2010 Nissan Versa: More for Less?

December 29, 2009

Nissan's basic Versa front-drive compact has a low price. But there's more to the Versa lineup than pared costs.

For instance, pick the SL four-door hatchback and you get better trim; a more powerful 1.8-liter, 122-hp, four-cylinder power pack and a continuously variable transmission. Nissan calls this a "Fuel Efficient Vehicle." The EPA says 27 mpg city, 33 highway. My figure: a thrifty 29.5.

The SL isn't a penalty box; a height-adjustable driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, soft-touch plastics, fabric door inserts and lined trunk are upscale. Four adults fit nicely atop lumpy seats. Ride quality is grocery-getter agreeable; its a soft, slightly under damped.

Noise is subdued--except for an engine that is Toro snow-thrower rowdy when whipped. Sedate, everyday mobility is nearly vice-free, though.

In motion, heaved pavement bumps the Versa off course. On curves, the Continental tires scream loudly, quickly lose grip. Stability control isn't available. This Nissan prefers navigating parking lots or heading straight ahead rather than trekking twisty byways. An ABS package is available.

Aesthetically, the Versa's deluxe toppings cannot fully hide ill-stamped inner metal panels, a floppy headliner, some creaks, and sloppily finished seams. Other miscues include a blunt head-banging rear lid (it doesn't open high enough), a rear seat that doesn't fold floor flush, spotty headlight illumination, skimpy carpeting and foot-snagging under-dash bits.

Yet, those seeking an FEV with adult-size room and a comfortable ride might find the 2010 Nissan Versa SL has universal appeal.

It lists for $17,000; with upgrades--$19,120.

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