Attack of the new mini vans


Expedition Leader
The next few months will bring several new choices in the new "smaller than minivan" category. These vans are shorter than conventional minivans, making them more maneuverable and more economical in city and suburban environments.

Ford has a second generation Transit Connect van available now. The TC will be available in two wheelbases. Ford's 1.6L turbo four cylinder gas engine will be an option.

Nissan has already introduced the NV200, the vehicle that NYC chose as its taxi of the future. Chevrolet will sell a rebadged version of the NV200 as the City Express in 2015.

In 2015, Ram will introduce the Promaster City, a face lifted version of the Fiat Doblo. Few details are available about this vehicle today.

Any of these vehicles could form the basis for a stealthy home on wheels. But they are not much less expensive than standard minivans. And there are plenty of less expensive used minivans to choose from, including AWD versions from Toyota and Chrysler.

are you interested in this sort of van for stealthy traveling?


I recently drove a 2014 Mazda 5, which is essentially a small minivan, and loved it, Lots of room, great access, decent economy. Much more stylish than the Ford TC or Nissan.

I'd buy one today if they came in AWD. unfortunately, AWD is only available in the Mazda 5 CX which is a sedan and lacks the sliding doors.


FWIW, I have an NV200 I use for work. It was set up as a small camper when I got it.

It does get pretty good mileage. I can average 25 mpg if I keep my interstate speeds down to 75. And it's comfortable, and it has lots of room in the back. And it's cheap.

But it's not what I'd call a good drive. In fact, I'd say it's the worst driving vehicle I've had in the last 20 years or so. I'd have to go back to some of my $100 beater Alfas to find something worse. Wait, actually those probably still handled better...

The fact is with only 130 hp it's really underpowered and the CVT just makes it worse. The thing redefines 'slushbox' off the line.

I'm not saying I want to get rid of it, but don't expect it to drive as nice as even a regular minivan. A Grand Caravan puts this to shame, and that's setting the bar pretty low! Then again, this is taller so it's easier to get in/out of the back and has a better load floor. And as mentioned, it's cheaper and gets better mileage.

It's strictly 2wd and rolls on tiny little 195/65-15s. There's plenty of room in the wheel wells to go up in tire size, but with the limited power I'd be hesitant to go much bitter or more aggressive.

It's a good little work van, and could be a good little camper, but go in with your eyes open.

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Sad but true...

No thanks. While new is (or can be) nice, I'll stick with my 10 year old Astro awd minivan. Works great for what I do and none of the above can replace all of those things, the Ford TC LWB probably comes closest but none of them touch the tow capacity.

Improved fuel economy is the only positive I see, though for what you can buy and build a used Astro for, the leftover dough pays for a lot of gas.

Truck Trend: By The Numbers: Ford Transit Connect, Ram C/V, Nissan NV200, Fiat Doblo


The most exciting aspect of this to me is...I'm thinking these and, moreso, the ProMaster/Transit lines may put a chink in the resale armor of Sprinters; thus driving them into the realm of mere mortals. Certain, busy with work, tradespeople may see some advantage to these economical NEW vans as opposed to that 150+k sprinter? For years, Sprinter was the only game in town.


The Ford and Nissan have both been around in Canada for a couple of years. They are rebadging the Nissan with a bowtie as well. They both seem to have been embraced but the tradesmen/courier crowds. I looked over the Ford to see if it would be a good replacement for the Caravans that our techs use. It sure seems to be more effective for service truck use. Swing-out doors and a more square sidewall profile are big improvements. Better economy but a bit slow. That would be fine for city use but the guys trying to keep up with 125KPH traffic on the prairie wouldn't be too pleased, I'm sure. I've seen a few of the Fiat/Dodges and they also seem well thought out. It seems a bit odd to have a one ton front wheel drive and I wonder how they'll manage in the winter.


I just reread the original post with my eyes open. I now see that there are new offerings that I didn't know about. The fact that Ford is already doing a second generation probably speaks to the popularity of the first one and also explains why Ram wants a piece of that small van action. The Caravan has never been very good for that.
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New member
A company called "Recon campers" seems to offer a nice setup for the NV200. I would be curious to hear what folks think of this; I'm not affiliated with Recon but have found two relatively new NV200 vans for around $15k so not much money. One more thing, Recon offers the pop top for $5,500 alone so one could have them do the top and then outfit the van to their needs. Link below


Expedition Leader
I've seen one of the Recon NV200 campers in person and the bed is pretty small - they say "The NV200 seats 4, has two beds to sleep up to 4 people" on their website - but they also describe the beds as being twin bed sized - so the 4 people better be small and skinny probably. The pop top could probably sleep two kids only.


New member
FWIW, I own a 2014 Transit Connect LWB as my "daily" van.

I don't know if I would ever use it as more than an overnight camper. There's about a full size bed worth of space in the cargo area. It's enough that my girlfriend and I can sleep in it, but without a ton of space for other gear.

It does average about 25mpg though and has been pretty sure footed in any condition Idaho can throw at it.



Expedition Leader
The new Connect is a pretty nice size. Compact but roomy. Looks pretty good too. I'd love to see Ford make a awd version targeting Subaru owners that have a growing family. Awd 7-8 inch clearance etc. That would be interesting.


New member
If Ford did make an AWD version, I likely would have ended up with that instead of an Express AWD. My 2010 Transit Connect has been a pretty good car, even when we ended up driving through a snowstorm this Winter that had RWD trucks sliding off the road. (I'm in Georgia so my TC had never been driven in any real amount of snow before.) "Sure footed" is a really good description of how it handled but I sure would have appreciated AWD anyway. Besides the lack of AWD in any of the little cargo vans, none come in the higher roof line my older model TC has. A couple are a bit longer but that doesn't entirely make up for lack of height. Now, if the Mercedes Metris came in AWD... Ah, well... I can't afford it anyway.

Funny thing is that originally all I wanted was a little more towing capacity than my TC, with a preference for AWD. I was not planning on camping in the van, either TC or Express, since I have an Aliner. Yet the first time camping with the Express ended up being a long drive down to Florida to pick up a motorcycle. We were towing a motorcycle trailer & brought all the dogs, my 3 Greyhounds & a foster Grey. We, 2 humans & 4 large hounds, camped in the van two nights. Was surprised how well it went. That's something we could never have done with the TC. Still, I'll miss my bitty van.

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I thought the new Mercedes Metris would be more popular as the size slides in a spot in the market that is basically vacant. But I've only seen one of them on the road in as many months. Anyone else?


I thought the new Mercedes Metris would be more popular as the size slides in a spot in the market that is basically vacant. But I've only seen one of them on the road in as many months. Anyone else?
I haven't seen any on the road yet either but I had a good look at one at the auto show a couple months ago. If I were in the new minivan market, that would be my choice. RWD only in North America for now, but the sales guy expects AWD to follow soon. The Sprinter was always way to big for an Astro/Safari replacement but the Metris is perfect, IMO. Its a shame but I highly doubt they will sell many of these, since young wealthy families around here wouldn't be seen in anything less than a GLS or GLE.


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