The venerable LTI TX London black cab will soon be a relic of a bygone era -- if Nissan gets its way. The Japanese automaker has developed its own hackney carriage, based on its NV200 van, which it says is cheaper, more efficient, and more comfortable than the iconic TX taxis that fill London's streets.
The NV200 London Taxi features a host of tweaks designed to help it conform to the stiff regulations outlined in the TfL London Taxi conditions of fitness. It features a much wider front track, with flared wheel arches that give it a boy racer-aesthetic and, more crucially, a 25-foot turning circle to perform unlikely-looking u-turns.
The size of the thing allows plenty of space for passengers and cargo. Its side doors slide open for easy entry and exit, there's access for wheelchair users and headroom is generous -- enough for a gentleman wearing a tophat, no less. There are even a couple of luxury features including a full-length glass ceiling that affords a fabulous view of the raindrops cascading from the heavens above London and there's a USB port to help charge your mobile phone.
Luggage space at the rear is quite small by default, but the rear seats can slide forward to free up more space in the boot. The front passenger seat has also been dumped to provide more luggage space.
Most significant perhaps is fact the Nissan NV200 London Taxi is said to be 50 per cent more efficient than current black cabs. Its 1.5-litre diesel engine returns 53.3mpg and emits only 139g/km of CO2. For reference the latest TX4 returns 36.2mpg while vomiting a massive 206 grammes of carbon dioxide every kilometre it's driven -- that's about the same as a Porsche 911.
Indeed, Nissan is quick to claim that if every one of London's licensed black cabs were replaced by an NV200 tomorrow, there would be a CO2 reduction in London of over 37,000 metric tonnes per year -- the equivalent of planting 10,000 acres of trees (twice the size of the London congestion charge zone) every year.
On paper then, the NV200 London Taxi has an awful lot going for it. It might not be the prettiest thing we've seen, but LTI's TX4 isn't exactly beautiful either. It should be cheaper to buy (the standard NV200 is about a third the price of a TX4) could save taxi drivers hundreds of pounds in fuel every year and it is kinder to the environment. The only sticking point we can see is, ironically, the stick -- it currently uses a manual transmission so cabbies had better be prepared to exercise their clutch foot.
Expect to see them on the streets from September next year with an all-electric Nissan Leaf-based version set for a potential 2014 arrival.