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.