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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
Less than athletic handling and braking capabilities
Tidy dimensions aid close-quarters maneuverability
pleasingly smooth 1.8-liter four
The 2008 Nissan Versa’s performance is leisurely and pedestrian, though its controls feel light and precise.
The 2008 Nissan Versa comes equipped with just one engine type, which Motor Trend lists as a "pleasingly smooth 1.8-liter four" that Kelley Blue Book says "has been specially tuned for stronger low-end torque" on U.S. models. According to Edmunds, the engine delivers "122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque," which they assert is good enough for "adequate" acceleration. However, ConsumerGuide says that "manual- and 4-speed-automatic transmission versions feel labored and weak at low speed," although "hatchbacks with the CVT" are "livelier from a stop." In ConsumerGuide testing, a Nissan Versa 1.8 S with manual transmission "did 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds."
The three transmissions that ConsumerGuide mentioned cover all the transmission options on the 2008 Nissan Versa; there's either a "6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission" on the Nissan Versa S or, in addition to those two options, a "continuously variable automatic transmission" on the 1.8 SL. Other reviews of the transmissions read by TheCarConnection.com show mixed impressions, but the CVT scores well across the board. Cars.com reviewers say "the Versa's CVT is seamless; most buyers probably won't even notice they're not driving a regular automatic." However, Edmunds recommends the "six-speed manual," provided "you don't mind shifting your own gears." They also note that the standard "four-speed automatic" is the weakest transmission choice, as the CVT "has an edge over the automatic in both performance and fuel economy."
As far as fuel economy goes, EPA estimates for Nissan's 2008 Versa are somewhat disappointing, and reviewers observed even fewer miles per gallon. For the 2008 Nissan Versa, the EPA estimates that CVT-equipped vehicles will return 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, while automatics should achieve 24/32 mpg, and manuals 26/31 mpg. However, ConsumerGuide reviewers find that, during testing, "an SL sedan with the CVT averaged 24.5 mpg in mostly city driving," while a "test S hatchback with the 4-speed automatic averaged 24.8 mpg."
Though the engine and transmission options on the Nissan 2008 Versa offer some choice, there’s one setup for handling and it’s unimpressive. Edmunds finds that "the car feels tall and out of its element when going around corners, a quality accentuated by the Versa's considerable body roll and slow steering." Although the soft suspension on the 2008 Nissan Versa hurts handling, it does make "average highway commuting comfortable," according to Car and Driver; ConsumerGuide adds that "it imparts a comfortable and controlled ride on most surfaces." Car and Driver also found that "steering is modestly communicative," but the braking on the 2008 Nissan Versa "is well behind the competition, as is pedal feel."
The 2008 Nissan Versa has adequate power, but the sporty reflexes of other Nissans are absent.