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Last year Nissan entered the commercial vehicle segment rather quietly with its new NV commercial van series. This year they plan to expand into the passenger van segment as well.

Neither of these segments is one that garners a lot of headlines per se but is one that impacts our lives on a daily basis.

We usually see those extended fullsize vans carrying athletic teams or members of churches or perhaps being used for deliveries and even ambulance companies.

Apparently Nissan wants a piece of this commercial business with their release of the NV1500, NV2500 HD, and NV3500 HD that are built on modified fullsize Nissan Titan pickup chassis and powered by 4.0-liter V-6 and 5.6-liter V-8 gas engines.

Image: Nissan

For 2012 Nissan will release the NV3500 HD Passenger Van offering capacity for 12 passengers in four rows of seating.

Styling remains very polarizing, to say the least. As I saw during a week I spent with the NV3500 HD Standard Roof commercial van, folks cannot help but stare and wonder just what the heck that thing is.

The rig itself is a bit larger and taller than the Titan pickup yet offers the same powerful powertrain along with availability of technology and towing packages. We appreciated the sliding side door access and the open walk thru cab/cargo box design. Base MSRP for the NV3500 HD V8 SV is just under 30 grand. Tow package adds $460 and for the Tech package with nav add about another grand.

Nissan has its hand full entering a segment where the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van series has been enjoying success for several years in North America and abroad. The Sprinter series also benefits from the turbodiesel powertrain offering capability along with fuel economy. The Nissan has the “giddyup” for sure but will spend a bit of time at the gas pump as well.

Image: Nissan

At the LA Auto Show press days Nissan rolled out a pair of food trucks on its NV2500 High Roof commercial platform and what better way to get to a journalists’ heart than through their stomach. The Grilled Cheese Truck and CoolHaus Trucks were a hit at the show and featured fold-out serving windows and work counters and the 76.9-inch tall interior allows for a more flexible working environment inside.

Image: Nissan

Nissan has also rolled out a smaller, more commuter-friendly NV200 model that has been developed as the “Taxi of Tomorrow” for New York City and to compete with Ford’s Transit Connect models.