The Versa is Nissan's global small car and the least expensive car sold in the United States. But the cheap thing is a bad rap. And getting what one pays for? It ain't true. With a base price of $10,000 and change, the Versa base model has a lot to offer — whether it's in the U.S. and Canada, or in Mexico, Japan, China and several other countries where it's called the Tiida.
It's easy to forget the car has only 107 horsepower. Because it's lightweight and nimble, it gives the impression it's quicker than it really is. That's not a bad thing. Rather the “illusion” makes the Versa all the more fun to drive.
A few experiences when the brakes seemed “soft.” Steering and handling, though, are a strong point. It's fun to shift through the five-speed manual transmission, particularly since the Versa never seems intimidated despite its entry level status.
Cargo Room (6)
Deep trunk space and a good selection of cup holders and side pockets. It's not going to get you to and from the lumber mill. But there's plenty of room for groceries.
There's no radio and no power windows, no power anything. That makes it simple. Controls, dials, etc., are minimal, efficient and uncomplicated. Is that refreshing or what?
Hey, it's the base model, for sure. But that's not a disguise for cheap. There's air conditioning, though, and tilt steering, a tire pressure monitoring system and six airbags. That's better than some manufacturers who do their best never to claim their cars are base models.
Front Seats (5)
Easy access and good comfort. I'm 6-feet, 185 pounds. I was comfortable driving, but I would have been more comfortable if I could have extended the driver's seat back a few more inches.
Fuel Economy (6)
At 34 mpg gallon on the freeway, there's no much to argue about. But wouldn't it have been great if Nissan could have found a way for the Versa to get at least 30 mph in city driving, too. I bet sales numbers would have greatly improved.
It's unfair to compare the Versa with, let's say, a $50,000 Acura RTL or even a $30,000 Honda Accord. But the Versa holds its own against others in the entry level market. There is a good level of wind noise on the freeway, though.
Rear Seats (5)
Nissan has done the best possible with the space allowed. The Versa is a four-passenger car and the rear passengers won't ride in spacious surroundings. But plenty of small sedans have less space.
Ride Quality (5)
The suspension is surprisingly good for the Versa's entry level status and it powers down the road without difficulty.
Total (53 out of 100)
Class — Compact
Primary competition — Honda Fit, Chevrolet
Aero, Toyota Yaris
Standard equipment —
(Mechanical) — 1.6L DOHC 16-valve SMPFI I4 engine, Electronically controlled drive-by-wire throttle, 5-speed manual transmission w/OD, Front wheel drive, Battery saver, Independent strut front suspension w/stabilizer bar, Torsion beam rear suspension w/stabilizer bar, Electric speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering, Power front vented disc/rear drum brakes
(Exterior) — 14" x 5.0" steel wheels w/full wheel covers, P185/65R14 all-season tires, Compact spare tire, Black bumpers, Black grille, Multi-reflector halogen headlamps, Black manual folding mirrors, Variable intermittent windshield wipers, Black door handles, Black deck lid finisher, Reclining front bucket seats w/active adjustable headrests, 4-way manual driver seat, 4-way manual adjustable passenger seat, Woven cloth seat trim, Dual front & rear cup holders, Tilt steering column, Immobilizer system, Black IP trim finisher, Tachometer, Fasten seat belt warning light/chime, Remote fuel lid release, Power rear trunk release, Rear window defroster w/timer, 12V power outlet, Driver & front passenger map pockets, (2) front map lights, Front & rear passenger folding assist grips, Carpeted floor & cargo area, Rear parcel shelf.
(Interior) — Clutch interlock, Energy absorbing front/rear bumpers, Steel side-door impact beams, Zone body construction w/front/rear crumple zones, hood deformation point, Dual-stage front airbags w/occupant classification system, Front side-impact airbags, Front & rear side curtain airbags, 3-point ELR driver seat belt w/pretensioner & load limiter, 3-point ELR/ALR front passenger seat belt, w/pretensioner & load limiter, 3-point ELR/ALR rear seat belts at all positions, Child safety rear door locks, Rear child seat tether anchors (LATCH), Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), Energy absorbing steering column, Slide-away brake pedal assembly.
For more standard equipment/option package information, visit: www.nissanusa.com/versa
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price — $10,990.00
Price As Driven — $12,090.00
Mileage Estimates — 26 mpg (city), 34 mpg (hwy).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
The Final Words — No radio, no power windows, no power doors. Get over it. Air-conditioning and six airbags are standard, and that's more important for a base vehicle. This is one hard car to beat for basic transportation. It's surprisingly fun to drive and arguably the best vehicle available in the United States for the price.
James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For
Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online
publications and is also the editor of TheWeeklyDriver.com. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike — to nearby coffeehouses. E-mail: email@example.com.