By on December 20, 2010

Despite being introduced to the US back in 2006, sales of Nissan’s Versa are hardly slacking with age. Sales of the Versa have increased every year since its introduction except for last year, when volume dropped by about 2,000 units, and this year the subcompact sedan/hatch has already set a new annual sales record. Even the newer, arguably better-looking Kia Soul hasn’t been able to unseat the Versa from its perch as king of the subcompacts, having sold only about 60k units this year to the Versa’s 89,500. But despite this continued success, Nissan is replacing the slightly geeky-looking Versa with this, the 2012 Nissan Sunny, which has just been unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in Southern China.

The Versa’s replacement is clearly a sedan first, and it sports a far more sophisticated exterior look than the high-roofed Versa. Inside, the Sunny continues in the Versa’s utilitarian footsteps, betraying the sedan’s humble Micra-based roots. This Chinese-market version of the global Sunny will be built by Dongfeng-Nissan, and US-market versions will likely retain the Versa name (though its production site is as yet unknown). But are subcompact buyers looking for slick sedan looks, or is the Versa’s unapologetic utilitarianism central to its appeal? Nissan’s betting that a little refinement will pay off, but history (and the Toyota Echo) seem to indicate that American subcompact buyers are typically looking for more practicality than a sedan can offer.

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29 Comments on “2012 Nissan Versa: It’s Always Sunny In Guangzhou...”

  • avatar

    Anyone want to buy a shrinky-dink Maxima?

    Didn’t think so.

  • avatar

    And so, the Sentra becomes even more irrelevant…

    Good lord, you could fit a twelve-point buck in that back seat. It still has awkward proportions (rear overhang reminds me of the Cadillac XTS, of all things), but it is better looking. Nissan fails to update the hatch at their peril; I see 10x more of those than the sedan.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    That looks like what the Sentra’s replacement should be.  WTF Nissan?  And I agree with Philadlj, at least here in Gallup, NM the hatch is far outselling the truly ugly sedan.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Not offering a hatch will hurt badly, especially with the superior Fit around $16k. 

    Nissan has always hung around the periphery of ‘desired’, like Mazda… one I know ‘aspires’ to a Nissan (like Honda, Toyota, and lately Hyundai); but ending up in one hasn’t been punishment.  They do have a couple of aspirational models of course (Z, Frontier, Pathfinder perhaps), but certainly not with their tourist class vehicles.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Jeez, the only reason Nissan sold any Versa’s is because they weren’t typically ugly like most Japanese compacts (Fit and Yaris).  The hatchback Versa, though old, still looks French, that’s part of the reason people buy it!  Now with this blob Nissan is making Mazda the only Japanese brand worth buying.  When will automakers like Nissan realize that trying to out-do Honda and Toyota in mediocrity will never work?  Nissan sells a lot of Altimas and Versas, and they decide to attempt to out-ugly the big J2? 

    Maybe they will be smart and keep building the Versa hatch, as is.  It can’t be that expensive anymore from a building perspective.  Let it soldier on as profit center like the Crown Vic did for all those years. 

    • 0 avatar

      The reason US buyers at least buy so many Versas is value. A bigger car at a lower price is always going to sell here. The Versa sedan is very awkward looking. French design is certainly not the reason it sells.

  • avatar

    I had a choice between an Accent, the Versa, and the Yaris.  I chose the Accent over the Yaris and Versa because of the much better warranty offered by Hyundai.  My primary goal was to not be stuck with paying for a car after the warranty expiration.  I do NOT want to write a check for my monthly payment and then have to pay a similar amount for repair work that month!  If Toyota, Honda and Nissan and Honda were to extend their warranties to match Hyundai, they’d clean up quite nicely.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t the Sunny the Sentra until 2000?
    Edit: Yes, it was.

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    I kinda like it. Drop the Juke’s turbo engine in it and make an se-r version and I will love it.

  • avatar

    If my knowledge serves me correctly, the Versa is based off the Tiida while the Sentra is similar to the Sunny.  So that would mean we are looking at a C-segment car here.

  • avatar

    This looks like a logical successor to my wife’s 2004 Sentra 1.8S.
    To philadlj: Exactly what I was thinking. In looking at Nissan’s lineup lately, my wife and I can’t figure what the purpose of the Sentra is nowadays in the North American market. The Versa has more usable space inside and is cheaper, plus gets better fuel mileage. The Cube even more usable space at the sacrifice of some fuel economy. The current Sentra’s high decklid out back and short interior length are turnoffs to both of us, hence we haven’t considered replacing our Sentra with another.
    They should really make this platform the new Sentra and leave the Versa unchanged. Including the hatchback. Here in Tennessee, the Hatch far outsells the sedan, though I’ve seen half a dozen or so in our area who chose the sedan for some unknown reason. I would never have the sedan, honestly. It looks ugly by comparison, and has less useful load space out back.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      It looks ugly by comparison, and has less useful load space out back.

      That goes double for the Ford Fiesta hatch vs sedan.  At least Mazda was smart enough not to sell the 2 as a sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      That goes double for the Ford Fiesta hatch vs. sedan.
      No kidding! The first Fiesta I saw in the wild was on my morning commute a couple months ago, not two minutes after leaving my driveway. It didn’t even hit me it was a Fiesta because (a) it was silver, not the wild green or blue  they’ve been using in all the ads, and (b) it was a sedan. Just looking at it, there’s no way it’s got as much space for hauling the groceries.
      Haven’t spied a Mazda2 yet.

    • 0 avatar

      I checked out both the Fiesta and Yaris sedans. They are a foot longer than the hatch versions, so luggage space is actually greater. This is similar to the Jetta that was originally a Golf with a trunk tacked on. I actually had a Fiesta sedan on order, but the rear seat room, and some other issues, caused me to reconsider and I ended up with a Fit, not for looks, but practicality. I also looked at the Versa hatch, but its really a C-segment car, especially since it comes with a 1.8L engine. It also felt a little less “tight” in the handling and build quality department compared to the Ford or Honda.

    • 0 avatar

      The Versa feels less “tight” because it’s tuned for comfort, at the expense of handling. It is at its core, after all, a Renault.
      Having examined both the sedan and hatch versions of the Versa on Nissan lots in the past, I can attest the rear legroom doesn’t seem affected much if at all. But something about the sedan configuration makes it feel more claustrophobic than the hatch when sitting inside it.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Let’s not be wadding up our underpants here. This is basically the next Sentra, while the next Versa will be based on the Micra platform.

  • avatar

    Why must every new car design these days have a coupe-like roofline?  Could someone please bring back a “formal” roofline in a sedan?  I’m thinking something along the lines of an E36 or the old “boxy” GM fullsizes of the ’80s.

  • avatar

    No hatchback = 90% less sales, in Canada anyway.

    I might see a sedan for every 20 or so hatchbacks on the roads in Western Canada

    • 0 avatar

      in Brazil, the land of small or for NAmericans, subcompact hatches, the sedan versions make sense. Though the Tiida (or Versa) sedan was only recently launched, the hatch sells more. Selld more because of price.

      Such is the case for Fiat’s Siena x Palio, VW’s Voyage x Gol, etc.

      The sedan’s are family cars and considered a step up above the hatches. Exactly ’cause they offfer more space for a family’s luggage. Hatches are for younger people.

  • avatar

    This is one ugly car. While I wasn’t going to buy the Versa, it was at least unique and somewhat stylish. In fact most of Nissan’s cars (not the sports ones) look the same, and are not very desirable. Each update seems to make each car worse.

  • avatar

    Nissan needs to get with it tech-wise. Stiff segment competition coming with all-new Accent and Elantra from Hyundai not to mention new Focus which will blow the socks off the current Sentra.

    None of Nissan’s cheapest models Cube, Sentra, Versa come with all-wheel disc brakes like the Hyundai’s – save high end SPEC Sentra. I don’t know if the new Hyundai 6-speed auto will be dual-clitch like Ford’s new box. But the Focus has a clear lead in this area.

  • avatar

    This car is called the Tiida here in Australia. it sells abysmally because it is a sedan, as well as none of the car buff mags nor the auto clubs would endorse it as it had limited safety equipment – few airbags, no ESC, no middle lap sash seat belt. The last one is means the car – no matter how good – is automatically disqualified from a bunch of “Car of the Year” awards.
    Nissan will struggle to sell the car. It’s not only bland, but it’s ugly and bland. Either it’s gotta be cheap (and I mean the cheapest car in its segment), or they have to make it beautiful.
    I don’t know how they could make it so ugly in one generation. At least the previous model had distinctive styling.

  • avatar

    The rear door looks like that of a 1951 Kaiser Deluxe

  • avatar

    WTFs that in the middle of the dash? It looks like a giant Lifesaver.

  • avatar

    Subcompact sedans make a lot of sense outside the US, where they’re basically bought as family cars instead of “solo” cars. Yes, you can carry a whole lot of baggage in the Honda Fit when you fold up the back seat, but when you have three kids back there, that’s a whole different ballgame.
    The Honda Fit sedan, the “City” has 500 liters of trunk space. That’s more than the Civic. That’s enough to stuff three dead bodies into if you’re Chinese Mafia. Ford’s booty-licious Fiesta is a reaction to this.
    Mazda’s Mazda2 has a big-rumped sedan version, too. And the sedan cures two of the Mazda2’s biggest ills. The first is the ABS issue… the sedan’s heavier rear end keeps the rear tires planted and stops the ABS from hyperventilating as a rear tire comes off the ground in a corner. The second is the annoying competence of the Mazda2 hatchback. It’s firmly planted, despite being very playful. The Mazda2 sedan, on the other hand, is easier to hand-brake turn than a Miata on ice.

  • avatar

    What a third world offering; it looks like it was designed by the best minds that India had to offer in 1980! The rear quarter panels are so damn large that its seems as if rear ass is lower than my 50 year old butt; but nothing can drag that low!

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