- Very spacious, quiet interior
- Supple ride for a small car
- Simple but attractive instrument panel
- Good crash-test results
- Available Bluetooth interface
- Lacks the agile feel of other small cars its size
- Fuel economy is only passable
- Engine gets very noisy when accelerating
The 2008 Nissan Versa isn’t particularly sporty, fashionable, or innovative, but it offers an astonishing amount of space, comfort, and features for the money.
Made in Mexico, the Versa is Nissan's lowest-priced vehicle and one of the most affordable new vehicles for sale in the United States. The Versa hatchback and sedan were completely new for 2007; for 2008, they return with an available Sport Package for the sedan.
The 2008 Nissan Versa, new last year, keeps its standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 122 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while Nissan's continuously variable Xtronic transmission is available on the top SL, and a four-speed automatic is offered on the S versions.
With either transmission, the 2008 Nissan Versa has good performance, even with a full load. The six-speed manual feels light and precise, the midrange automatic shifts smoothly albeit with wide ratios, and acceleration is good with the Xtronic, though sluggish from a standing start. The engine can get noisy when revved, so in the Xtronic vehicles, which hold the engine at high revs while accelerating briskly, it feels quite loud; a sport mode on the Xtronic allows it to hold higher revs for improved performance or more engine braking. At cruising speeds, engine noise is well under control, and the Versa has a relatively quiet interior with little road noise, though the hatchback has a bit of wind noise. The Versa rides very comfortably compared to other small cars, but it doesn't handle as nimbly as expected because of its nearly 2,800-pound weight.
Inside, the 2008 Nissan Versa has some of the most comfortable seats of any small, inexpensive car, with generous padding and nice contouring. In back, wide-opening doors make entry and exit easy, without ducking or contorting. Whether as a hatchback or sedan, it's also exceptionally roomy; the hatchback has a generous 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat up, and Nissan says that the amount of interior approaches that of mid-size cars. Overall, the dash, instrument panel, and switchgear feel like they were lifted from Nissan's more expensive offerings.
For a car that starts around $13,000, the base 2008 Nissan Versa S has a delightful standard-features list, including air conditioning with filtration; a 120-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers; a rear defroster; and body-colored mirrors, handles, and accents. The SL upgrades to a 180-watt system with a built-in six-disc changer, six speakers, and an auxiliary input, plus cruise control, alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a rear center armrest with cup holders, keyless entry, power locks, windows, and mirrors, and an overhead console. Options on the Versa include Intelligent Key, Bluetooth compatibility, a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, an MP3 player input jack, and XM Satellite Radio.
There's also a Sport Package available on the 2008 Nissan Versa SL, which adds a rear roof spoiler, chin and side sill spoilers, and fog lights. The Sedans with Sport packages get a new chin spoiler, while Hatchbacks get new front and rear-end treatments.
The 2008 Nissan Versa earned four-star ratings from the federal government in both frontal and side impact but got top Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS in frontal, side, and rear impact tests, making it one of the safest cars its size. Front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain bags are standard, but electronic stability control isn't offered, and anti-lock brakes are optional for $250.
2008 Nissan Versa
Although bland both inside and out, the 2008 Nissan Versa is designed to offer maximum space and practicality, and it delivers.
The 2008 Nissan Versa arrives in dealer showrooms with an exterior that is unchanged from its 2007 model year debut. The 2008 Nissan Versa is available either as a hatchback or sedan.
For Nissan's 2008 Versa lineup, Edmunds says that "both body styles come in base 1.8 S and more upscale 1.8 SL trim levels," though the only external differences are "alloy wheels" on the 1.8 SL. The exterior of the Nissan Versa certainly isn't exciting, but it is practical and a bit of an optical illusion. Cars.com reviewers write that "at first glance, you might think the Nissan Versa sedan is a subcompact," but in reality, it's "less than an inch shorter than a Honda Civic and just two inches shorter than a Mazda3." The reason for the subcompact appearance is the "funky front end, tall roofline and squished rear," which Cars.com says is a "look that's common to Japanese subcompacts," although on the 2008 Nissan Versa, those elements "don't flow together well." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show mixed reactions, but they tend to agree with Motor Trend's opinion that the hatchback is "the more distinct-looking sibling." Kelley Blue Book reviewers don't mind the exterior styling, writing that "the tidy Versa succeeds at not being boxy or bland," and they note that the car's proportions make it "exceptionally easy to enter." Car and Driver says the style is "hardly a recipe to whet the collective American appetite."
Inside, the 2008 Nissan Versa is designed to maximize the space afforded by its small dimensions, and the Nissan designers have done an incredible job in that regard. Mother Proof writes that the interior is "far bigger" than it appears from the outside, while Cars.com describes it as "cavernous." Those same Cars.com reviewers also approve of the dash inside the Nissan Versa, finding that it "appears more like its big brother, the Sentra," a slightly more expensive vehicle in Nissan's 2008 lineup. ConsumerGuide also gives the interior high marks for the "logically placed and, for the most part, clearly marked" controls.
2008 Nissan Versa
The 2008 Nissan Versa has adequate power, but the sporty reflexes of other Nissans are absent.
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."
2008 Nissan Versa
Comfort & Quality
The 2008 Nissan Versa sports impressive interior space, but engine noise and some trim pieces detract.
For an entry-level car, the 2008 Nissan Versa genuinely surprises in terms of comfort, room, and overall quality, especially in SL trim.
The 2008 Nissan Versa offers seating room for five, but squeezing an adult into the middle rear seat can be a challenge. Overall, however, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com find that "the Nissan Versa's interior is notable for its spaciousness," as Edmunds reviewers put it. They find that the "tall roof makes headroom a non-issue, and its expansive legroom lets 6-foot-plus passengers sit comfortably in either the front or rear." Cars.com also adds that "the backseat actually has a ton of room, more than in a lot of midsize sedans," and "the seats are reclined a bit, which helps with headroom." However, despite the admirable overall comfort in the Nissan Versa, some reviewers, such as those at Mother Proof, find that the rear seats aren't "that comfortable, so longer drives could start to wear on your back." Most reviewers thought the seats were comfortable, though.
Interior space is easily one of the highlights on the 2008 Nissan Versa, as Nissan has done an incredible job of maximizing the volume inside the car. Beginning with the back of the car, reviewers at The Auto Channel find that they "had excellent trunk room (17.8 cubic feet)" during their drive, even with the rear seats in place, but if they need to, they could have folded those seats "to create the maximum carrying capacity of 50.4 cubic feet." Inside the cabin, Mother Proof reviewers are impressed by the "six cupholders." Other reviewers also approve of the practicality of the interior on Nissan's 2008 Versa, with ConsumerGuide writing, "there is plenty of interior storage, including front and rear map pockets."
Materials and build quality on the 2008 Nissan Versa brought divergent opinions. ConsumerGuide feels that the "interior is highlighted by lots of soft-touch materials and classy looking gauges -- uncommon at this price point." Cars.com testers also loved the "high-quality feel of the controls and dashboard materials" on their Nissan 2008 Versa. Car and Driver reviewers blast the "budget" interior and the fact that "hard plastics are omnipresent."
Despite the 2008 Nissan Versa's many redeeming comfort and quality features, it has intrusive noise levels. ConsumerGuide writes, "the quiet highway ride is disturbed by modest wind noise from the mirrors and some coarse-surface tire thrum." Edmunds also notes that the CVT "results in a raucous cabin environment" that is characterized by "noisy and gruff" engine sounds.
2008 Nissan Versa
The lack of stability control and the fact that ABS is an option temper the wholly positive crash-test ratings on the 2008 Nissan Versa.
The 2008 Nissan Versa scores surprisingly well in both National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests.
The government's testing agency, the NHTSA, subjected the 2008 Nissan Versa to its full battery of tests and, in the end, awarded four out of a possible five stars to the Versa in every category. Those categories included front impact protection and side impact protection, for both the passenger and driver sides. The IIHS, meanwhile, rates the Nissan Versa even higher, bestowing its highest rating of "good" in both frontal offset and side impact tests. The ratings from these agencies apply to both the sedan and hatchback versions of Nissan's 2008 Versa.
While the crash-test ratings are commendable on the Nissan Versa, some of Nissan's decisions regarding safety features are questioned by reviewers. Edmunds writes that "the 2008 Nissan Versa comes standard with front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitor," but it's the conspicuously absent standard features that draw criticism. Cars.com writes that "antilock brakes are optional, but an electronic stability system is not" offered at all on the Nissan's 2008 Versa. Both of these are disappointing, with Mother Proof chiming in that, as far as ABS is concerned, "for the $250 it costs to add it, couldn't Nissan have just made it standard?" In terms of the absent stability system, Cars.com says that since "the government will require it be standard in all models by 2009," they would "like to see automakers add it to even their most affordable models now."
One characteristic that aids safety in the 2008 Nissan Versa is driver visibility, which ConsumerGuide writes is "good in all directions." Mother Proof adds that perhaps their "favorite feature on the Versa was the small triangular windows up front where the front doors and windshield intersect," as they "help visibility a lot."
2008 Nissan Versa
With the right options, the 2008 Nissan Versa can be outfitted like a larger, more luxurious car.
The 2008 Nissan Versa breaks the bargain mold, in its long list of standard features and its nifty options.
Standard features vary between the two trim (and MSRP) levels of Nissan's 2008 Versa, but even the base 1.8 S is decently equipped. Edmunds writes that "the 1.8 S starts you out with 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a four-speaker CD stereo, power mirrors, [and] a split-folding rear seat" that helps aid cargo space. The Nissan Versa 1.8 SL "adds alloy wheels; upgraded cloth upholstery; power windows and locks; cruise control," and "a six-speaker stereo with MP3 playback and an auxiliary input jack," according to Edmunds.
Mother Proof thinks either model is "pretty pimped-out" for "such an economical car."
Optional features on the 2008 Nissan Versa typically come in packages, but they do allow for a decent amount of personalization. ConsumerGuide writes that the available Power Package on the Nissan Versa 1.8 S adds "power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry," and several other features that are standard on the 1.8 SL, while the SL's available Convenience Package includes a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls" and "wireless cell phone link." Among other available features on Nissan's 2008 Versa, you'll find "an Audio Package for SL hatchbacks" that "includes a Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer," according to Kelley Blue Book, and "a choice of XM or SIRIUS Satellite Radio, and a moonroof, are linked together as available options on the SL trim level."