Does your Dad’s Van Live on at Ford, Nissan?

Father’s Day is approaching, and that’s a convenient time to consider the van — the vehicle fathers of the past used for work and to carry their families en masse through life.

There was a time when a van was a perfectly reasonable consumer vehicle. Young men would own them. paint dragons and sorceress on the side and fill it with shag carpeting. Families would back the camping supplies in the back and head out into the woods. Hell, my brother in law was conceived in a Chevy van, and that’s all right with me.

Nowadays, vans are left to the purview of the working man (or woman) — or they’re rented out for moving services and such. The actual passenger carrying functions are now left to the minivan class — a club of vehicles that due the job while lacking the earthy romanticism of the old, classic van.

Still, I jumped on the chance to review a couple modern versions of vans in the Ford Transit and the Nissan NV200 just to see if there’s any of that earthy charm left in the modern van incarnations.

So, the smaller Ford Transit and its rivals step in to make those deliveries and transport the working folks. Transit was redesigned for 2015, and Ford served up some serious rollout events around the world to herald its arrival. They even tricked out a couple customized versions for the 2014 New York International Auto Show.

The modern Transit embraces the same design concepts that made previous generations work. Build it long, tall and narrow. Make the cockpit as comfortable as possible, while keeping the back wide open for as much cargo and customization as the buyer desires.

External styling extends the nose beyond old van styles into more of a car-ish, mini van style. And that’s intentional as it’s clear automakers want their vans to drive like cars with similar ergonomics, lighter handling and lower POVs in the cockpit.

Ford offers their transit with two wheelbase lengths, dual sliding doors and extensive customization options. It’s a top example of a modern van — useful and as well equipped from the driver’s seat as many of Ford’s lower and mid-range vehicles.

The Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo Van steers even more thoroughly into the world of cars. Obviously, with the “Compact” label, it’s smaller than the Transit and most vans on the road. It’s shorter and rides lower to the ground than the Transit.

When driving it in public, witnesses didn’t quite know what to make of it. Was it a tiny van or a pregnant compact car? If pressed for an answer, I’d lean toward number two. It’s

Both options here start out just north of $20,000, so they’re affordable with all of their cargo carrying options. They serve their purpose well for civilians and professionals, but these are really oversized cars than the classic vans of eras past.

Nothing lasts forever, but your Dad’s van lives on only in museums.


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