Chevy's new City van

Ford’s Transit Connect will have its first real challenger this fall when the City Express compact cargo van arrives at Chevrolet dealerships.

The Nissan-built City, which was introduced last week at the Chicago Auto Show, has a tightly focused mission: appeal to small business owners who need a nimble, fuel-efficient cargo hauler with a versatile interior.

The vehicle will come in just one body style and with one powertrain. It’s the third entry into the segment pioneered by the Transit Connect.

The City Express is built for Chevrolet by Nissan and is based on the Nissan NV200. The Chevrolet and Nissan versions will compete in the small but growing niche that was created in 2009 by the Transit Connect.

Nissan launched the front-wheel-drive NV200 last March and reported sales of 4,619 units for the year. As part of Nissan’s effort to establish itself as a player in the commercial sector, it also offers the full-sized rear-wheel-drive NV van.

Small cargo van sales are expected to grow from about 44,000 units in 2013 to around 120,000 units by 2017, according to IHS Automotive, a suburban Detroit consulting firm.

A fourth small van, the fwd Ram ProMaster City, arrives late this winter. It is based on the Fiat Doblo and will be built for Ram by Fiat. Both the City Express and the ProMaster City will be built in Mexico.

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