By KBB.com Editors
Several automakers, including Nissan, foresee a comeback in entry-level compact carstriggered largely by rising fuel prices. "For the first time in many years," said a Nissan senior marketing manager, many shoppers are "giving serious consideration" to smaller automobiles. These marketing folks detect a "void" in the sub-$14,000 price range, noting that a new generation of young people, known as "echo boomers," will reach driving age soon. Nissan promises class-leading horsepower and torque for its new entrant, the Versa hatchback, along with generous interior space. Billed as a "no-compromises" value-priced offering that reaches beyond basic amenities, the Versa is surprisingly roomy inside. A sedan is due later.
Versa leads the small-car pack in spaciousness, which is worth considering if you carry passengers in the back seat. Standing tall in both dimensions and refinement, it may also tempt those who appreciate the smoothness of a CVT, which promises 36-miles per gallon highway mileage (according to EPA fuel-economy estimates).
Nissan's hatchback might not satisfy you if you need to fit three occupants into the rear, unless they're slima shortcoming common to entry-level compacts. If you like anti-lock braking but don't want to pay extra for it, it's an option on the Versa, not standard equipment.
Even more than the new Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit, Nissan's Versa is a small car with serious passenger space and an affordable price. Positioned above the Nissan Sentra, it's also among the first smaller cars to offer a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Driving Impressions Nissan's CVT is virtually flawless. Almost no engine noise is noticeable in ordinary driving and you hear only a tolerable light snarl during hard acceleration. Acceleration rivals conventional automatics, though...Versa falls somewhat short on upgradeslike most smaller cars. Reacting capably on curvy roads, it feels quite confident in the corners and exhibits good stability on expressways. Although the well-controlled ride is pleasant on good surfaces, on rougher roads the occupants may feel a lot of those surface imperfections, but few are particularly troubling. Deep-set gauges are easy enough to read.
Not too many larger cars are as easy to get into and out of, and as spacious for knees and feet, as the Versa. Rear-seat riders can expect real comfort, without asking to push the front seats far forward.
Continuously Variable Transmission:
Nissan has been a leader in CVT installations, which substitute a belt and twin variable-diameter pulleys for the usual gears. That effort pays off in exceptionally smooth, linear and rewarding operationonce the driver gets accustomed to the fact that no gear changes will be taking place.
The Versa provides considerably more knee and foot space than many larger automobiles. Front and rear headroom are abundant, too. Close to "chair-height" seats assure impressive comfort, and double French seam stitching on the seats is but one indicator of careful attention to detail. The compact rear suspension results in a low, flat cargo floor, and front seats are nearly as large as a Maxima's. As in so many smaller cars, the center rear position is a hard perch.Exterior
Designers sought to avoid some customary small-car traits, including being boxy or blandand they've succeeded. Taller and more upright in stance than most smaller cars, the Versa is exceptionally easy to enter. You can see at a glance that the passenger compartment takes up much of the car's length, the back doors are particularly long and the windshield is about as far forward as possible. Five-door hatchbacks excel in versatility but, like minivans, aren't popular with everyone. Some shoppers might prefer to wait for the Versa sedan.
Every Versa is equipped with seat-mounted side-impact airbags and head curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, electric power steering and an engine immobilizer. The basic S model includes 15-inch steel wheels with full covers, body-colored mirrors, a cargo cover, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, 120-watt CD stereo, air conditioning and tilt steering wheel. The SL version adds a 180-watt stereo with six-CD changer, 15-inch alloy wheels, driver's height adjustment, rear center armrest, remote keyless entry and power windows, locks and mirrors.
Anti-lock braking is optional for all models. Seven option groups are offered, including a Power Package for S models. An Audio Package for hatchbacks includes a Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer. SL models may have a Convenience Package that adds Intelligent Key entry, Bluetooth hand-free phone operation and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio switches. An SL Sport Package includes a rear roof spoiler, side sill spoilers, front and rear chin spoilers and fog lamps. XM or SIRIUS Satellite Radio may be installed in SL models and a sunroof is optional.
For the U.S. market, Nissan's 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine has been specially tuned for stronger low-end torque. Three transmissions are available: a six-speed manual, four-speed automatic (delayed introduction), and the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). As production increases, the CVT is expected to oust the four-speed automatic as an alternative to a manual gearbox. In the SL trim level, a four-speed automatic will not be offered at all. The CVT incorporates a virtual Low range, for long, steep hills and heavier pulling.
1.8-liter in-line 4
122 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
127 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/34 (manual), 28/35 (automatic), 30/36 (CVT automatic)
By Mike on Thursday, January 22, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good mpg, no real blind spots"
Cons: "too small for my family"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car new in 2009, It has been a pretty good car. I have 4 kids so it really does not suite me anymore, so I bought a big truck and don't really drive much. Car has had some minor repairs from an absent minded parking mishap. Front driver headlight replaced from one broken bracket, new bumper cover and new wheel well splash guards on both front wheel wells. All damage was superficial. This is a great first car for a new driver, won't win any races but will get you there safly."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By stormy on Monday, January 12, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 223,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Dangerous when changing lanes. Can't see cars beside you in the mirrors.Almost had accidents several times because of this."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By rocket on Saturday, January 03, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 140,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "efficient, good looks , fun to drive"
Cons: "no cruise control, replace OEM hub caps"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I have 6spd manual trans car is peppy and gets 30-32 mpg 90% of driving is interstate driving. Comfortable seating for driver and rear seat passengers. Tinted windows and put on alloys wheels. Original hub caps a joke. Engine maintenance simple and easy. Runs like new with 140k on clock purchased with 65k. Engine has timing chain not belt and does not require expensive change at 75k to 80k miles. Heat and air very good. Insurance cheap. Get comments about its good looks."
7 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Nickie on Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles well, great gas mileage, reliable."
Cons: "Cup holders are small and odd placement."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car after my Jeep Grand Cherokee was totaled by a very old coot who should not have been driving his giant truck. I was just about totaled too. Needless to say I was skeptical about going to a smaller vehicle but was quite surprised by my Nissan Versa hatchback. It has lots of get up and go, the ride is smooth, seats are comfortable, it doesn't feel small and my car gets 40 mpg (that's right!) on the highway. The tires that came with it were cheap and finally wore down enough that I could justify buying new ones and what a difference they make in the overall handling. My only complaints, and they are minor annoyances, is that the cup holders are small and placed inconveniently and the dash board could be secured better. Lots of interior room. I'm glad I bought it."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Bay on Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 99,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Bought used at 46,000 which I believe was overpriced. I am know at 99,000, and haven't had any problems w/the exception of driver side power window. It rolls down by it self and a couple of times couldnt get it to roll up. So I dont use it. You cannot fit 3 kids comfortably if they are in a car seat. There is no arm rest which makes long distance driving a little difficult."
2 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By 1in0 on Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 128,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "ride nice until I got 10,000 miles on it!"
Cons: "Radio sounds horrible, bad gas mileage, short life"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Bought this 2007 CVT Hatchback Versa brand new for $17,000, nicely equipped! BUT: the factory tires I replaced at 30,000mi with 6/32 tread left - too slippery for me in Michigan winters. Car has been to dealer 8 times for alignments and diagnostics to find out why car pulls to left - no explanation - finally they say its normal. However I went thru 3 sets of tires in 128,000mi (Personally I think the factory size tires are not wide enough to support the HEAVY front end!) At 90,000miles the car could no longer be aligned because the engine cradle went bad - all four engine cradle bushings failed. One new battery. 3 CVT Transmission services (fluid replacements) At 70,000mi the muffler fell off due to rust. New front struts. One tail lamp replacement after warranty ended - water leaked in (plastic welds failed) 5 FIVE Headlight bulbs. At 105,000miles the exhaust extension pipe failed. 120000 miles window and rear defrost switches began working erratically. Control arm bushings failed, both sides replaced. Both wheel bearings failed at same time at 124000, replaced front left and right side. Right front spring broke, replaced. It's a pain in the butt to do an oil change on this car. You have to take a plastic cover off to access the oil filter. And finally my cars Transmission died 7 years and 128000 miles after it drove off the dealer lot. Never buy Nissan."
12 people out of 20 found this review helpful