The London black cab is being thoroughly rebooted, and it's Nissan who's challenging the dominance of the traditional black taxi. It's brought a new NV200 London Taxi to the capital during the 2012 Olympics in its bid to replace one of the world's most iconic vehicles.
Nissan claims the NV200 cab will be cheaper, greener, and more user-friendly than the current fleet of LTI TX4s, and we may yet see a fully electric version join the ranks if trials are successful.
How does Nissan's NV200 cope with the challenges faced by a London taxi?
Despite the dumpy MPV-alike looks, this isn't simply a car given a hasty rehash and a lick of black paint to double up as a taxi. The NV200 has been designed from the outset to be a purpose-built commercial vehicle and urban workhorse - it's actually based around Nissan's NV200 van, hence the commodious bodystyle.
The idea has already seen success across the Atlantic, where it will replace New York's ancient Ford Crown Victorias as the new yellow NYC cab.
The NV200's 1.5-litre turbodiesel manages a claimed 53.3mpg, over 50% better than the current TX4 taxi's you'll see tooling around the capital. This alone could save cabbies up to £700 a year on fuel. And with more than 300,000 trips being taken by London cabs every day, the NV200's concessions to air quality could be a welcome improvement.
Complying fully with Euro 5 legislation, the NV200 London Taxi’s emits up to 138g/km of CO2, compared with an optimum 209g/km figure from the TX4. Harmful particulate emissions are also reduced, welcome news to London's pedestrians and cycling commuters as well as the environmental lobby.
So, it's greener and cheaper, but will London passengers like the Nissan NV200?
That remains to be seen. Sliding doors make for swifter, safer entrance and exit in London's busy streets, and once aboard there's space for five adult passengers. In a noticeable nod to the modern Londoner, the NV200 taxi features a USB socket for those crucial gadget-charging opportunities. The London skyline can be enjoyed through a glass roof panel.
The NV200 Taxi conforms to the all-important rules laid down by Transport for London, such as the requirement for all taxis to have a 25ft (7.6m) turning circle for those quick turnarounds outside the Savoy.
When could Londoners see the NV200 on the capital's streets?
If crash tests and subsequent red-tape wrangling all go smoothly, the NV200 should start to filter onto London streets by the end of 2012. Next year, an all-electric version will be trialled, likely containing elements of the zero-emission powertrain of the Nissan Leaf family hatchback.
An e-NV200's running costs could be a fifth that of a diesel taxi, so cabbies will be eyeing the tests closely to see if a battery-powered black cab is a viable prospect for London's future.