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 JR on Thursday, October 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 83,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "fair gas mileage lots of room front and back seats"
Cons: "paint chips to easy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"this entry level car from Nissan is a great car for the money. I have had very low maint. cost on this car with 83000 miles it still has OE brakes and battery this is a great work car or first car for kids all the way thru collage. for me it was a good bang for the buck. I think 200k will be no issue. I am a keep the car in shape person change oil every 5k air and cabin filters every 15k the car is checked every 5k the tires are balanced and rotated at oil changes the car gets checked top to bottom then."
By Buggerlugs on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent handling, visibility and space inside"
Cons: "3-4 sec gearbox time delay from forward to reverse"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Tremendously spacious for a small hatchback, including plenty of room for tall adults' legs in the back!. Also does not give you claustrophobia, as the "driver cockpit" cars like Prius and Fit. It is actually practical to slide over from the driver's seat to the passenger seat! Much better visibility all round than most competing cars. Great acceleration and CVT transmission is very smooth, but only moderate gas mileage at about 30 mpg mixed. Nice tight turning circle, too."
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Gurlcat on Sunday, September 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 112,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Virtually no mechanical problems"
Cons: "Too little ground clearance"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've had this '09 Versa hatchback for 4.5 years now, she's at 112k miles and the only trouble I've had was two years ago when the transmission went out. Well, turned out there was a recall for this model/year on transmissions so I got it completely replaced, completely free. Other than that, no problem with any other system, major or minor! The car is good on gas, handles nicely and the seats are so comfortable that long trips are very pleasant. This was my first hatchback and now I don't think I could ever go back to having a regular trunk again. Especially with the fold-down rear seats, this tiny car has hauled some surprisingly large items. I also love the smart key, namely the fact that it will not let you lock the keys inside the car, something I "try" to do on an embarrassingly frequent basis. Nice to have a car smarter than I am. My minor complaints are that there are no cupholders in the back seat area, and the rubber door trim started coming off very early on. My one major complaint is the poor ground clearance. This makes bumps and dips a real problem and I've had trouble keeping the bumper on almost this whole time."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Versa08 on Friday, September 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 119,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Interior space"
Cons: "no heat or air"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Very disappointed in this car. I have a 2008 Nissan Versa. The muffler came loose and randomly fell off 2 years ago. The heat and air are unreliable. The heat and AC have been going out for the past 1 1/2 years. No air will blow, regardless of the setting. Mechanic unable to do problem since it works fine on week, then won't work at all the next. It tends to quit working during the coldest winter weather and hottest summer. Also, it has a very noisy ride, especially with the windows rolled down. It does not handle well when driving, especially in the wind. The gas mileage is not as good as I would expect from a compact car. I average about 28mpg hwy driving. The only good thing about this car is the interior room. There is much more leg space than can be expected for a car this size."
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Brulisa on Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price"
Cons: "Fabric Seats attract animal, human hair."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"After owning a late 1990's Camaro, the change to the Versa was quite a difference. On the positive note, I wanted a change to a Sedan that was inexpensive and the Versa fit that need. I purchased my used Versa on 06/23/2012. It is very reliable, more nimble than I expected, and the acceleration is good."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By email@example.com on Monday, September 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent car if you want a money saver."
Cons: "Not to good for big guys."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"So far I have not any mechanical problem with this car, only the regular maintenance, oil change,new tires, etc. It was a good invesment."