: 10/10/13

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