Otherwise, there isn't much to get the pulse going in the driving experience. All models come with anti-lock front disc and rear drum brakes. And while the Versa's light yet precise electric power steering system made the Versa easy to place in urban driving, the steering felt too light at highway speeds and required constant small (over)adjustments at highway speed. That said, ride quality is good among very affordable small cars, and the Versa seems to take on urban potholes or freeway choppiness quite well.
Also at highway speeds, there's no masking that the Versa is one of the cheapest vehicles on the market and that some measures that would have masked noise, vibration, and harshness have been skimped in the name of keeping the bottom-line cost down. Other signs of deep cost-cutting include the hard, hollow plastic door and dash surfaces. Throughout the lineup there are only two interior color themes: Sandstone and Charcoal.
The cabin space of a mid-size csr—almost
With an overall interior volume of 90 cubic feet, in theory the Versa has the cabin of a mid-size car. But while you might be able to fit four adults in the Versa, they might not be comfortable for a long drive. Front seats are a mixed bag; their lower cushions feel flat and short (about par for the class, actually), yet their backrests include surprisingly aggressive side bolsters that curve around your back comfortably (provided your build isn't too stocky). In back, headroom is still quite limited for adults, though. Officially, the backseat is more spacious than that of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series, says Nissan, but at a long-legged 6'-6," I found headroom to be prohibitively tight in the Versa, even though legroom was perfectly adequate. Trunk space is abundant at nearly 15 cubic feet; but it tapers in from the sides at the front, and the back seat is split 60/40 only on the top SL.
Then there's one big, big cheap-out: On all but the top SL model, the backseat of the sedan doesn't fold forward. At all. For those trading in used cars with that feature, there might be some disappointment.
The new Versa Sedan will be available at dealerships beginning next month and initially offered in three different models: 1.6 S, 1.6 SV, and 1.6 SL. Base S models come with manual wind-up windows, no power mirrors, and strictly the basics, but air conditioning is now included in all models.
Nissan is again planning to rely on pricing as its trump card, straight out of the starting gate. It boasts that a 2012 Versa S, with manual transmission, A/C, and CD sound, is priced $3,205 below the Accent.
Other standard safety equipment on the Versa includes roof-mounted side airbags covering all outboard occupants, side-impact torso airbags in front, and electronic stability control. Versa SV models get cruise control; power windows and locks; keyless entry; chromed door handles; plus numerous trim and visual upgrades. Top SL models get the split-folding back seat, plus alloy wheels, Bluetooth, and fog lamps. Top options, all in simplified packages, include Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio, a navigation system with XM NavTraffic, and USB/iPod controls. Fully loaded, a Versa SL costs about $18k.
So is the Versa for you? Based on our first driving experience, we can say that the new version is just as much (if not more) of an appliance as the outgoing. It'll get you to work reliably, safely, and quite comfortably. The Versa's design and purpose isn't all that charming, but it fits a need, and it fits it well.