Nissan is to compete against the iconic London taxi.

The Nissan NV200 London Taxi is about as interesting to look at as cardboard box, but Nissan says it offers a more comfortable experience for passengers, a cheaper proposition for drivers and a lower environmental impact.

Nissan has already won the exclusive contract to supply cabs to New York, and now wants to make an impact in London. The NV200 is a compact van, converted to taxi use, with wheelchair access, five passenger seats and the famous 25 ft turning circle, thanks to a remarkably clever new front axle. It also has sliding rear doors, which is good news for cyclists who do not have to worry about incautiously opened doors.

Nissan says its new taxi is much more economical than the traditional London Taxi TX4. With a smaller 1.5 dCi 89 bhp engine, it achieves 53.3mpg on a combined cycle compared to the 2.5 litre TX4, with its combined cycle figure of 35.3mpg. However, Nissan figures are for the manual transmission, which seems odd for a London taxi – it has been years since a traditional black cab had a manual gearbox. Nissan says an automatic transmission will follow later.

The engine also seems pretty small to carry up to six people, even around London. It will be interesting to see how it performs.

Nisan says that, as well as lower CO2 figures, the NV200 has lower emissions of pollutants that affect local air quality – oxides of Nitrogen and particulates (basically black soot). It is also working on a concept electric version of the NV200, but that will depend on developing a better charging infrastructure.

Subject to final testing, including a crash-test, the diesel-powered Nissan NV200 aims to receive full London Taxi certification later this year.