Nissan, Turkish car company Karsan, are the frontrunners for new NYC taxi design

Two cab designs have pulled ahead of the pack in the race to be the city’s new – and ultimately only – yellow taxi, the Daily News has learned.

Proposals from Japanese giant Nissan and virtually unknown Turkish manufacturer Karsan have a leg up in the competition run by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, two sources familiar with the process said.

The Karsan model, which has been unveiled in Turkey, features a sleek, futuristic design with a see-through glass roof for tourists and curious New Yorkers.

Nissan’s design (photo below) is based on a more muscular and boxy line of NV200 vans, including a “vanette” taxi option.

At least four companies have submitted proposals to supply the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” sources said.

Karsan, a Turkish auto company, is one of two companies said to be pulling ahead in the contest for the city’s new taxi design. Above, a rendering of the company’s design.

Ford, which is no longer building Crown Victorias, is promoting a version of its Transit Connect wagon as a yellow taxi. GM is also believed to be in the race.

The stakes are high. Starting in 2014, owners of the city’s 13,000 yellow taxis will have to start replacing old cabs with the model chosen by the TLC.

Changing over the entire fleet is expected to take four to five years.

Nissan’s entry, above.

TLC Chairman David Yassky wouldn’t say who has submitted bids or discuss specifics of individual proposals, but he said each design will be assigned scores based on durability, performance, passenger comfort and fuel economy.

The winning design also must create an “iconic vehicle that can be identified with New York City and exemplifies the character of the city,” Yassky said.

Although an initial round of evaluations has taken place, final scores have not been assigned, Yassky said.

The city may request “best and final offers” before making a selection by the end of the year, Yassky said.

Before the final array of features on the “Taxi of Tomorrow” are fixed, the agency will ask for public input.

Advocates for the disabled, including Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan), who has cerebral palsy, are hoping the competition results in a taxi fleet that is 100% wheelchair-accessible.

Kellner said he believes Karsan is the only bidder proposing that every cab rolling off the assembly line be accessible.

The Karsan cab includes ramps that automatically can be extended to the curb. Now, only about 240 yellow cabs are wheelchair-accessible.

Pete Donohue/ nydailynews