Nissan unveils the production version of its all-new small van for North America, the NV200, today at the 2012 Chicago auto show.

The NV200 is based on a similar vehicle sold in more than 40 countries and is part of Nissan’s push into light-commercial vehicles in the U.S., joining the fullsize NV van released last year.

“There is an increasing need for a ‘right-sized’ van that optimizes cargo space while offering the best possible fuel economy and an affordable price,” Joe Castelli, vice president-Nissan Commercial Vehicles and Fleet, says in a statement.

The NV200 for North America is 186.2 ins. (473 cm) in length, which is 7.9 ins. (20 cm) more than the overseas model and almost 6 ins. (15 cm) longer than Ford’s Transit Connect.

But the NV200’s total cargo capacity is 123 cu.-ft. (3.5 cu.-m), which is less than the Transit Connect cargo van’s 129.6 cu.-ft. (3.7 cu.-m). Ford beats Nissan on the payload front, too, 1,600 lbs. (726 kg) to the NV200’s estimated 1,500 lbs. (680 kg).

The Transit Connect is Nissan’s only competitor in the sector until a version of Fiat’s Doblo comes to the U.S. as a Ram-brand vehicle. Originally scheduled to reach the market this year, it now is expected in 2013.

The NV200 can accommodate a standard U.S. 40 x 48-in. (102 x 122-cm) pallet between its wheelhouses, Nissan says.

The truck’s front-end design is for improved aerodynamics, and the dual sliding siding doors are large enough for signage. The rear doors feature a 40/60 split and open to 90- and 180-degree positions.

Its low load floor and tall roof are designed to make loading and unloading easier.

As with the NV, Nissan pays special attention to the van’s interior to make it as user-friendly as possible.

A mobile office can be set up thanks to a center-console storage area, suitable for laptops or hanging files.

There also are places to put folders on the upper instrument panel. The back of the fold-down passenger seatback doubles as a worktop.

Power windows are standard, as is a 12V outlet up front. A rear 12V outlet is optional, as is a navigation system with Bluetooth, a backup camera, XM satellite radio and pre-wiring for Nissan’s Fleet Tracker system.

Both the NV200 S and NV200 SV grades come equipped with Nissan’s 2.0L 16-valve DOHC 4-cyl. engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission. The auto maker does not disclose horsepower or torque ratings.

Nissan also is mum on pricing or fuel economy, but says the NV200 will be “competitive” on both fronts.

Nissan earlier told WardsAuto a taxi version would cost $29,000.

A passenger version of the NV200 will go into service next year as a taxi in New York City. An electric variant is due in 2017, Nissan has said.

Unlike the larger NV, which is built at Nissan’s Canton, MS, plant, the NV200 will be sourced from Cuernavaca, Mexico, for the North America. The van is expected to go on sale in early 2013 in the U.S. at Nissan’s commercial-vehicle dealers, of which there were about 300 late last year.

Nissan also showcases two other models in Chicago, the Pathfinder concept and a refreshed 370Z sports car.

The former was shown last month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but Nissan ekes adds a few more details that hints at the production version. Expect heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and a 60/40 split second row that allows for a child safety seat to remain in place while entering and exiting the third row.

The 370Z 2-seater, due in June, gets a new front fascia for ’13, with vertical light-emitting-diode daytime running lights, a new 18-in. wheel design for the coupe and revised 19-in. aluminum alloy wheels for models with the Sport package. The Sport package also comes with red brake calipers and Euro-tuned shock absorbers.

The high-performance Nismo 370Z model gets a new Bose audio system and dark-finish 19-in. wheels, but not the the new fascia and Euro-tuned shocks, Nissan says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com