Exceptional interior room for exterior size, Big-car ride, above-average fuel economy
CONS Unimpressive brakes, Sluggish acceleraion
Shush, don't tell Versa it's a small car
Versa is an all-new small car from Nissan. It slots in below the Sentra in the Nissan lineup and competes with other subcompacts like Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Toyota Echo. The Versa and its competition rank as the least expensive cars sold in the United States.
At this time, Versa comes only as a 4-door hatchback with seating for five on two front buckets and a 3-place rear bench. Nissan promises to add a sedan companion in 2007. Though it is no longer than most subcompacts, Versa has a wheelbase of 102.4 inches which is comparable to some compact and midsize cars.
Two models are offered: S and SL. Both are powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower. S models come with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. SL models come with either a 6-speed manual or continuously-variable automatic.
Standard safety features include front side airbags, curtain side airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Antilock brakes are optional across the board.
2007 Nissan Versa S
Base Price: $13,250
As-Tested Price: $15,065
Built in Mexico.
Floor and Trunk Mats
Engine: DOHC 1.8-liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: front-wheel drive
S models come standard with air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, split-folding rear seatback, power mirrors, CD player, rear defogger, and antitheft system. SL adds cruise control, height-adjustable driver seat, power windows and locks, keyless entry, MP3 capable radio with auxiliary input, and alloy wheels.
Options include sunroof, satellite radio, and a Rockford-Fosgate audio system. Offered only on the SL is the Convenience Package which includes leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, keyless starting, and wireless cell phone link.
Versa S has a base price of $12,550 with manual transmission and $13,350 with automatic transmission. Versa SL starts at $14,550 with manual and $15,550 with CVT automatic.
Get up and Go
The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine in Versa is larger than engines found in most direct competitors. That gives the Versa a little more spunk off the line and slightly better passing response than most of its competition.
That's not saying much because nearly all of these small cars favor efficiency over acceleration. From a stop, Versa accelerates like your typical subcompact with a 0-60 mph time in the 10 second range. On the highway there's enough power to merge, but it's best to plan plenty of extra space in passing situations.The 4-speed automatic isn't the smoothest transmission around, but it gets the job done and doesn't hunt between gears in hilly terrain. An additional gear or two would be welcome, but it's understandable at a price point under $14,000. Those looking for a smoother automatic would be smart to a step up to the SL with its slick CVT.
Versa's fuel economy is impressive, but not quite as good at some of its competition--a result of having a slightly larger engine. EPA ratings for the automatic-equipped S are 28 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. That compares to 31/38 for the Honda Fit and 34/39 for the Toyota Yaris. Nissan recommends regular-grade fuel for the Versa.
On the Road
With its long-for-the-class wheelbase, Versa rides more like a midsize car than a typical subcompact. That translates into good composure over bumpy roads and a refined and comfortable ride on smooth roads. There's a slight amount of bobbing on wavy roads but it is not disconcerting.
Versa is exceptionally good at quelling undulating motions frequently found on concrete-slab expressways. This is an area where most subcompacts suffer unnerving rocking motions set up by the road's construction.When the path grows twisty, Versa's surprisingly accurate steering and nimble size make it somewhat fun to drive. There's a fair amount of front-drive nose plow in tight turns and the skinny tires don't have much grip, but overall Versa feels comfortable on expressway ramps and in quick lane changes.
Sadly, the brakes don't offer much stopping power and the numb pedal is difficult to modulate. Hard stops force frequent steering corrections to keep the Versa braking in a straight line.
Unlike other subcompacts, Versa's cabin is quite peaceful at highway speeds. There's some tire thrum and a bit of wind noise, but overall the Versa is one of the quietest subcompacts on the market.
Behind the Wheel Versa sports a well-designed interior that's highlighted by easy-to-reach audio controls and large dials for the climate-control system. Materials are more than acceptable for the price and the SL has a surprising number of soft touch surfaces.
Driving position is upright and the large front-bucket seats are very comfortable. There's decent leg room and ample head room for large adults. Outward visibility is excellent to all directions.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2007 Nissan Versa
|Front Impact, Driver ||4 stars|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||4 stars|
|Side Impact, Driver ||5 stars|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||5 stars|
|Rollover Resistance ||4 stars|
Competitors should take note of the Versa's roomy back seat. It offers more leg and head room than many midsize cars. The seats are also very comfortable. Clearly Nissan made the most of Versa's 102-inch wheelbase when designing the interior.
Cargo room isn't outstanding considering the hatchback design, but it's still more than adequate for a weekend's worth of stuff. Folding the rear seat will increase cargo capacity. Sadly, those seatbacks don't fold completely flat, making for an uneven load floor. Interior storage is highlighted by large front-door map pockets and an oversized glovebox. Still a larger center console with a covered bin and armrest would be welcome.
Bottom Line It's hard to imagine anyone not liking Versa. It's a subcompact that delivers enough room for a family of four with road manners comparable to a midsize sedan. Throw in the impressive base price of less than $13,000 and Versa becomes a must-see for subcompact shoppers
While competitors fall all over themselves offering more versatile interiors, more fuel-efficient engines, or trendy designs, Nissan played it safe with Versa. It's a car that can easily do double duty as a family hauler and a long-distance commuter.
|Specifications, 2007 Nissan Versa S|
|Wheelbase, in. |
|Size, liters/cu. in. |
|Length, in. |
|Horsepower @ rpm |
122 @ 5200
|Width, in. |
|Torque (lb-ft) @ rpm |
127 @ 4800
|Weight, lbs. |
|EPA Estimates, mpg|
28 city/35 highway
|Cargo Capacity, cu. ft. |
|Fuel Capacity, gals. |
3 years/36,000 miles
|Front Head Room, in. |
5 years/60,000 miles
|Front Leg Room, in. |
|Rear Head Room, in. |
|Free Roadside Assistance |
3 years/36,000 miles
|Rear Leg Room, in. |
|Free Scheduled Maintenance|