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Nissan gives the London black cab a lick of fresh paint

Monday, 6 Jan 2014 | 8:44 AM ET

London is well-known for its iconic vehicles. Its red double-decker buses and black taxis are as a much a symbol of London as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.

So Japanese automaker Nissan was very mindful of tradition when it came to designing its new black cab for London, unveiled Monday.

Nissan NV200 London Taxi
Nissan
Nissan NV200 London Taxi

The Nissan NV200 may retain the color and bulky presence of the famous London Hackney Carriage, but there are notable changes: round headlamps, an LED light to improve visibility of the traditional taxi sign, and a 1.6 litre petrol-engine replacing the previous model's diesel.

(Read more: Would you pay $75 to sleep inside a London cab?)

Nissan first launched the NV200 in August 2012, but since then it has modified the vehicle after feedback from the London Mayor's office, Transport for London (TFL) and other organizations. Nissan said that they re-modelled the front grille of the original NV200 to give it a traditional back cab "face."

The new taxi, which will be built in Barcelona, will be launched in December 2014 and Nissan will introduce a zero emission electric version of the taxi in 2015. Nissan's London cab is part of the automaker's global taxi program which includes the cities of New York, Barcelona and Tokyo.

According to TFL, there are currently 25,597 licensed cab drivers in the capital and 22,708 licensed vehicles. The London Taxi Company currently produces the most number of vehicles in service, with its TX1, TX2 and TX4 models comprising just over 20,000 of all London black cabs.

(Read more: Black Christmas as London runs out of cabs)

Nissan NV200 London Taxi
Nissan
Nissan NV200 London Taxi

While the new cab may look rather different to the traditional black cab Londoners and tourists are familiar with, Design Excellence Manager at Nissan Design Europe (NDE) Darryl Scriven was at pains to stress how much the company worked to ensure their vehicle looked the part.

"The main challenges were concerned with making sure customers can easily recognise it as a taxi," he said in a statement.

"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."

(Read more: Yo! Finally, smartphone apps that call a taxi)

—By CNBC's Kiran Moodley. Follow him on Twitter @kirancmoodley

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