Detroit may be a long way from London, but the motor show presented the first opportunity to quiz Nissan’s product chief Andy Palmer on the new Taxi for London.

It’s fair to say reaction to the look of the NV200-based model, which was unveiled last week, has been mixed. Palmer, tongue slightly in cheek, said it was “beautiful”, before making the key point that it looks as it does “because you recognise it as a cab”.

“We tried to create something reminiscent of a London Taxi,” said Palmer. “We talked to cabbies with Mercedes Vitos and they don’t get hailed as people don’t recognise them as taxis.

“That’s why it was important for our taxi to be recognised as a taxi; there’s no Nissan badge for instance so people won’t assume it’s a car.”

At which point you start to wonder: who cares what it looks like? After all, the taxi is a business tool for a cabbie, and if it’s spacious, reliable, economical and affordable, isn’t that all that matters? No matter how iconic the current black cab might be, beautiful it is not.

London Mayor Boris Johnson informed Palmer that he wanted it to meet the conditions for fitness (wheelchair access, 25ft turning circle etc) and then make it look like  “bowler hat”, whatever that means…

So inside, users will be kept happy as there’s three forward facing seats (with special anti-bacteria coating), two flip down ones that are rear facing as in a current black cab, a wheelchair can fit in, a front seat that folds to fit in more luggage, and a panoramic roof.

Palmer thinks cabbies too will be kept happy by the better economy from the petrol engine than the current TX4’s diesel, the underpinnings are more durable as they’re from a mass-produced model, and there’s a dedicated dealer and service centre.

With all that, “nice styling doesn’t matter. It’s a taxi. It’s all about cost of ownership, being cheap to run and able to attract a fare”.

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