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.You'll Like This Car If...
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).You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2007
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.