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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
“Keeping the car going straight required constant sawing of the steering wheel”
“has plenty of zip and there's no problem merging into traffic on a fast free-flowing freeway.”
pleasingly smooth 1.8-liter four
The 2009 Nissan Versa has adequate power, but the sporty reflexes of other Nissans are absent.
According to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the new 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine provides both the fuel economy and the performance you’d expect from an engine producing 107 horsepower.
“The engine is buzzy, the ride at 80 mph is choppy and the car was all over the road on regular commutes,” says AutoWeek, adding, “Keeping the car going straight required constant sawing of the steering wheel.” The positive aspect from the same reviewer is that the Versa “is frugal on gas and will help owners feel like they are reducing our country's dependency on foreign oil. And it comes with a factory warranty.” Automotive.com reports that the Versa “has plenty of zip and there's no problem merging into traffic on a fast free-flowing freeway.” Regarding the 1.6 Sedan, AutoMedia.com comments, “When coupled with the five-speed manual and a skilled driver, it provides peppy acceleration. No downshifting was required to easily keep pace with interstate-highway traffic.”
According to Edmunds, the 1.8-liter 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 four-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."
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." Automotive.com reports, “When you stomp on the gas pedal the sound of the engine revving instantly before the car accelerates, a phenomenon of the CVT, can be a bit disconcerting at first. We found it not unpleasant, in fact it sounds kind of fun. In regular stop-and-go traffic under slow acceleration there is no sensation other than the car moving forward smoothly with no sound or feel of shifting gears.”
The soft suspension on the 2009 Nissan Versa hurts handling, but 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 finds that "steering is modestly communicative," but the braking on the 2009 Nissan Versa "is well behind the competition, as is pedal feel." Edmunds comments 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."
ConsumerGuide reviewers states 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." EPA estimates for Nissan's 2009 Versa are somewhat disappointing, and reviewers observe even fewer miles per gallon. For the 2009 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.
The 2009 Nissan Versa’s performance is leisurely and pedestrian, and it doesn’t pay off at the pump as well as it should.