New Work Vans Redefine Used Car Value

by Don Elliott on March 6, 2012

Ford introduced the Transit Connect van in the 2010 model year. This “compact commercial van” provides an alternative to full-sized cargo vans and SUVs. With 135 cubic feet of cargo capacity and 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway, the Transit Connect provides a less expensive alternative for commercial users, particularly in urban markets.

The Transit Connect was not really a new vehicle when introduced. The design is actually based on Focus unibody construction. The Transit Connect is manufactured in Turkey and has been a part of the European community since 2003. Following Ford’s lead, both Nissan and Chrysler via Fiat plan to bring similar small work vans to the US market.

At the 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan introduced the NV200 Compact Cargo Van. Set for an early 2013 release, the NV200 mirrors the Ford compact van specs. A raised roof, 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine, and impressive fuel efficiency are the trademarks of this new compact cargo van class. Also typical of the Ford product, the NV200 is already in use around the globe. Nissan made one major concession for the US market. They extended the cargo box by 7.9 inches to achieve 123 cubic feet of cargo space.

The Nissan will be built in Cuernavaca, Mexico. At introduction, the NV200 will be available in two models, the base NV200 S and the NV200 SV. Standard on the S model are power windows, AM/FM/CD, the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPSM). According to Nissan, the better equipped SV adds “power heated outside mirrors, power door locks with anti-locking feature, remote keyless entry with two key fogs, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, rear cargo floor mat, additional 12V power point in the rear of the center console, six floor-mounted cargo hooks in the cargo area, and full wheel covers.”

Not to be outdone, parent company Fiat plans to introduce the Fiat Doblo to the US and Canada as a Chrysler Group Ram-badged vehicle. Like the other vans, the Doblo has its roots from other markets around the world. It is expected that the Ram Doblo will be built at Fiats joint-venture plant in Turkey.  Final specs including engines, models, and equipment are not yet released, but you can bet that the Chrysler Ram Doblo’s will be head-to-head competitors of the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200.

All three of these vans, generally priced in the low $20s, are less expensive than their full-sized counterparts. All offer improved used car value relative to cost of ownership with better fuel mileage and big cargo capacity on a compact-sized package. Expect to see other manufacturers find entries in this new compact work van segment, even if they just rebadge a passenger box, take out the seats, and raise the roof.

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