By KBB.com Editors
Several automakers, including Nissan, foresee a comeback in entry-level compact cars, triggered 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. Billed as a "no-compromise" value-priced offering that reaches beyond basic amenities, the company promises class-leading horsepower and torque, along with generous interior space, for its newest entrant, the 2008 Nissan Versa.
The 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 33 miles per gallon on the highway (according to EPA fuel-economy estimates).
Nissan's hatchback might not satisfy you if you need to fit three full-size occupants into the rear, but that's common for 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.
The Sport Package is now available on the Versa Sedan SL, while cruise control is made available on S trims.
Driving Impressions Nissan's Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is as smooth as they come. Almost no engine noise is noticeable in ordinary driving and you hear only a tolerable light snarl during...hard acceleration. The Versa's acceleration rivals that of competitors with conventional automatics, although, like most small cars, it's not particularly quick going up hills. 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 surface imperfections, but few will be particularly troubling. The instrument panel has deep-set gauges that are easy 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 too far forward.
Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT):
Nissan has been a leader in CVT installations, which substitute a belt and twin variable-diameter pulleys for the usual gears. The result is 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, and front and rear headroom are also abundant. Seats that are close to "chair-height" give impressive comfort, and double French-seam stitching on the upholstery is but one indicator of careful attention to detail. The compact rear suspension results in a low, flat cargo floor, and the front seats are nearly as large as a Maxima's. As in so many smaller cars, the center rear seating position is not the most comfortable.Exterior
The tidy Versa succeeds at not being boxy or bland. Taller and more upright in stance than most small 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 may not be popular with everyone. Some shoppers might prefer the Versa sedan.
Every 2008 Nissan Versa is equipped with seat- and roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags, a tire-pressure monitor system, electric power steering and an engine immobilizer. The basic S model includes 15-inch steel wheels with full covers, power body-colored mirrors, a cargo cover (hatchback only), 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, six-way manual driver's seat, rear center armrest, remote keyless entry and power windows and locks.
Anti-lock braking (ABS) is optional for all models. A total of six option groups are divided between the two trims. A Power Package and cruise control are available on the S models, while an Audio Package for SL hatchbacks includes a Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer. SL models can also be equipped with a Convenience Package that adds Intelligent Key entry, Bluetooth hand-free phone operation and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio switches. The Sport Package includes a rear roof spoiler, side-sill extensions, front and rear chin spoilers and fog lights. A choice of XM or SIRIUS Satellite Radio, and a moonroof, are linked together as available options on the SL trim level.
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 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: 26/31 (manual), 24/32 (automatic), 27/33 (CVT automatic)
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."
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."
1 person out of 1 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."
4 people out of 7 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 10 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
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."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful