Small cars are back in favor, which is not surprising considering the price of gasoline. Nonetheless, many people still desire to own a car with a decent amount of interior space and adequate performance, all for a reasonable price, of course. There's nothing new about this for Europeans, as they have been used to high fuel prices for many years.
The all-new 2007 Nissan Versa arrives as an addition to Nissan's lineup and is now the smallest model you'll find in its showroom. The fact that it's partly based on the Renault Megane, a successful European small car, is a good start.
If you haven't driven a small car in some time, you'll likely be pleasantly surprised at how big the Versa feels. There is decent head room, and even tall passengers will find rear seat leg room as good as that in many much larger cars or SUVs. Handling is crisp and parking is a breeze.
Initially, the Nissan Versa is only available as a five-door hatchback, but a sedan version will appear in Nissan showrooms later in the model year. Modern hatchbacks have improved considerably from the econoboxes of years gone by and the Versa is no exception with a well finished interior that includes good materials and plenty of modern conveniences and safety features.
The Versa competes with the lower priced Toyota Yaris and the more expensive Honda Fit, but it is slightly bigger than either. All three of these brand-new competitors are designed with relatively tall rooflines for increased interior comfort and visibility.
The Versa is smaller and less expensive than the 2007 Nissan Sentra, but it actually offers greater interior space and more versatility. Bottom line, the Nissan Versa is a large small car with good performance, plenty of safety features, and versatility.
In keeping with its positioning as Nissan's entry-level car, the Versa lineup is pretty straightforward. It is available in two trim levels with manual or automatic transmission. All models are powered by the same 122-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels. Initially the Versa is only available as a five-door hatchback. A sedan version will be added to the lineup in early 2007.
Both the Nissan Versa S ($12,550) and SL ($14,550) come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, which is far from the norm in this class of car. The Versa S is also offered with a regular four-speed automatic transmission ($13,350), while the SL automatic ($15,550) gets the more advanced and much more economical Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).
Standard features include electric power steering, power-assisted front disc brakes, tilt steering column, 60/40 split folding rear seats with cargo cover, air conditioning with micro filter and an AM/FM/CD stereo system.
Safety features are comprehensive, including advanced front airbags, side-impact airbags, roof-mounted curtain airbags, front seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, and an engine immobilizer. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) are an option on all models.
Options are limited on the S but include ABS ($250), a rear roof spoiler ($350), splash guards ($110), floormats ($150), and an aluminum kick plate ($90). A Power Package ($700) includes power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, door armrest pad, and a glove compartment light.
The Nissan Versa SL models feature a more powerful stereo system with an in-dash six CD changer with an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, alloy wheels, woven cloth seat fabric, rear seat center armrest, rear door pockets, remote keyless entry and power widows, door locks and mirrors.
Options for the Versa SL include ABS and some of the other options listed above that don't come standard. XM or Sirius Satellite Radio ($300) is available for the SL, along with five option packages: The Convenience Package ($700) features an Intelligent Key system, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, steering wheel audio switches, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. An Audio Package ($300) adds a Rockford-Fosgate stereo with premium speakers and subwoofer. The Sunroof Package ($600) features a power sunroof and illuminated visor vanity mirrors. A Sport Package ($700) includes fog lights, rear roof, side sill, and front and rear chin spoilers.