Motoring writer Les Oliver looks at how a Nissan vehicle is being used to help cancer patients in Sunderland.
CANCER patients on Wearside are among the first sufferers to benefit from a transport scheme run by North-East charity “Daft as a Brush”.
The quirky-named cancer patient care service was not so daft when it chose the NV200 Combi seven-seater to ferry sufferers from all over the region to and from Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
The charity was so impressed that it has signed a fleet deal for 50 vehicles
Twenty-five will be delivered over the next two years, with the rest planned for 2014.
The ultimate aim is to transport 1,000 cancer patients a week, or 50,000 a year, in the vehicles.
Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care, which launched in March 2011, is a lifeline for cancer patients. It chauffeurs them free of charge throughout the North East to and from the Freeman for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.
A deciding factor in choosing the NV200 was that infirm or unsteady passengers can enter and exit the vehicle easily via wide twin sliding side doors.
Brian Burnie, trustee of the charity, said the sliding doors and the addition of an external footstep – manufactured on the recommendations of dealer group, Benfield Nissan made getting in and out very easy.
With van-based credentials the NV200 is spacious even with all seven seats in use. There is considerable leg and knee room and still room in the luggage area for a wheelchair and medical box.
All the seatbacks can be set at varied angles and the cushions fold up to allow for access to the third row.
It’s a compact body, just only 4.4m (14tf 6in) long and 1.69m (5ft 5in) wide but the flexible configurations make it well-suited for both passenger and commercial use.
The Combi is powered by a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine. The test vehicle averaged 46.5mpg.
This economy was another reason for the charity’s choice. Brian Burnie said: “To date, our eight vehicles have clocked up 60,000 miles between them. We chose the Combi because of its excellent diesel efficiency – it’s one of the cheapest means of travel on the market for that number of passengers.”
The Combi is more manoeuvrable than most seven-seat vehicles. It has a small turning circle of just 10.6m which helps it negotiate parking spaces. The driving position is also higher and more upright than conventional cars, giving good visibility.
The only drawback was that the driver’s seat cushion is not adjustable for height or angle.
The NV200 Combi SE costs £18,470 and is extremely well equipped, including rear-view reversing camera remote central locking, privacy glass, air-conditioning, and CD/radio with MP3 aux jack.
As well as being fully liveried with the DAAB charity’s logo, each vehicle will be adopted by a local primary school that will design eye-catching artwork for the exterior panels and create a booklet about the school and the charity for patients on their journeys.
The artwork allows patients a view through the windows while also giving them a measure of privacy.
The Combi is available in five or seven seat form with S, SE or SE+ specification. Prices range from £17,108 to £19,988.
•Nissan’s next 100 per cent electric vehicle, the first, e-NV200 concept was previewed at the Geneva Motor Show.
The NV200 was also recently chosen as the base for the next generation New York ‘yellow’ cab and will soon be a regular sight on the streets of The Big Apple..
Nissan NV200 Combi SE
Engine: 1.5-litre diesel
Turning circle: 10.6m
Top speed: 98mph