Chevrolet will be rolling out its Nissan-built City Express compact cargo van this fall as it challenges Ford’s Transit Connect. Chevrolet unveiled the City Express at the Chicago Auto Show and is targeting it towards small business owners needing a nimble, fuel-efficient cargo hauler with a versatile interior. It will feature just one body style and with one powertrain.
It will be the third entry into the compact cargo van segment pioneered by the Transit Connect and followed by the Nissan NV200. Ironically, the City Express is built for Chevrolet by Nissan and is derived from the Nissan NV200. Nissan rolled out the NV200 in March 2013 and posted sales of 4,619 units for the year. As Nissan is bidding to establish itself as a player in the commercial sector, it is also offering the full-sized NV van. Sales of compact cargo van sales are seen to surge to around 120,000 units by 2017, according to IHS Automotive.
Ram is set to field its own small cargo van this winter, the ProMaster City that is based on the Fiat Doblo and will be built for Ram by Fiat. While Chevrolet officials did not disclose the pricing for the City Express at the Chicago Auto Show, they said the compact cargo van will be competitive with the Transit Connect, which has a starting price of $22,995, including shipping.
Ford managed to hike sales of Transit Connect from 8,834 in 2009 to 39,703 in 2013 – figures that caught the attention of Nissan, General Motors and Ram. Compact cargo vans are attractive to small business owners due to their low purchase price, good fuel economy and ease of parking in cities.
Interiors of such vehicles could also be configured with shelves, tie-downs and floor-based storage options. "If you look at a florist or a bakery owner, they don't care about a van's cargo and towing capability. They are looking for a nice interior to move a large amount of items," quipped Mike Jackson, IHS' director of North American forecasting.
The Chevrolet City Express is powered by Nissan's 131-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a continuously variable transmission. Chevrolet’s offering is expected to have similar EPA mpg rating with that of the NV200's: 24 city/25 highway/24 combined.