2010 Nissan Versa

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Review: 2007 Nissan Versa

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Arguably the best member of new Japanese economy car trio for U.S. driving.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Lively
  • High fuel economy
Cons:
  • Odd-shaped cargo opening
  • Rear seats don't fold flush
  • Low front cupholders

Japan seemingly has been born under a lucky star when introducing new cars in America. Its fuel-stingy autos strongly helped it get a foothold here during the 1973 gas crunch, and now its new trio of compact economy cars is poised to sell well during the current steep gasoline price increases.

Trio members are the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. They're here because Japan's former entry-level Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra have been sized and priced out of the entry market.

Bigger Bite
The trio is poised to take a bigger bite out of the U.S. car market. Each trio member has its pros and cons, but the Versa 4-door hatchback (a sedan version comes later this year) is arguably best suited to the U.S. market because it feels and drives like a bigger car and is more comfortable than the Fit and Yaris.

The front-wheel-drive Versa has the longest wheelbase (distance between axles) and the roomiest interior, with an especially large rear-seat area—uncommon for a compact economy car. The Versa is much longer overall than the Fit and is virtually the same overall length as the Yaris, both being a bit more than 169 inches long.

Most Powerful
The Versa is the most powerful member of the trio. Its sophisticated 1.8-liter 122-horepower 4-cylinder engine has chain-driven—not belt-driven—overhead camshafts for lower maintenance and is fairly large for this class of car. The Yaris and Fit have a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

On the other hand, the Versa is several hundred pounds heavier than the Fit and Yaris, weighing 2,722 to 2,779 pounds, depending on trim level and equipment, so it can be argued that it needs a larger engine for competitive performance. In any case, none of the three cars is a fireball.

The Versa has a standard 6-speed manual gearbox, while a 4-speed automatic and a smooth continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are available. Go with the CVT because it makes the most of the engine's power band.

High Fuel Economy
Estimated fuel economy should help attract Versa buyers. It's 30 mpg in the city and 34 on highways with the manual, 28 and 35 with the 4-speed automatic—and a sparkling 30 and 36 with the CVT. Only regular grade gasoline is required.

The Versa comes in base S and upscale SL trim levels. List prices range from $12,450 to $15,450.

Standard S features include air conditioning, a tilt wheel, an AM/FM/CD audio system, a tire-pressure-monitoring system and 60/40 split-folding rear seats.

Safety Features
Standard safety items include front- and side-curtain airbags. However, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution for surer emergency stops are optional. And an anti-skid control system isn't offered for either trim level.

The SL, which starts at $14,450 with the manual transmission, adds quite a lot: cruise control, aluminum alloy wheels, in-dash 6-CD autochanger with MP3 playback, remote keyless entry and power locks, windows and mirrors.

Lively Performance
The Versa can do 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds, which is decent for an economy car. Acceleration is spirited in town, and merging into fast traffic and 65-75 mph passing provided no anxious moments with my CVT-equipped Versa SL.

Steering is responsive, although coarse road surfaces can be felt through the wheel. The Versa handles confidently, but is designed more to deliver a plush ride than the sharpest handling. The brake pedal has a nice feel, but stopping distances are average.

Keyless Starting
Among options are a sunroof, a satellite radio and keyless starting to prevent fumbling with a key—a driver just needs to twist a plastic lever on the steering column when he has a special "key fob" in the car.

The Versa is built in Mexico and shares its chassis with proven European-market Nissan and French Renault models. Nissan and Renault are related, and such sharing saves Nissan lots of money.

Unusual French Styling
The Versa has markedly French-influenced styling, which traditionally has been unusual. For example, the Versa hatchback's rear side windows slant forward at the bottom and are countered by a back-sloping rear hatch to create an offbeat triangular rear roof pillar.

The styling also allows a rather high, oddly shape cargo opening, although cargo space is generous because a "twist beam" rear axle allows for a deep cargo area.

A Rub
That area can be enlarged by flipping the rear seatbacks forward, but the rub is that the back-seat bottoms don't also fold forward. One thus is left with a stepped extended cargo floor—with seatbacks that sit higher than the cargo floor and don't lay flat with it.

Doors open wide for easy entry, and a high roof and long wheelbase allow lots of room for five tall adults, although four is a more practical number because the center of the back seat is too high and hard for comfort; it's best to flip down the rear center armrest, which contains two cupholders.

Low cupholders at the front of the console invite beverage spills, but front doors have bottle holders and all doors have deep storage pockets. There also are good-sized interior storage areas.

Nice Interior
The quiet interior has fairly high quality materials. Front seats are large and comfortable and have decent manual adjusters, although power adjusters would be more convenient. Gauges in the practical dashboard can be easily read, controls are logically placed and the sound system and rotary climate controls are large. Rear windows lower all the way.

The heavy hood is held open by a short prop rod that new Versa owners may at first have difficulty finding because it's attached to the underside of the hood. But it's easy to reach fluid filler areas in the engine compartment.

The Versa's big-car feel and roominess promise to give it a leg up on the rival Fit and Yaris among small car shoppers, although all trio members are above-average economy models.

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BB04 - 9/1/2014 4:36:25 PM