Nissan New Evalia 2012

Guess which car was recently chosen as New York’s, taxi of tomorrow. Yep, it’s the Nissan NV200 or the Evalia as it’s been named in India. After years of running the now discontinued Ford Crown Victoria NY decided it needed a new taxi and the Nissan was what they zeroed in on after an extensive selection process. While that indicates that the Evalia obviously must be a car of substance it also sticks it squarely into the ‘taxi’ mould. The concept works well abroad but things aren’t always quite the same in India.

Panel vans are big in America and even Europe. They are essentially big vans de-signed mainly for commercial use without rear windows. Many of these vans are then given a rear greenhouse and more hospitable interiors and go from being a goods carrier to a family mover. The Evalia looks rather similar to these vans. This is a very large looking vehicle and it comes across much larger than its 4.4m length suggests. Nissan have put some serious effort into masking the inherently boring lines of such a vehicle. The result is a very polarising design to say the least. The front end is sharp and dramatically slopes downwards. Sharp headlamps flow into the grille that deepens at the base to house the badge. The bulging front arches also make for an interesting focal point. The side profile is dominated by an interestingly shaped driver’s window. You can see that Nissan have tried to spice up the slab sided design with a number of bulges, creases and kinks in the metal work. The rear however doesn’t quite keep up with a flat, boring design and low set lamps that look quite like the ones on a Scorpio. Surprisingly small 14-inch wheel leave those wheel arches quite empty and look out of place on a vehicle this big.

The interiors are simple and straightforward. Beige and grey plastics are used all around with fair levels of fit and finish. The minimal centre console features a large stereo unit, aircon controllers and the shift knob. Quite a few parts like the steering wheel and side aircon vents have been nicked from the Micra/Sunny to keep costs down. The speedo console consists of a large speed-ometer flanked by a digital display on the right. This display gives you myriad data from a digital rev counter to real time fuel efficiency and a shift indicator. It doubles up as the display for the reverse camera (no parking sensors). Of course, this cabin has been designed with one objective – space and it gets that job done exceedingly well. This is easily one of the most spacious cabin has been of any Indian car. The large rear sliding doors make for easy access and knee room in the middle row is enough for tall folk even with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back. There’s in-credible headroom all around and more luggage capacity than most hatchbacks even with the third row up. Third row leg room is manageable and at around the same level as the Innova. The third bench is reclineable for some more leg room on longer drivers. The seating system is very versatile and you can set it up from being cavernous luggage hauling two seater to a people ferrying seven seater.

There are plenty of storage spaces and cup holders all around the cabin too. All in all it spacious and quite comfortable, but there are some issues. The driving position despite the commanding view isn’t very good with no height adjust on the seat and a steering wheel that’s angled forward like on a commercial vehicle. The middle row doesn’t get aircon vents (the third row does) which means the front units have to be on full blast. Nissan gives you some nice features like electrically adjustable ORVMs and a reverse camera but weirdly skimps out on bare necessities like a day-night rear view mirror. The top model gets a smart key but it’s rather pointless as you still have to turn a knob where the key would normally slot to start the vehicle. Out test vehicles also had a fiddly steering locking mechanism but Nissan is already looking into. Finally, and what I perceive will be the biggest problem, is the rear windows. The middle row window only cracks open outwards by a couple of inches and the third row window doesn’t open at all. A Camera person insightfully pointed out. “What happens when you’re carrying car sick passengers?”

The K9K is fast becoming one of the most prolific engines in India after Fiat’s Multijet. The Evalia uses an 85Ps version that doesn’t sound like much but then again this van is much lighter than its rivals. It’s built on a monocoque front-wheel drive chassis that is much lighter than its ladder frame rivals the Innova and Xylo. There’s also 200Nm of torque to help things along the way. In the real world the Evalia gets the job done. There is lag at low revs but it isn’t debilitating. The engine pulls cleanly with a strong midrange and like the most diesel engines there’s no point revving it close to the redline. The gearbox throw isn’t too tall and feels just right for the type of car. A tight turning radius and excellent visibility all around makes the car easy to punt through traffic. Nissan quotes a very ambitious efficiency Nissan quotes a very ambitious efficiency figure of 19.3kmpl (significantly higher than its rivals) and claims to have achieved it thanks to the low kerb weight, narrow tyres and aerodynamic front end.

At first I was apprehensive about the skin-ny 165 section tyres but they turned out to be up for the job. The van brakes well and holds a fairly decent line around corners as long as you are fair with what you ask of it. Nissan has reinforced the leaf spring rear suspension for India and ride quality is quite supple but the Evalia does have a tendency to crash through large potholes. She also feel very top heavy and while you can push to some extent through corners the weight transfer and driving position don’t make it a very enjoyable experience. I had one short opportunity to take the van up to some speeds and it felt fairly composed and stable even at about 140kmph if being a little susceptible to being buffeted by crosswinds as those large slab slides catch a lot of wind.

There’s no stressing just how important the Evalia is for Nissan. This is the model that needs to bring in the big numbers. While the Evalia falls in the relatively virgin minivan category our market has evolved to the extent that it won’t shun the car simply for being different. It’ not a product our market is entirely familiar with but it isn’t an alien concept either. Look at the Ertiga which created a completely new category and has been accepted exceedingly well. Nissan is targeting the married family man with teenage children but the fleet sales market will definitely be a point of interest as well. The Evalia has its fundamentals on target – it’s spacious, comfortable and efficient, However it’s up against a monster of a rival – the Toyota Innova, a car (and brand) out market loves. There’s only one way Nissan can make a significant dent in its rivals sales and that is to seriously undercut its price. The company will have a success on their hands only if it is very aggressively priced. If not the Evalia will just be another Nissan model that fades into obscurity.

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