In this line of work, we are fortunate enough to get to drive just about every car offered in the market today. Needless to say, being a motoring journalist means we enjoy driving but there are some vehicles that are best experienced as a passenger. Case in point, the family van.
This opportunity presented itself quite nicely when Nissan Philippines Inc (NPI) recently invited us on a trip to Cebu with the all-new Urvan Premium. Bigger, comfier and more spacious than the typical Urvan, we see if Nissan's idea of premium actually translates to an excellent riding experience.
First thing's first, its size. The Urvan Premium is the largest van Nissan is offering as it measures 5230mm long, 1880mm wide and 2285mm tall. Compared to the standard 15- and 18-seater versions, the premium is bigger by 535mm, 185mm and 295mm respectively. Its wheelbase, on the other hand, is the same as with the cargo van which is at 2940mm.
As for its style, the Urvan Premium pretty much looks the same as the standard vans. The only clear difference that can be seen on the Premium are the body-colored front and rear bumpers, and taller roof. Other than that, Nissan kept it the way it is which was fine although I do wished they fitted the van with alloy wheels since it is a 'premium' people carrier.
Open the sliding door and the Urvan Premium greets you with full-size seats, not bench seats. All come with lap belts for added safety and a recline function for better comfort. Thanks to its high roofline, there was generous headroom for all passengers. In fact, most of us were able to stand up properly inside the Premium Urvan.
Topping it all off is the ever cold airconditioning system that Nissan has become famous (or infamous) for. Did I mention that the Urvan Premium also has cup holders and bottle holders for the rear passengers?
Driving this particularly premium van is, you guessed it, a turbo-diesel. It's the same 2.5-liter engine that powers the Navara pickup and standard versions of the Urvan. It benefits from a variable geometry turbocharger but has been detuned to put out 129 PS at 3200 rpm and 356 Nm of torque from 1400 – 2000 rpm. While the numbers look pretty average, it's how the engine delivered its power that surprised me. The lone transmission choice is a five-speed manual.
From a passenger's point of view, I noticed that the 2.5-liter turbodiesel mill offered a lot of punch when setting off. With plenty of torque at low revs, the van had little difficulty in hauling both passenger and cargo. However, with all the power down low, it did lose a fair bit of steam as the revs kept climbing.
Ride quality on the Urvan Premium was also good as it went over bumps and road imperfections admirably. Granted, it's no limousine but it is a comfortable long distance hauler and is a nice place to relax as the kilometers pile on. Perhaps you could thank its grandeur size, thick sidewall tires and soft damping for that.
Vans are not known for their cornering ability but the Urvan Premium did kept itself composed through the twisty mountain roads of Cebu. It's no canyon carver but it takes on corners without making people feel sick. Even with a comfort-tuned ride, the Urvan Premium did not feel too wallowy or unstable.
So what's my verdict for the Urvan Premium? For starters, it's a well-built people carrier that can seat fifteen in relative comfort. The pull from the 2.5-liter turbo-diesel was impressive and ride quality is better than most of its contemporaries. It is also very spacious which is always a plus.
But for a premium van, it's lacking some features that should be available on such a vehicle.
First, it only comes with a manual transmission. While there's nothing wrong with it, an option for an automatic would broaden its appeal. Second, it's rather simple audio system that only supports AM/FM radio, CD and Aux. For a van that costs more than Php 1.6 million, I was expecting it to come with a more comprehensive entertainment, and infotainment, package. Perhaps Nissan can offer such a system as an optional extra. Lastly, I felt that it needed better Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) deadening. At highway speeds, the engine becomes particularly vocal and could be bothersome for passengers.
All in all, Nissan has come up with a van that emphasizes on delivering utmost comfort to its passengers. Some further refinements like extra features and better deadening could do wonders to the Urvan Premium's overall package.
For fans of the Urvan that want something a little bit more plush, the Urvan Premium is certainly an upgrade worth looking into.