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 Mom of teens on Friday, March 13, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, easy parking"
Cons: "Big people can't fit to drive, ie hubby and one so"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Errand car! Teens learn to drive car! Run to the beach car! Make U turns car! Inexpensive! This was one of the best cars I ever owned. It suited my needs. Mom who outgrew the minivan, taught kids to drive in Versa. Run weekend errands with easy parking. Large trunk in hatch. My only downsides are that it seems to struggle going up steep hills, I got the one without an armrest or MP3 jack and I miss them ( I know, First World problem). Also I wish the hatch compartment cover had a place to be stored. Mine Is lost in the house somewhere. Not sure if I would take it on a long trip. But oh, did I mention I take naps in it when the house gets too noisy? Comfy enough for that! My husband and one son, who are long people, don't seem to fit well. Their knees somehow don't fit in the driver leg area. I'm 5'2", so no problem."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By wogis on Monday, February 23, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 122,092overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "easy on the wallet"
Cons: "cheap interior trim"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"perfect for your college age student or the all around errand runner. one of the most dependable cars we have owned."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By fox on Wednesday, February 18, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have enjoyed driving this car and owning it since 2008. With the manual transmission it is fun and peppy with very nice handling characteristics. Seating, front and back, is far more comfortable than most cars(bigger or smaller.) Hatchback configuration makes it very adaptable to various carrying needs. Millage is good but not great(25-32), however, would not trade for decreased pep."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Boxer GAl on Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,500overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "RELIABLE, AFFORADABLE"
Cons: "ride is not grand but not the worst either"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I was getting back on my feet credit wise and needed a reliable car. This has no bells or whistles. It does not even have power windows or locks. The ride is not one of a Lexus but this car is reliable. I have driven it 30 k in 2 years, basic maintenance, oil changes, tire rotations no issues."
6 people out of 10 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."
5 people out of 11 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."
9 people out of 13 found this review helpful