London's black cab drivers are known for being the best in the world. In the not so distant future, we may well see our knowledge-laden cabbies driving around in adapted Nissan NV200 vehicles, as the car company has unveiled its concept and vision for the future of London's licensed taxis. Is Nissan's more economical and larger NV200 the probable end for the iconic LTI TX4 as seen on London's roads today?
The Nissan NV200 has been around for a while, but you're more likely to find a couple of builders hauling tools around in the MPV-meets-small-van than a cabbie transporting Londoners about their business.
Born out of a necessity to improve London's air quality - a requirement that needs to be met by the Mayor's office - Nissan has seized the opportunity to deliver a more-economical, spacious and, ultimately, cheaper road vehicle.
It might be cheaper for cabbies to buy - although, even when pressed, Nissan wouldn't say exactly how much - but the cost of fares won't come down for us commuters. So the big question is one of comfort: how does the NV200 taxi feel? Pocket-lint was on hand to take a seat in one of the three unfinished prototypes and, we have to say, it's pretty darn comfy.
The "premium vinyl" seats, each dressed in black and yellow, have enough bounce to keep aches and pains away from your behind, while the two drop-down seats that face backwards, while certainly harder, are also well padded and sufficiently comfortable.
There's a whole lot more leg room than taxis currently on the road, too. If not sharing with a fellow passenger sitting opposite, even six-footers won't have any trouble stretching their legs right out, and there's bags of room for, well, bags, suitcases and whatever else you might happen to need to cart about.
The current configuration has small lights surrounding the top of the passenger area for subtle but striking lighting, and it's even possible to switch these on or off using a panel to the side. Now that's what we like to see.
A huge glass roof also makes it possible to get a good look at London's taller architecture in the capital's narrow streets, though we felt the side windows were too small - something that could yet change for the final model.
The current model doesn't yet feature a rear display unit, similar to those in New York Yellow cabs, but this will be implemented in the final vehicle. Exact plans aren't yet available, but we suspect a GPS system with live map, and an interactive touchscreen to bring London's cabs bang up to date.
The London-specific NV200 taxi is designed for all, including London's 1.4-million people with disabilities. Nissan has redesigned the doors to accommodate wheelchair users and, although not yet in the prototype model, there will be a built-in ramp that can easily be deployed to the side door, and a height-adjustable, rear-facing seat.
Nissan's preliminary plans also show that a "talking taxi meter" will be implemented for visually impaired passengers and ground-level LED lights are also on the list.
The 1.5-litre DCI turbo diesel engine is available in manual or automatic and, while it may not match up to the current LTI TX4's 2.7-litre Nissan engine, it is around 50 per cent more fuel efficient, plus the 139g/km CO2 emissions are significantly better than the 233g/km outed by the TX4.
But from the customer's point of view we can only hope that there's enough power behind those wheels to transport you and any weighty colleagues up a steep incline. Until we've been for a chauffered test drive with the combined weight of the Pocket-lint team we can't say how it feels on the move.
Nissan says the taxi has been designed from the inside out, and we're inclined to agree. The NV200 isn't the prettiest of MPVs - it almost looks like something out of Total Recall - but when it comes to getting from A to B we don't think Londoners will be too harsh about the external appearance from their seat inside. And from that point of view this cabbie wagon could well make its mark when it hits the streets at the beginning of 2014... if, that is, any licensed cabbies put down a deposit to buy one.
The future of London's taxis? Tell us what you think in the comments below...