- Very spacious, quiet interior
- Supple ride for a small car
- Simple but attractive instrument panel
- Lacks the agile feel of other small cars its size
- Fuel economy is only passable
- Engine gets very noisy when accelerating
The 2008 Nissan Versa isn’t particularly sporty, fashionable, or innovative, but it offers an astonishing amount of space, comfort, and features for the money.
Made in Mexico, the Versa is Nissan's lowest-priced vehicle and one of the most affordable new vehicles for sale in the United States. The Versa hatchback and sedan were completely new for 2007; for 2008, they return with an available Sport Package for the sedan.
The 2008 Nissan Versa, new last year, keeps its standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 122 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while Nissan's continuously variable Xtronic transmission is available on the top SL, and a four-speed automatic is offered on the S versions.
With either transmission, the 2008 Nissan Versa has good performance, even with a full load. The six-speed manual feels light and precise, the midrange automatic shifts smoothly albeit with wide ratios, and acceleration is good with the Xtronic, though sluggish from a standing start. The engine can get noisy when revved, so in the Xtronic vehicles, which hold the engine at high revs while accelerating briskly, it feels quite loud; a sport mode on the Xtronic allows it to hold higher revs for improved performance or more engine braking. At cruising speeds, engine noise is well under control, and the Versa has a relatively quiet interior with little road noise, though the hatchback has a bit of wind noise. The Versa rides very comfortably compared to other small cars, but it doesn't handle as nimbly as expected because of its nearly 2,800-pound weight.
Inside, the 2008 Nissan Versa has some of the most comfortable seats of any small, inexpensive car, with generous padding and nice contouring. In back, wide-opening doors make entry and exit easy, without ducking or contorting. Whether as a hatchback or sedan, it's also exceptionally roomy; the hatchback has a generous 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat up, and Nissan says that the amount of interior approaches that of mid-size cars. Overall, the dash, instrument panel, and switchgear feel like they were lifted from Nissan's more expensive offerings.
For a car that starts around $13,000, the base 2008 Nissan Versa S has a delightful standard-features list, including air conditioning with filtration; a 120-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers; a rear defroster; and body-colored mirrors, handles, and accents. The SL upgrades to a 180-watt system with a built-in six-disc changer, six speakers, and an auxiliary input, plus cruise control, alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a rear center armrest with cup holders, keyless entry, power locks, windows, and mirrors, and an overhead console. Options on the Versa include Intelligent Key, Bluetooth compatibility, a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, an MP3 player input jack, and XM Satellite Radio.
There's also a Sport Package available on the 2008 Nissan Versa SL, which adds a rear roof spoiler, chin and side sill spoilers, and fog lights. The Sedans with Sport packages get a new chin spoiler, while Hatchbacks get new front and rear-end treatments.
The 2008 Nissan Versa earned four-star ratings from the federal government in both frontal and side impact but got top Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS in frontal, side, and rear impact tests, making it one of the safest cars its size. Front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain bags are standard, but electronic stability control isn't offered, and anti-lock brakes are optional for $250.