In May 2011, Nissan was selected to create and supply the vehicle that would be the exclusive New York City taxi.
That plan hasn’t worked out so well. A series of court decisions have blocked the City from approving the NV200 as the only taxi model, in part because it’s not a hybrid, according to the New York Times.
But Nissan still has the right to bring its taxi to the streets of New York, and it sold the first one at the end of October.
This week, the automaker invited me to get a closer look at the NV200 and take a spin around Manhattan.
I rode in the NV200 owned by Demetrios Rizos, a Greek immigrant who’s been driving a cab in New York for 25 years. He had been driving an old Crown Victoria, and considered the Toyota Camry and Prius when he needed an upgrade.
It was his wife who suggested he check out Nissan’s offering, he said, and so he did. He found that it’s bigger, more comfortable, more high-tech, and in the same price range as the competition. He paid just over $US33,000 for it.
Rizos picked up the NV200 in early November, and said it’s paid off so far. He’s been getting 21 miles per gallon, impressive for a big car that spends all its time in Manhattan traffic. The fares he’s picked up in the new ride love it, he told me, and he’s been getting better tips.
Riding in the backseat, I could see why. It’s clear that Nissan has made a great taxi. It’s comfortable and spacious. The clear roof brings in a ton of light, even on a dreary day.
The interior is lined with carbon to absorb unwanted odours, though we’ll have to wait a while to see how that works out. There are USB ports to charge your phone, and the doors are easy to open and close. A good taxi doesn’t need much more than that.
Then Rizos let me get behind the wheel. As I drove past a waving doorman with the taxi’s “vacant” light on, I appreciated that there’s plenty of room for a tall driver, without taking away space from paying customers. The big vehicle has a surprisingly tight turning radius, and doesn’t actually feel at that huge when you’re moving.
So Nissan won’t be given a monopoly of the NYC taxi market, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t win over a lot of drivers.
Here’s a closer look at some of the NV200’s more impressive details:
The van has only two rows, but there’s plenty of space to fit three people on the bench seat, and there’s a ton of legroom. You could easily fit a big bag in front of your knees. The leather seats make cleaning up easier.
The panoramic roof really brings in light, even if it means the drivers can’t put advertisements on top of their cars for extra revenue. This, by the way, is a promotional image.
Here’s how the sky looked when we went for our drive:
From the backseat, you speak to the driver through an intercom (you just turn it on or off, no need to hold the button to talk). You can also pay by credit card, watch the news, and charge your phone via the two USB ports.
As a cyclist, I really like this feature: The little man lights up when the door starts to open. That extra warning can save a biker from a serious injury.
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