These are the first official pictures of Nissan’s taxi for London. It’s the brand’s second attempt at designing a new black cab, and as with the original effort unveiled in 2012 it’s based on the Nissan NV200 van. The New taxi goes on sale in December 2014.
However, the latest taxi has been given a new look by Nissan’s European design centre in Paddington – the same studio that’s responsible for the Juke and Qashqai. After consulting local cab drivers, Nissan’s stylists discovered concerns that the first taxi looked too much like a van, and could confuse customers. So they went back to the drawing board to give the model a more familiar look.
The changes include replacing the NV200’s angular headlamps with round lights similar to those used on the Juke. There’s also a new grille and redesigned front bumper, while the rooftop taxi sign is now lit with LEDs to make it more obvious at night.
Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer said that the design is supposed to epitomise everything that a black cab should be - it was designed in London, for London. He also said that it's a design that's instantly recognisable as a cab, and that the face is going to prove popular across London whether you're a cabbie or customer.
Nissan plans to build140,000 NV200 Taxis per year worldwide. That's the same number as black cabs have been sold in total since 1948 in the UK.
An electric Nissan cab will be available in later 2015, to be launched in an as-yet unconfirmed UK city. This model is distinguished by blue Nissan badges and a different, more geometric grille that hides the charging point, as you can see in the gallery pictures above.
As with all London cabs, the Nissan meets the requirement for a 7.6-metre turning circle. However, it achieves this with clever front suspension geometry, rather than requiring electric rear-wheel steering at low speeds in the way the Mercedes Vito taxi does.
The NV200 is built in Barcelona, and then imported to the UK to be converted into this taxi. Currently Nissan is evaluating which UK business will get the contract for this.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre petrol engine, linked to a CVT gearbox. Nissan claims economy of around 38mpg and CO2 emissions of 179g/km – considerably better than the stated 32mpg and 233g/km of the current 2.5-litre diesel TX4 London taxi. Emissions of NOx and other harmful particulates are also much improved. A spokesman added that an all-electric version of the taxi is still on track to go on sale within two years.
While a standard London cab currently starts from £32,995, the Nissan is expected to cost less than £30,000 when it goes on sale from a purpose-built Canary Wharf showroom in December. The cab is part of Nissan’s global taxi programme, which includes New York, Barcelona and Tokyo.
Darryl Scriven, Nissan's design excellence manager, took us around the new cab. He told us that the lights are actually from the Juke, and that the front axle has been widened by 75mm each side over the van version. The front bumper is in three pieces so can easily be replaced, while the front wings are new too. Side running boards also feature on the new taxi.
The sliding doors at the side are bigger than the standard for better wheelchair access, and a ramp is stored in the boot. The main luggage space is next to the driver.
Most taxis are hailed from the front, so that's where the changes have happened. However it does come with a chrome strip at the back and the silver taxi logo to make sure it isn't too van-like.
We first reported on Nissan’s taxi for London in August 2012. The spacious interior impressed us with its panoramic roof for sight-seeing, while the new front suspension hit the mark, ensuring the cab could tackle the tight roundabout at London’s Savoy Hotel. However, we did say it lacked the looks of the iconic black cab – but not any more!
You can find out all about the new car by watching our Nissan NV200 Taxi video review.
Nissan isn’t the only company trying to muscle in on the London cab market. Metrocab is looking to be the first to put an all-electric model on sale in the UK.
The Metrocab EV is designed, engineered and assembled in Mytchett, Surrey. A trial fleet is set to hit London streets very soon, beating the battery-powered version of Nissan’s taxi by around 12 months. There’s no word on range yet, but it’ll be powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and driven by two electric motors on the rear axle.