2010 Nissan Versa
If you've looked at the Versa and lamented that it's actually a bit bigger and thirstier than what you'd hoped for, you're apparently not alone.
Nissan thinks that there's a reasonably strong market for an even smaller model, so the automaker's high-mpg replacement for its Micra minicar will be sold in the U.S.—beginning as soon as 2011. That's according to Automotive News, citing company officials in Japan.
Nissan has sold the MINI Cooper–sized Micra minicompact in other markets for decades. While Nissan has before sold U.S. cars smaller than the Versa (20 years ago, its own Sentra hatchback was smaller than the current Versa), this new vehicle would be the smallest yet, with an overall length possibly as much as two feet shorter than the Versa sedan. Even though many of the Versa's main rivals, like the 2010 Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Chevrolet Aveo are smaller than the Versa, they would all slightly outsize the Micra.
Nissan Global Compact Car (Micra/March)
The automaker plans to sell a four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, and MPV versions of the vehicle globally, but it's not yet clear which ones would be brought to these shores. Automotive News reports than Nissan has made a significant effort to reduce the number of parts in the car, and fuel-efficiency should be up to 50 percent better.
Last year, Nissan brought out a Base $9,990 version of its Versa. TheCarConnection.com chased one down at the dealership to get some seat time, and found it quite delightful, provided you expect a simple, no-frills vehicle that delivers on the basics. That said, they're not for everyone; the cheapest small cars like this will likely appeal to shoppers who might have otherwise gone with a used car but are lured in by the new-car warranty and promise of trouble-free driving.
2009 Nissan Versa 1.6 Base
If it's any indication of demand, a friend of this editor had no trouble finding a Versa Base 1.6 model even in the final throes of the Cash for Clunkers frenzy.
We've heard a lot of conflicting information recently from shoppers and experts about whether U.S. car shoppers are willing to step down a size. Just last month we reported on an AutoPacific study that concluded that Americans might not be willing to downsize very much. Among other findings in that AutoPacific study were that owners of the smallest models (including Aveo, Fit, and Yaris) weren't typically willing to go smaller than what they currently drove.
Do you think that Nissan can succeed with an even smaller vehicle for the U.S., or is the MINI Cooper an exception to the rule that Americans aren't willing to downsize?