2007 Nissan Versa Review

2007 Nissan Versa - 4 for more.


Hopes fuel-miser sedan boosts sales in U.S. as hatchback bias slow to fade

Americans prefer sedans over hatchbacks, while less-affluent Europeans prefer more versatile hatchbacks, partly because many families overseas make do with just one car. They can't grab a second vehicle like an SUV if more room is needed when, say, shopping for large bulky objects.

Nissan thus hopes to increase U.S. sales of its 2007 Versa economy car by recently adding a four-door sedan to the Versa hatchback line. While attitudes are slowly changing, many Americans still equate "hatchback" with cheap economy cars of years ago.

Other new members of the early 2007 Japanese trio of 2007 economy cars are the Toyota Yaris sedan and Honda Fit, which comes both as sedan and hatchback.

The trio again shows that it's amazing how Japan's automakers luck out by introducing fuel-stingy new vehicles when U.S. gasoline prices soar. They've been introduced because Japan's Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic have been sized and priced out of the entry car market.

The well-built Versa comes in S and higher-line SL trim levels, with prices ranging from $12,550 to $15,550. In fact, both the sedan and hatchback start at $12,550 and end at $15,550.

Even the entry S sedan has air conditioning, electric power steering, tilt wheel, console, AM/FM/CD sound system, variable intermittent wipers and rear defroster.

Move up to the SL and you get power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry (in a $700 Power Package option for the S) and body color power sideview mirrors. The S also adds a height-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, digital media player connection and alloy wheels.

Standard for all Versas are front side air bags, curtain side bags and a tire pressure monitor. But anti-lock brakes are a $250 option, and the S requires the Power Package option to get them.

Options exclusive to the SL include a $600 power sunroof and a $700 Convenience Package that contains keyless access and starting. Satellite radio is $300 for the SL. Curiously, it requires anti-lock brakes and the Sunroof and Convenience packages.

The Versa hatchback (Aug. 20, 2006, AutoTimes) is the roomiest, most comfortable member of the trio. The new Versa sedan lacks the hatchback's extra cargo room for bulkier objects but should prove more acceptable to Americans.

Trunk room is good, and cargo space can be increased by folding the rear seatbacks forward. They sit flat, but the cargo opening is rather high and the trunk lid has conventional mechanical hinges.

The front-drive Versa feels and drives like the largest car of the trio because it has the most power, roomiest interior, smoothest ride and an especially roomy back seat -- although the hard center of that seat is uncomfortable for a third rear occupant.

At least there's a fold-down rear center armrest containing handy cupholders. And four tall adults fit comfortably. The 1.8-liter, 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine (other trio members have a 1.5-liter engine) calls for lots of revs for the best performance but delivers lively acceleration in town and decent highway performance.

The engine transmits power through a six-speed manual, four-speed automatic or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). My test Versa sedan had the decent manual transmission, which works with a clutch that is light but has a long throw.

The manual helps deliver an estimated 30 mpg in the city and 34 on highways, while the automatic figures are 28 and 35. They're 30 and 36 with the super-efficient CVT. Only regular-grade fuel is needed. With gas topping $3 per gallon, those figures should help sell more Versas.

Steering is quick, and there is a good trade-off between ride and handling. The brake pedal has a progressive action.

Large outside door handles are there for quick entry to the quiet interior, and front seats provide good side support in curves and during quick maneuvers. The white-on-black gauges are fairly easy to read, although they're almost too deeply set.

Controls are easy to use, doors have storage pockets and rear windows lower all the way. But front cupholders are set very low -- almost beneath the center of the dashboard.

New owners might scratch their heads while looking for the hood prop because it's seems almost hidden on the underside of the hood. But fluid filler areas are easily reached in the uncluttered engine compartment.

The attractively priced Versa's mission is providing basic transportation, but it does that in fine style.


PRICE: $12,550-$15,550.

LIKES: Roomy. Lively. Good roadability. Fuel-thrifty.

DISLIKES: Low front cupholders. High cargo opening. Awkward hood prop.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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