It's as iconic of London as Big Ben and Beefeaters but today the city's famous black cab has been given a makeover by carmaker Nissan, Malcolm Hay reports.
Unveiled this morning, the carmaker's new-look Taxi for London – based on its successful NV200 platform - has been designed to 'raise the bar' for taxi drivers and passengers while preserving the unique heritage of the Hackney Carriage and being instantly recognisable to Londoners and tourists alike.
Part of Nissan's assault on the global taxi market – the company already has a bright yellow NV200 taxi on sale in New York – the new model will go on sale in December 2014 from a one-of-a-kind showroom in Canary Wharf.
And, given it's been designed at Nissan's European design centre in Paddington and in close collaboration with cabbies themselves, the company is predicting big things.
Andy Palmer, Chief Planning Officer and Executive Vice President at Nissan Motor Corporation, said: "The new-look NV200 Taxi has been designed in London, for London, at Nissan's design centre in Paddington – the same design house that created the revolutionary Qashqai and the equally successful Juke.
"The face of the NV200 is going to prove popular across London whether you're a taxi driver, a passenger or a pedestrian."
Darryl Scriven, who led the design team behind the new vehicle, added: "The Mayor's office and taxi drivers were very keen that we maintain the character of the Hackney Carriage, making it something that people in the city can be proud of.
"The main challenges were concerned with making sure customers can easily recognise it as a taxi. Being in London, we were able to go out and talk to cabbies about what was important to them as well as look at the vehicle from a customer's viewpoint. It's unusual for us to be able to work on something as bespoke as this, specifically for one location in the world and we are very proud to have been asked to do so."
From launch later this year, the new taxi will be available with a 1.6-litre petrol engine equipped with an automatic gearbox.
Compared to current diesel London taxis, this engine will be far cleaner, with lower levels of harmful mono-nitrogen oxides and particulates.
Nissan is also forging ahead with its pioneering work in the sustainable motoring field, developing a 100 per cent electric taxi - the e-NV200 - which it aims to have on the streets of London years ahead of the Mayor's target of 2020.
Nissan's electric taxi will be on the streets of a UK city in 2015.