2009 Nissan Versa

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Review: 2007 Nissan Versa

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 6.75
Pros:
  • Nicely sized
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Lowest starting price for a Nissan
Cons:
  • Ride can be noisy
  • Pricey CVT
  • Boring sedan styling

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Versa?" Versatility, perhaps?

Nissan officials surely hope so, because Versa is the name of Nissan's smallest car sold in America.

But I suspect consumers buying the Versa will focus on one more thing: saving money.

With a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price around $12,500 for a base, 5-door hatchback or a 4-door sedan, the 2007 Versa is Nissan's lowest-priced car, undercutting even the long-running Sentra that now starts just under $15,000.

The 4-cylinder-powered Versa also received the highest government fuel economy rating of any Nissan: 30 miles a gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway when equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that a driver operates as if it's an automatic transmission.

Also noteworthy in the Versa: Easy maneuverability, generous storage space, legroom and headroom akin to that in a larger car and standard front, side-mounted and curtain airbags.

Some disclosures
Among the growing crop of newer small cars on the market, the 14-foot-long Versa hatchback is at least 16 inches longer, plus a bit wider and taller, than the Chevy Aveo, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris hatchbacks.

In fact, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses interior space as a guide for how to classify cars by size, the Versa officially is labeled a midsize car.

But the Versa looks—and is—a nimble, little transporter.

The Versa also is the only one of the newest small cars offering a CVT, which Nissan says provides an 8 percent to 10 percent fuel economy improvement over a conventional, four-speed automatic. CVTs don't have set gears to manage engine power and send it to a vehicle's wheels. Rather, CVTs seek to operate continuously in an optimal, unlimited gear range to be as efficient with fuel as possible.

Unfortunately, though, Nissan's CVT is only in the top-of-the-line Versa SL models, which have a higher starting price of more than $14,500.

Note that three other small cars that are lighter in weight than the Versa by at least 290 pounds—the Yaris, Fit and Hyundai Accent—get higher fuel economy ratings from the government than does the Versa with CVT.

Indeed, budget-conscious buyers might consider saving thousands of dollars and getting a Versa with standard 6-speed manual, instead, since it has the same 30-mpg government rating for city driving. Only the highway rating is less than a CVT-equipped Versa hatchback—34 mpg instead of 36.

Some Versa observations

The Versa hatchback has a more interesting look than the rather plain Versa sedan.

On the outside, both models have a short hood and rather utilitarian front styling.

But the Versa hatchback has a minivan-shaped passenger compartment. In fact, because the Versa's front end is similar to the styling of Nissan's Quest minivan, I sometimes thought the Versa looked like a shrunken minivan.

But no passersby seemed to notice either the Versa hatchback or sedan.

I liked how the Versa moved easily through traffic and parked without a hiccup. It is nicely sized for maneuvering.

I also enjoyed sitting up a bit from the pavement, not low to the floor in the Versa.

Note that the front seats are almost as sizable as those in the Nissan Maxima larger sedan, and door windows are larger than expected for good views out. In fact, rear-door windows open all the way down.

There's decent space at the rear-door openings to allow people to get their feet inside. This is because the Versa's wheelbase—the distance from the middle of one wheel on one side of the Versa to the other wheel on the same side—is unusually lengthy.

But three people in the Versa's back seat sit really close together, and the middle person doesn't have a head restraint.

Thankfully, there's no appreciable hump in the rear floor to interfere with legroom, which, at 38 inches, is measurably more than in the Fit, Yaris and Aveo.

The tailgate on the Versa is lightweight, and the split rear seats fold down for a whopping maximum cargo space of 50.4 cubic feet.

Noisy ride

I just wish the Versa SL had less road and wind noise. Even at less than highway speeds, I detected wind noise coming from between the outside mirrors and the pillars by the windshield of the hatchback model. Tire noise only stopped when I traveled on new asphalt surfaces.

The CVT and 122-horsepower 1.8-liter 4 cylinder can add noise, too.

While engine noise was unobtrusive in gentle driving around town, it could become obnoxious in pedal-to-the-metal accelerations when the 4-cylinder buzz was incessant and wasn't accompanied by any immediate, assertive torque.

Maximum torque in the Versa is 127 lb-ft at 4800 rpm.

The ride in the Versa can be a bit rough over broken road surfaces.

But Nissan offers a strong options list that includes remote start, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity and even key-free ignition—features that are typically found on higher-priced cars.

About safety …
Too bad, though, that anti-lock brakes, which are standard on the Fit, were a $250 option, even on the top Versa SL at introduction.

And in U.S. government tests, the front-wheel-drive Versa earned four out of five stars for protecting front-seat occupants in a frontal crash. This is lower than the five-out-of-five stars that the revamped, 2007 Chevrolet Aveo hatchback and the Honda Fit received.

But in a side crash, the Versa received the top five out of five stars for front- and rear-seat occupant protection. This is better than both the 2007 Aveo and the Fit.

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BB05 - 9/18/2014 2:53:01 PM