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April 9, 2008 > Auto Review: Nissan Versa

Auto Review: Nissan Versa

The Versa first came to the USA as a 2007 model. Nissan owns the French automaker, Renault. In keeping with the "global" car concept, the Nissan Versa and the Renault Clio share the same basic architecture (as well as other Nissan and Renault models). If you look closely, you can see some of the French influence in what you would have thought was a Japanese design.

There are two Versa body styles, a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. Then there are two trim levels to choose from, the S and the SL. Our test Versa sedan was an S base model. The SL version gets a premium audio system with six speakers and an in-dash six CD player that is MP3 compatible. The SL also gets an upgraded interior that includes front and rear armrest consoles and a number of other items. Various options and packages including cruise control, satellite radio, and upgraded audio components are available.

All Versas imported into the USA use the same 1.8-liter, double overhead valve engine. This car develops 122 HP and 127-foot pounds of torque. The three transmission choices include a 6-speed manual, a 4-speed automatic and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) on the SL. The CVT does not have gears. It uses sets of belts and pulleys to keep the engine running in its most efficient speed range while moving the car forward. Then, when you mash the throttle, the CVT smoothly switches the engine from efficiency and economy to power and acceleration.

Nissan gives the Versa a 36 month/36,000 mile warranty on most items. The limited powertrain warranty is five years or 50,000 miles. The Versa's EPA mileage numbers are 24 for the city cycle and 32 for the highway cycle.

The S models do not get the seat height adjustment gizmo that is standard on the SL. I felt that I was positioned too high in the car and could not lower the seat. You can not get electronic stability control on a Versa. Neither Versa model gets the ABS braking system as standard equipment. Because these systems have proven so successful in saving lives and reducing damage in an accident, I think this is a mistake. Every new car should come with ABS as standard equipment.

The base price on our S sedan was $13,350 with the automatic transmission (The choice of a manual transmission reduces the cost by $800). The $700 Power Package added power windows, power door locks, keyless entry and a few small other items. The cruise control was $200, ABS brakes were $250 and a floor mat set added $155. A destination charge brought the total MSRP to $15,390. The Versa hatchback's base price is $100 higher.

The Versa is a great, cost effective, inexpensive car with a very nice roomy interior and a smooth ride. It has reasonable handling for a small car. The longest wheel base in its class is a major benefit resulting in more rear seat room. Even two tall adults can sit in the back seat without having their knees in their mouths. Three is a tight fit.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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