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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
The Versa's 109-horsepower four-cylinder howls loudly if you push it, and highway acceleration is modest.
The strut-type front suspension, the torsion-beam rear axle, and the rear drum brakes are engineered for dependable long-haul service not driving euphoria.
Car and Driver
This engine was perfectly capable of getting the Versa up to freeway speeds, just not quickly.
Not only is the modest engine livelier than expected, the steering is firm and direct, the brakes — despite a slightly soft pedal feel — grab surely and the chassis is composed and confidence-inspiring in most maneuvers
Acceleration is even more of a challenge on the freeway, where passing should only be tried if the guy in front of you is wearing a Rex Harrison hat and driving an Oldsmobile 98 with a busted right blinker.
Nissan Versa Sedans have been completely redesigned for 2012, but performance improvements seem to have taken second stage to interior space and value.
While Versa Sedans get an all-new 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine this year, the Versa hatchbacks remain powered by a 1.8-liter, 122-hp four. Nissan has redesigned the 1.6-liter, but it skips direct injection, instead using a new dual fuel-injection system plus twin continuously variable valve timing.
Hatchbacks can be had with a six-speed manual or four-speed or CVT (continuously variable) automatic transmissions, while the new Sedan comes with either a five-speed manual or a CVT. In Versa Sedans, it's a new-generation version of the CVT with a wider span of ratios; while that helps it achieve better mileage, we've noticed that it can feel sluggish in delivering more power for hills or passing. Acceleration also is slow, with 0-60 mph times of about 11.5 seconds, ranking the Versa as one of the slowest small sedans.
Otherwise, the driving experience doesn't offer much to get the pulse going. 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 feels too light at highway speeds and, especially in a driving experience with the new sedan, required constant small (over)adjustments at highway speed.
The 2012 Nissan Versa performs well enough to merge safely in with traffic on the commute, but don't count on much beyond that.