Let's play word association shall we? What pops in your head when I say large van?
If you said 'Hiace' or 'Grandia', well, I don't blame you. Since the mid-2000's, the Toyota van has been a staple of shuttle services and rentals across the nation. Nissan wants to change that perception with the NV350 Urvan Premium. While the standard NV350 is selling well, Nissan wants an even bigger chunk of van sales in the country and has done so by applying the mantra 'bigger is better'.
Two months ago, my colleague made his first impressions on Nissan's extra-large shuttle and walked away impressed. Now, it's time for the real-world test. Does the Urvan Premium truly deliver a, well, premium experience?
When it was first delivered to the office, I couldn't wrap my head around the sheer size of it. The Urvan Premium isn't just a high-roof version of the standard NV350. Nissan stretched its length and width significantly too. The result is a van the measures over five meters long and well over two meters high. To put that into perspective, it's seven and a half feet tall when measured from the wheels to the roof. From its size alone, you know that the Urvan Premium has passenger hauling in mind.
If its generous dimensions aren't enough of a clue that this is the Premium model, this variant gets color-keyed bumpers and door handles. Also part of the package is a chrome grill, as well a pair of handy foglights with blue ring accents around it. As for styling, there isn't much room for swanky character lines or dramatic sweeps and creases, it is a van after all. While it is boxy and upright, it sure has a lot of presence. Plus, this shade of 'Tiger Eye Brown' adds a bit of class for this utilitarian. I do wish it had dual-sliding doors but at least it comes with a soft-close function.
Inside, the dash of the Urvan Premium is as basic as they come. There isn't even a touchscreen audio system, USB ports, or even steering wheel controls. Unusual, given the van's premium positioning. It does make up for it by making the rear quarters as accommodating as possible. You get twelve reclining seats at the back plus air-conditioning vents for everyone. There's also a large cubby hole on the left side and underseat storage for large bags. Room is definitely more than enough for passengers on board and, with that raised roof, those standing below 5'4” can stand up straight inside.
Nissan does say that there is seating for fifteen but the center front seat is best reserved for short adults. The rest of the seats however are well placed. Despite being bolted to the floor, there is enough legroom in each row, even for taller passengers. I hugely appreciated the center aisle as it makes access much easier for those who go on board. Thanks to the large windows, a lot of light comes into the cabin while the beige seats further adds to the feeling of spaciousness. This van is definitely far from cramped.
Motivating the Urvan Premium is the same engine found in the smaller NV350 Urvan. It is a 2.5-liter turbodiesel with direct injection, common rail tech and a variable geometry turbocharger. The result of that is 129 PS and 356 Nm of torque. It then shifts via a five-speed manual and before you ask, no, an automatic transmission is not available.
Should you be tasked to drive it, it's quite the climb due to its high step-in height. As with vans of this type, you sit on top of the engine meaning it can get a little noisy. Still, despite the size, it's actually not that daunting to drive. The tall side mirrors are a big help in maneuvering this van into parking spaces. Do be aware of its length and most especially, its height. Finding a parallel parking space to fit this van was difficult while vertical clearance signs come especially handy when trying to enter multi-storey car parks.
To put it bluntly, it drives like a van. The steering wheel is at an angle, feel is nothing to write home about and the clutch release is on the high side. So the driving experience is exactly what you expect but these kinds of vehicles weren't built for that purpose anyway. I did note the brakes being able to slow down this three-ton hauler with relative ease. It's also worth mentioning the short gears of the Urvan Premium allows you to start from a standstill with a fair amount of shove. On the highway however, I was longing for a sixth gear just to keep engine noise down. As for fuel economy, the figures are decent, if not outstanding. Heavy city traffic yielded 7.7 kilometers per liter while the highway driving with a full load netted 11.8 kilometers per liter. I reckon it would have much better numbers on the highway if it had an extra gear.
But people don't buy vans for the driving experience. Those who go for vans want to know its rear accommodations and I'm glad to report that the Urvan Premium can shuttle people comfortably. Granted, the ride is fairly bouncy at the front since you are sitting near the top of the wheels and the same applies if you're the only passenger at the back. However, fill up the Urvan Premium with passengers and it becomes a much more comfortable way to travel. The seats at the back are much softer and more supportive than the ones at the front and the reclining function is great for long trips too.
As good as the seats were, perhaps the best part of the Urvan Premium was its air-conditioning. I was initially skeptical if Nissan's reputably cold air-con was up to the task of keeping the vast cabin cool. To my surprise, not only did it keep everyone chilled, it was strong enough to fog up the windows on a hot day. In summary, with a full load, the Urvan Premium is a very comfortable shuttle for both the city and province. I just wish it had that bit more equipment to make it a VIP transporter. My suggestions? I'd like to see a touchscreen, a better audio system, USB ports and more storage bins. Also, an automatic version would be great since every question I got regarding the van was 'may automatic ba nyan? (Is there an automatic version of this?)'. It would do a lot of favors for the person driving it too.
At Php 1,650,000, you can look at the Urvan Premium's value two ways. It lacks some equipment to live up to the 'Premium' badge but the acres of space more than makes up for it. When compared to the other vans at this price point, it is among the largest and it seats the most. In essence, it's a jumbo-sized shuttle for the price of a standard van. For some, that is great value.
If transporting people is your trade or you regularly take the extended family out for a road trip, it's difficult to find a more comfortable van for less.
*Note: Rear-view mirror integrated dash camera and reverse camera is a dealer option.