Japanese vehicle makers regularly completely redesign their passenger cars but commercial van models can live for years.

Case in point: Nissan’s Caravan van which has just been completely renewed for the first time in 15 years.

For no increase in price, the new Caravan is said to be more reliable, safer, more spacious, more comfortable and to deliver better fuel economy than the old – and it was old – model.

Nissan has set a monthly sales target in Japan of 2,000 units which would increase the Caravan’s market share from the present 25 percent to about 33 percent.

Key markets will be Japan and south-east Asia but the one-box van is unlikely to go to the USA or Europe where buyers prefer the extra crash protection of a ‘bonneted’ two-box layout. Indeed, Toyota builds a special ‘bonnet’ version of the Hiace, the Caravan’s arch-rival, just for Europe.

A direct-injection three-litre diesel engine, delivering around 13 percent better fuel economy than the outgoing motor, hooked to a four-speed electronic automatic transmission is expected to be the most popular powertrain in Japan. For those who think otherwise, five-speed manual and two petrol engines will also be available along with four-wheel drive, popular in Japan’s snowy northern islands.

Although it’s a one-box design, the Caravan has an extended front end to give the driver more collision protection.

As always with Japanese vans, numerous versions are available in three body types: long body, super-long body and high-roof, super-long body.

With three passengers aboard, two-wheel-drive models can haul 1,250kg while 4WD models can take 1,000kg.

The Caravan can be ordered in all sorts of combinations from a two-passenger payload hauler to a fully-trimmed, dual air conditioner 12-seat minivan (often referred to as a ‘coach’ in Japan). In between there are numerous payload/seat options to choose from.

By updating the Caravan after 15 years, Nissan has issued a challenge to another old stager – Mazda‘s rival E-series van dates back to 1983.