Nissan is hoping its new Versa will capture the desires of those looking for more interior space and Versa-tility in the entry-level segment. Yes, you guessed it, that's where the name Versa came from.
And it is fitting.
Offered as a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan, the Nissan Versa boasts a surprisingly roomy interior and plenty of cargo space.
Due to its deceptively large cabin, the EPA actually classifies the Versa as a midsize car. That should give you an idea of Versa's roominess. While mentioning EPA classification, how could I not mention city/highway fuel economy? Versa, rated at 27/33 mpg with an automatic CVT or 26/31 mpg with a six-speed manual, is the highest rated non-hybrid in its class for 2008.
Versa hatchbacks and sedans are available in two trim levels: S or SL. The Versa S (starting at $12,630 for sedan and $12,730 for hatchback) includes niceties like air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, CD stereo, power mirrors, and a split folding rear seat.
The Versa SL (starting at $14,630 for sedan and $14,730 for hatchback) adds alloy wheels, keyless entry, power windows and locks, upgraded audio system with auxiliary jack for MP3 players, upgraded seat fabric, cruise control and more.
Versa S buyers can upgrade to power accessories and keyless entry, but, if you want more goodies, I'd recommend you step up to the Versa SL. Versa SL buyers can opt for a Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, a sunroof and satellite radio.
Also, Versa SL buyers can choose the Convenience Package. This package ($650) adds an Intelligent Key for keyless operation, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. My Versa SL sedan tester had this package, and I especially liked the convenience provided by keyless operation. For cell phone use while driving, the Bluetooth connection is nice, too.
All Versa hatchbacks and sedans are powered by a 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine rated at 122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque.
There are three transmissions available: a six-speed manual; a four-speed automatic; or an automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission).
The six-speed manual will let the driver get the most out of the small four-cylinder engine while the Versa SL with the CVT will deliver the best fuel economy.
My Versa SL tester had the CVT. The CVT allows the engine to maintain high revs while accelerating. This improves acceleration, but the constant whine of the engine during acceleration easily permeates the cabin.
Other than that, Versa's running gear is likable. I especially appreciated how many gas stations I passed up during my weeklong test.
Another likable factor is Vera's interior. The cabin is roomy and comfortable. There's plenty of head and legroom for four large adults or a family of five.
Now in its second year of production, Nissan reports strong sales of its Versa. After spending a week behind the wheel of the Versa sedan, I can see why this model is becoming a popular choice among entry-level buyers. 2008 Nissan Versa
Engine: 1.8-liter (122 hp) I-4
Drive type: FWD
Fuel economy: 27 city/33 highway
Base price: $15,550
As tested: $17,290 (includes $625 for destination)
Web site: www.nissanusa.com