Nissan back in the minibus taxi gameComment on this story
Rosslyn - Nissan is back in the taxi game in South Africa - for many years a Toyota preserve - with the launch of the all-new NV350 Impendulo, which will go on sale in March 2014.
Although the new 16-seater was engineered in Japan, it's been built to comply with South African taxi industry regulations, and has also benefited from considerable input from local taxi association members.
Even its name - the isizulu word for 'the answer' - was the winning entry in a competition among members of the taxi industry.
Developed from Nissan's NV350 Panel Van - released in South Africa in 2013 - it shares the van's crisp-edged, slightly blocky styling and high roofline, making it easier to get past 14 other passengers when getting in or out.
What it does not have is the van's right-side sliding door (a crucial safety issue in an industry where passengers hop in and out without warning) or a diesel option; it's also available in any colour you like, as long as it's white as per the taxi industry regulations.
The cockpit has been revised from that of the van, with extra attention given to ease of entry, head and shoulder room and drivers' knee room - important elements for operators who spend most of every day behind the wheel.
Behind the two individual front seats there are 14 seats arranged in four rows - four across, then two rows of two-plus-one with a central 'aisle' and a back row of four across the tailgate.
Standard kit includes easy-to-clean PVC flooring, adjustable power steering wheel, a multi-info trip computer, two cup holders, sliding rear windows, seatback handles and 15" steel rims - including a full-size spare - with plastic wheel covers.
A two-speaker audio system is available as an option.
Safety equipment includes driver and front passenger airbags, antilock braking, seat belts for all 16 seats, a driver's seatbelt warning buzzer, an emergency exit escape hatch in the roof and an immobiliser.
The NV350 Impendulo comes with a 2.5-litre petrol engine rated for 108kW at 5600 revs and 213Nm at 4400rpm, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
While Nissan doesn't make any claims for fuel consumption (that'll depend on how many people the operators can fit into those 14 seats) it does make mention of the appropriate use of modern automotive technology, such as a low-friction timing chain, an 'intelligent' voltage regulator and an idle speed of just 600rpm, rather than a complex and expensive idle-stop function.
NV350 Impendulo 2.5 Petrol - R306 900
That includes a three-year or 100 000km warranty; service intervals are 15 000km.