The image: Nissan has won New York City's "Taxi of Tomorrow" contest, giving it the exclusive right to provide the city's 13,000 yellow taxicabs. The Japanese automaker beat out finalists Ford — which builds New York's current cab-of-choice, the Crown Victoria — and Karsan, a Turkish carmaker. Nissan's winning design was a version of its NV200 van, a light commercial vehicle already on the road in Asia and Europe, but not yet available in the U.S. (See images below.) The NV200 cab, which can be converted for use with an all-electric engine, will feature sliding rear doors for passengers, charging stations for mobile devices, and a "low-annoyance" horn that, with the help of blinking lights, is intended to help gently urge pedestrians and drivers out of the way.
The reaction: "Blek!" says Suzanne Labarre at Fast Company. Mayor Michael Bloomberg holds a contest to design "taxis that'll define the visual landscape" of the nation's biggest city, with a $1 billion contract as the prize, and the best the winner can come up with is a boring, "painfully suburban" minivan? This thing looks "bulky as hell, with a disproportionately long nose and a cartoonish grille that spreads guardedly toward the trunk, like a forced smile." Granted, the other finalists proposed vans, too, says Paul Goldberger at The New Yorker. But with 13,000 of Nissan's uninspired taxis invading New York, "Fifth Avenue will look like the parking lot at a suburban soccer game." OK, so it's not exactly groundbreaking, says Alex Nishimoto at Automobile, but the new cab does have a transparent roof offering a view of the city's skyline. And hey, it beats the Crown Victoria. See for yourself: