London is to have a new taxi. Nissan has converted its NV200 van to Hackney Carriage spec, including modifying its suspension to provide the mandatory 25ft turning circle.
The idea of clambering into the back of a van for a trip across the metropolis may not be that appealing, though realistically it has to be better than the quality of life offered in the current near monopoly holder, the LTI TX4. As most of you will know, this grim device is old, slow and uncomfortable.
What you may not know is that it’s also hideously thirsty. Its rattling VM Motori engine may produce fewer than 100bhp, but fitted with the automatic gears used by almost all London taxis, that does not stop it burning more fuel than a 350bhp automatic Porsche 911. What’s more if you choose the upper ‘Elegance’ trim level, it’ll cost just £600 less than a brand new Boxster. So what does the NV200 offer instead? More comfort, space and convenience says Nissan, which hopes to have the vehicle licensed this year and on sale the next. It’s also wildly more fuel efficient, returning 53mpg on the combined cycle compared with the TX4’s 35mpg. That’ll save the average cabbie almost £700 per year in fuel alone. And, were you to swap London’s entire 22,000-strong taxi fleet for NV200s, it would reduce its total CO2 emissions by 38,000 tonnes every year.
Nissan says it will also cost less to buy than the TX4. Better still, because it has sliding rear doors, it will transform the lot of everyone from disabled passengers to cyclists who’ll no longer be dismounted by thoughtless occupants opening doors into their path.
For me the death of the TX4 is keenly anticipated. I once drove its forebear, the TX1, and thought it one of the worst cars I’d ever sat in.
The NV200 doesn’t look anything like the FX4 — the 1950s machine most of us still identify as a London cab — and thank goodness for that. If it proves to be as clean, comfortable, quiet, accessible, spacious and frugal as Nissan says, its arrival cannot come a moment too soon.