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TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Nissan Versa—and even checked out the budget-priced 1.6-liter version—to bring you their expert opinion on the entire lineup. To help you make the best buying decision, TheCarConnection.com also brings you highlights and insights from other road tests.
The Nissan Versa hatchback and sedan were completely new for 2007; for 2010 Nissan adds some important safety features as standard to Versa models fitted with a 1.8-liter engine. Unfortunately, the entry-level 1.6-liter model still lacks a number of safety features, but its price point of $9,990 justifies this by making it one of the cheapest vehicles on the U.S. market. There have also been some minor styling tweaks to the exterior, as well as a new navigation system option.
Two body styles are offered: a five-door hatchback or a four-door sedan. As a hatchback, the Versa looks considerably more elegant and complete as a design, with the gently curved roofline and kicked-up back pillar. Versa sedans look a little tall and homely, and the proportions don't work out as well. Inside, the Versa is no-frills but cleanly designed, with an upright, squared-off instrument panel that's refreshingly simple.
The base-level model is appropriately named the Nissan Versa Base, fitted with a 1.6-liter engine. Sitting above this are the S- and SL-level trims, both of which are more expensive but pack more standard features into the Versa. Those bargain-priced models—the 2010 Nissan Versa and Versa Base—include a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine delivering 107 horsepower, which comes with a five-speed manual, rather than a six-speed, but we like the nice, neat linkage and smooth clutch uptake with either manual gearbox. Oddly, the 1.6-liter is only offered in the sedan body style. For a bit more than the 1.6 Base, there’s a 1.6 model that’s offered with a four-speed automatic, but we’d recommend the stick with the lesser engine, as the 1.8-liter doesn’t deal well with the auto’s wide ratios and can become boomy at higher speeds. The 1.8-liter, 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine that was previously standard is now offered on the rest of the line and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while Nissan's continuously variable Xtronic transmission is available on the top SL Hatchback model. Other models are only offered with an optional four-speed automatic. Overall, the 1.6-liter version does just fine around town, though it does feel a little more winded on the highway. Despite having more power on tap, fuel economy for the 1.8-liter is about the same in the city, at 26 mpg, as the 1.6-liter model, but it does have a lower 31-mpg highway rating.
Compared to other small cars, the 2010 Nissan Versa rides very comfortably, yet doesn't handle as nimbly as expected thanks to its nearly 2,800-pound weight when ordered in top trims. The power steering can also feel a little too light at times, but considering the Versa’s target market segment, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. More importantly, the Versa has a relatively quiet interior with little road noise when cruising at highway speeds. Smaller 14-inch wheels, although they don’t look as nice, seem to offer a better ride at no detriment to handling.
Compared to other cars in its class, the 2010 Versa is exceptionally roomy in both sedan and hatch guises. The hatchback has a generous 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat up, trunk space is vast for such a small car in the sedan, and Nissan says the amount of interior space approaches that of mid-size cars. We find headroom and legroom to be plentiful, although shoulder room is obviously affected by the Versa’s narrower size when compared to mid-size vehicles. Surprisingly for such a cheap car, the dash, instrument panel, and switchgear feel like they were lifted from some of Nissan's more expensive offerings. Those with long commutes will especially appreciate the seats in the 2010 Nissan Versa, which are among the most comfortable of any small car. Also, the wide-opening doors in back provide for refreshingly easy entry and exit.
For 2010, Nissan adds an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a standard safety feature for the Versa S. The Versa also provides front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain bags. Crash-test results are good but not class-leading; the Versa achieves four-star ratings from the federal government in both frontal and side impact balance, as well as top Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS in frontal, side, and rear impact tests.
Starting at less than $10,000, the base-model Versa doesn’t come with much. Going with the most basic trim level, buyers will be dismayed to find that there is no air conditioning or sound system, and neither is offered as a factory option. Windows and locks are manual, while side mirrors and some of the interior trim are constructed with a downgraded black plastic—and lots of cheap plastic spacers where things like the A/C button would be. The non-base 1.6-liter does come with A/C but not much more. While the entry-level Versa undercuts its competitors, the lack of features hardly puts them in the same category. Happily, though, when opting for a higher-spec Versa, the price is still very competitive with similar offerings from other manufacturers. The 2010 Nissan 1.8-liter Versa S is much better equipped, with plenty of standard features, such as a 120-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers, a rear defroster, and air conditioning with filtration.
In range-topping SL trim, buyers are treated to upgrades such as a 180-watt system with a built-in six-disc changer, six speakers, and an auxiliary input, plus cruise control, new-for-2010 available 16-inch alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a rear center armrest with cup holders, keyless entry, an overhead console, and power locks, windows, and mirrors. On top of this, the SL sedan and hatchback models also get Nissan’s ABS and Vehicle Dynamic Control systems as standard. If opting for the Versa hatchback in SL trim, Nissan offers new front and rear fascias, body side sills, and a rear spoiler, as well as standard fog lights. There have also been some upgrades to the interior of the Versa SL hatchback, with revised fabrics and finishes and a Sport interior as standard. Major options on the Versa include Intelligent Key, Bluetooth compatibility, a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, an MP3 player input jack, and a new Navigation/XM Satellite Radio package.
- new car for used-car money
- Stylish silhouette (hatchback)
- Straightforward instrument panel
- Smooth, quiet ride
- Comfortable seating
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- Engine noise (with CVT)
- Overly light steering feel
- Relatively clumsy handling