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 Roxanne on Tuesday, March 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "So small it fits in any tight parking space."
Cons: "Feels like you're driving a tin can -"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"What can I say? The dealership saw a sucker come in and now I am what you call "upside down" with the loan on this vehicle. I want to trade it in, lease something else, anything but this putt-putt. That's what I get for not being up on the value of vehicles. The Versa drives like a little match box. I cannot go over 60 mph on the high way or the front end gets kinda wobbly. The tire pressure light continuosly comes on and off - even though the dealership states that is normal in cold weather. Well, this started to happen in late spring - was not too cold then. The rear window defogger bit the dust. Only two lines heat up. The rest I guess are taking a rest. Can't wait to get the loan down a bit more to get what I really wanted in the beginning - a Ford Fusion!!"
By ARF84 on Monday, January 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 103,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Steady reliable car. Excellent car for students"
Cons: "Can't think of any cons."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has served its purpose for high school and college. It has substantial leg room in the rear seating area compared to other cars in its class. Gas mileage is consistent. Split seats offer the flexibility to haul items locally or to your Dorm. Comfortably seat 4-5 adults. This car has not been in an accident."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By momof2taxi on Monday, January 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,939overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, roomy, & DEPENDABLE!"
Cons: "People pass it up thinking it's too small."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car during the "cash for clunkers" deal, and because it was cheap. I needed a car to get me from A to B, and was good on gas. Never, did I expect to LOVE this little car! It's roomy, great on gas, handles like a dream on the winter roads of WI, and has no problem starting in 50 below weather. My next car WILL also be a Nissan Versa!"
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By michael on Thursday, December 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,888overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "very good"
Cons: "no front reading light"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car is the best because the room is big and the car is good to find parking in small space,I fuel up every 2 weeks, runs very good."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By versaowner on Saturday, December 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 64,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, smooth riding, comfortable"
Cons: "tire pressure sensor leak, not reliable with snow"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"For the most part, I love this car..... However, even with snow tires it gets stuck easily. Also not very fond of having to fill the tires every three weeks or I have flats. There is a leak in the tire where the tire pressure sensor is. Nissan has "fixed" it several times and so has a private garage. They were able to lessen the leak, but the tires still lose air."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By MC on Monday, December 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 76,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Roomy, comfortable, great price."
Cons: "Side mirrors look like Mickey Mouse Ears."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I am really happy with this car overall. I purchased this car used with about 35,000 about a year ago and have had little to no major issues other than standard maintenance (brakes, tires, etc.)I have put about 40,000 miles on the car in a year and it has been very reliable. It is comfortable to drive and extremely roomy for a small car. I was looking for something affordable, but nice. This car does it for me. Very happy with it."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful