2012 Nissan Versa Review

2012 Nissan Versa - Redesigned Versa Sedan is roomy and well-equipped, with low prices.


The reasonably priced second-generation 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan offers good value. While lively, it's no thrill. It just provides solid basic, comfortable transportation.

Nissan is mainly aiming the new Versa Sedan at single 25-29-year-old  college graduates with no children. However, Nissan said at a preview of the car in Seattle that the new car also should appeal to older folks on budgets who want a roomy, economical compact auto.

The front-drive Versa looks more aerodynamic than distinctive. But it has clever, more-efficient packaging.

Automakers strive  to make a car lose just a few pounds. But  the new Versa sedan is fully 150 pounds lighter than its predecessor-thanks to a new "V" (Versatile) platform. It uses nearly 20 percent fewer platform components.

Note that the Versa Sedan is not to be confused with the carryover Versa Hatchback model. Nissan wouldn't discuss the Hatchback, which wasn't at the preview.

The Versa Sedan retains its 102.4-inch wheelbase and 66.7-inch width for a spacious interior for five tall adults. But it's 1.2 inches lower and about an inch shorter in overall length.

The biggest dimensional gain is provided by a more compact engine/transmission design that allows for a 2.7-inch rear overhang increase that helps allow an impressively large trunk with a wide opening. A protective trunk lower plastic lip helps prevent cargo damage.

While small, the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is advanced. It has continuously variable timing on both engine intake and exhaust ports and two fuel injectors per cylinder, instead of the usual one, to allow better combustion.

Acceleration in town with the top-line 1.6 SL CVT automatic transmission model I tested was good, but 65-75 mph passing on Seattle freeways was average. There is noticeable engine noise during hard acceleration and some road noise at highway speeds..

The new-generation CVT works efficiently, but no manual-transmission model was on hand at the preview. Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman said there's little demand for a manual in the Versa Sedan, but I'd guess it would make the car a little more fun to drive.

The CVT works smoothly. Handling is good, thanks partly to quick steering that firms up at highway speeds, but I found it provides an average turning circle while making a U-turn on a street..

The suspension is firm, but supple enough for most roads. And anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution stop the car quickly and have good pedal feel. Standard vehicle dynamic nnd traction control help keep the Versa Sedan on the road during trying driving conditions.

Estimated fuel economy with the CVT is 30 mpg in the city and 38 on highways. That's good, but not outstanding for a compact sedan.  Figures with the manual, offered only on the base 1.6 S model, are 27 and 36. Only regular-grade fuel is needed.

The Versa Sedan comes as  the 1.6 S, 1.6 SV and 1.6 SL All have a bunch of air bags and "zone" body construction with front and rear crumple zones.

List prices start at $10,990 for the 1.6 S with the manual transmission. It has manual roll-up windows, but dual flat black outside mirrors that fold against the side windows to prevent close-quarter damage. There are no power windows or power door locks with keyless remote entry-and no fold-down rear seatbacks to increase trunk room.

But the 1.6 S does have air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD sound system with two speakers. You can get the 1.6 S with the CVT automatic for $12,760. A Cruise Control option package is $350.

Next up is the $14,560 1.6 SV CVT. It has power windows and locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, remote trunk release, body color door handles, chrome grille surround and an upgraded interior. A $350 Convenience Package adds such items as a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, steering wheel audio controls and iPod control.

On top is the $15,560 1.6 SL CVT. It adds alloy wheels, fog lights and  60/40 split rear seatbacks that should be on all Versa Sedans. The seatbacks sit flat when flipped forward and work with a good sized pass-through from the trunk to the rear-seat area. There also are Bluetooth and more of an upscale interior.

A $700 Tech Package option contains a navigation system with a 5-inch color touch-screen display, along with XM satellite radio. Four speakers are available on 1.6 SV and 1.6 SL.

My test 1.6 SL's  front seats were very supportive, and the 1.6 SV and 1.6 SL's backlilt gauges are easily read in bright sunlight.. The car's adjustable steering wheel was handy. Major controls were easy to use and dual front cupholders were conveniently located. However, dual rear cupholders were awkwardly placed at the far end of the front console.

The Versa Sedan has hard plastic on the dashboard, but front doors have useful map pockets with bottle holders, and the glove compartment is large.

Nissan's timing is good with the car-it seems just right for these budget-conscious times.

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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