Chevy City Express Camper Van: 7 Ideas & Inspiration

The Chevrolet City Express is a panel minivan derivative from the Nissan NV200 and smaller than its bigger brother, the full-size passenger Chevrolet Express. It…

chevy city express camper van

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The Chevrolet City Express is a panel minivan derivative from the Nissan NV200 and smaller than its bigger brother, the full-size passenger Chevrolet Express.

It was introduced on the American market in 2014 by GM, in partnership with Nissan, as an alternative to the Ford Transit Connect. It’s a compact cargo van designed to carry a decent amount of gear, while staying affordable and manoeuvrable.

Van lifers who choose this minivan as their home on wheels enjoy its no-fuss interior, the extra stealthy exterior, and its ease of driving.

While the City Express is a cargo van, the side doors slide open, leaving two wide entrances. The rear doors unfold 180 degrees, so you can enjoy a lovely view from your bed and cook at the back of the vehicle. Finally, the passenger seat folds down and becomes a table and under both front seats there is storage. This little van is packed with handy features.

Is the Chevy City Express discontinued?

2017 Chevy City Express 2500 Camper Van for rent
2017 Chevy City Express 2500 Camper Van available for rent on Outdoorsy

Yes, The Chevy City Express was discontinued in 2018 after only 4 years of production. The van didn’t sell very well, as it was too similar to other small vans already on the market.

Because you can only buy used City Express vans now, the purchase price is quite low. If you want to get a brand new Chevy City Express, you’ll need to buy a Nissan NV200, which is slightly less good-looking but is essentially the same vehicle. For a bigger version of the minivan, opt for the Chevrolet Express.

Pros and cons of the Chevy City Express

The Chevy City Express camper van has positives and negatives. It wasn’t designed as a camper, so you need to make it an RV yourself. Just like any vehicle you can choose for living the van life, it’s a compromise.

Pros

  • A compact, nimble and easy to drive van
  • Reliable
  • The exterior is very stealthy, as there are no windows
  • Economical purchase price
  • It offers good fuel economy: combined 25 mile x gallon
  • 122.7 cubic feet interior volume
  • 1,500 pounds load capacity
  • The rear doors open 180 degrees
  • It has a sizeable roof space for solar panels, roof boxes and awnings
  • LS and LT models come with bluetooth connectivity and rearview camera as standard

Cons

  • It’s smaller than other full-size vans and only 68.1 in wide, which means the bed is narrow
  • The interior is minimalist and needs a lot of improvements
  • Performance worsens in crosswinds at high speed, so it’s not ideal for long highway trips
  • Visibility isn’t great, even with the rearview camera
  • It’s not very powerful with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 131 horsepower
  • You won’t be able to fit a toilet in it
  • The headroom is very limited

Based on these advantages and disadvantages, it’s safe to say that a City Express is especially suitable for full-time solo van lifers who don’t need to carry a lot of gear with them. Couples who want to use it as a camper van need to use the whole cargo space to build a platform bed and install a pull-out kitchen in order to sleep comfortably. This van isn’t suited to tall people.

DIY Chevy City Express camper van

chevy city express camper van

When converting a cargo van, many prefer to do it DIY, so they can have full control over the floor plan and the gear they install. If you’re quite handy and you know what you’re doing, this can save you a decent amount of cash. However, a badly-executed conversion can end up costing you extra money, as you might need to replace, add or re-build multiple components over time.

We could only fine one DIY conversion online. However, as the City Express is essentially the same van as the Nissan NV200, you can get more inspiration from the many NV200 DIY builds out there, too. You probably won’t be able to use the same exact plans, but you can recycle some of the ideas.

Nissan NV200 camper
Nissan NV200. Photo courtesy Contravans

Paul Gallant’s no-build camper

Paul has converted his 2017 Chevrolet City Express into a mini RV without having to design and create any furniture, which makes his build very accessible.

Instead of building a platform on which to sleep, he bought a Disc-o bed, which is a camp bed that can be set up as a bunk bed or a bench. He uses it as both a bed and a couch. As floooring, he simply laid a nice rug to make the interior more comfortable to walk on. For storage, he used fabric hanging pockets and bins he bought for cheap.

The camper van has a side awning, which he can set up solo and enclose with sides. This allows him to expand his living space considerably, even when it’s cold and rainy. He sets up a camping chair and table inside this space to create a nice living room.

In terms of power, Paul fitted a solar generator and a 300 watt solar panel on the roof, on a roof rack. The lights inside the van are battery-powered, so he can use the solar energy to charge his laptop and run the TV.

Paul also installed a 12V portable cooler, which sits on the passenger seat in the front. It’s not the best place to fit it in, but he wanted to have a big fridge and to save space in the back.

Such a simple yet clever conversion can be achieved as cheaply as you like. You won’t need any DIY skills other than being able to fit some hooks around the cargo area and fixing a roof rack. You’ll be able to find lots of information about how to build a solar power system online. If you want to travel to both hot and cold climes, you’ll need to add some insulation to your van.

Chevy City Express conversion kits

Not a fan of no-builds and homemade furniture? A conversion kit will allow you to quickly transform your cargo van into a stylish mini RV. Simply choose a conversion kit that fits the City Express and place an order. Beware: there might be a little waiting time. You will receive the kit in the post and you will be able to install it in a weekend or less. It’s the easiest and quickest way to turn your cargo van into a camper.

Below are the best conversion kits currently on the market. Please make sure to double check the measurements of kits which aren’t marketed for City Express specifically.

VanLab

VanLab Chevy City Express conversion
Photo Courtesy: VanLab

VanLab create conversion kits made out of sustainable Baltic birch plywood panels, which you can install in your own van DIY. They sell a model that’s been specifically designed for the City Express.

This kit features two couches and a kitchenette with a long work surface. You can fit two removable tables to the kitchenette on which you can eat and work. When you remove them, you can turn the couches into a single platform bed, which is the full length of the van. Under the platform, there are multiple storage compartments. If you like, you can add a fridge and a sink cutout to the kitchenette, as well as a wiring loom.

The kit comes with step-by-step instructions, tools, screws, hinges and more. All you need to put it together is a screwdriver. You can also further customize the interior of your van at home as you like.

If you don’t feel confident carrying out the installation, take your van to the VanLab HQ, in California, and pay an additional $850 fee to have it done by the team.

Check out more info about the kit and buy it from Simpler Ways.

Trail Kitchens

Trail kitchens specialize in building compact and portable aluminum kitchenettes to carry on your camping vehicle of choice. Inside the van, as they are folded in, they take up little space. When you take them out, you can elevate them via telescopic legs and extend surface spaces to the sides.

Chevy Express Camper Van compact camp kitchen
Compact Camp Kitchen
chevy express camper van camp kitchen with stove
Camp Kitchen with Stove

Their Compact Camp Kitchen model fits in a Chevy City Express, although, depending on the floor plan you opt for, you can probably upgrade to the Camp Kitchen With Stove. They’re based in California.

Egoe Nest

Egoe Nest operates in Europe but ships all over the world. They produce conversion boxes, which can turn the back of a van into a mini RV. Each “nest” is comprised of a box with a kitchenette inside it and a foldable platform on which you can sleep.

egoe-nest tramp 250 for chevy city express
Egoe-Nest Tramp 250

Their smallest model is the Tramp 250, which it should easily fit in a Chevy City Express.

Freeway Camper Kit

The Quebec-based company specializes in creating conversion kits for small vehicles, such as SUVs, minivans and minibuses. They produce six universal kits, which can fit most vans. Almost all of them feature a platform bed and a slide-out kitchenette.

The Nanaimo for Chevy City Express by Freeway Camper Kit
The Nanaimo by Freeway Camper Kit

We think the Nanaïmo would fit fine in a City Express. Freeway Camper Kit have warehouses in the U.S. and ship all over the country.

Ququq Box

Ququq Box is a German company that builds modular conversion kits for SUVs, cars, mini buses and vans. These are also available to buy in the U.S. via a dealer in Nevada. The boxes feature a kitchen to use at the back of the van as well as a platform you can use for a bed. The kitchenette comes complete with a stove and water tank slot. No installation is required, as the kit is fitted via strong straps.

the d-box for chevy city express by ququq
The D-Box by Ququq

The best bit? You can simply fold it all away and remove it from your van when you want to use it to go to work.

Have a look around the Ququq Box website to find the best box for you. We think the D-Box would fit the City Express best. You can also opt for a kitchen box only.

Van Packers

This DIY conversion kit is super practical, too. The kitchen slides out at the rear of the vehicle and it’s complete with slide-out shelves for a two-burner stove, a small cooler, a collapsable sink, and a water tank. Inside, there’s a platform bed, which turns into a couch.

Compact cargo van conversion by Van Packers

When it’s in couch mode, you can access the storage under the bed freely from the back of the van. Super helpful and quite unique. The bed can also be set up as a dinette with a table. This kit comes with a high density 3″ mattress, a sink, a 20L water tank, and a 15″ table leg plus table stand.

Check out the Van Packers website for mode details.

Professional Chevrolet City Express custom build

Finally, you can opt for a professional conversion. This is completed by a team of van build experts, who camperize your vehicle for you. You’ll need to join a waiting list, choose a design and the options you prefer, drive the van to their headquarters, and pick it back up. The process can take several months, but you won’t need to pick up a tool and the result will be a solid, sleek RV.

It’s worth going for a professional conversion if you plan to use the van for camping in long-term and you’d like to make it as comfortable as possible.

Contravans

Contravans are based in Colorado and carry out professional custom builds for a variety of vans, including the City Express. The conversion which suits it best is the Turnkey Small Campervan Conversion. This comes in four different floor plans:

  • bench seat – two benches and a table, which turn into a bed
  • storage drawers – a platform bed with slide-out drawers underneath
  • single bed – a single bed on one side and a kitchenette on the other
  • three-piece bed – a forward-facing couch, which turns into a bed.

Choose an option and think about any modifications you may want to make to it. All conversions come with wall and ceiling panels, a fan, and an electrical system. You can also add extra gear, such as bike racks, awnings, solar panels, and more. The conversion only takes a few days; however the waiting list can be long.

Find out more on the Contravans website.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a smaller cargo van than the Chevy Express, the City Express is the answer. It’s compact, stealth, fuel-efficient and easy-to-drive. It’s perfect for solo van lifers or couples on a budget who can travel with little baggage.

If you like the Chevy City Express but you can’t find one in your area, look up the Nissan NV200, which is very similar. Here’s some ideas for NV200 conversion inspiration.

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