The Truth About Cars » Versa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Versa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Nissan Versa Note (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-nissan-versa-note-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-nissan-versa-note-with-video/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=728514 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior

Making a “cheap” car is a tried and true formula for most auto makers. Making a car with a low sticker and a solid value proposition is tough. Not only do you have to keep the starting price low, but you have to worry about fuel economy, maintenance, insurance and everything that goes into an ownership experience. Reviewing cars that focus heavily on value is even trickier. Indeed a number of buff-book journalists were offended by the Versa Sedan’s plastics, lack of features and small engine. My response was simple: what do you expect of the cheapest car in America? Trouble is, the Versa Note isn’t the cheapest hatchback in America, so this review is about that elusive quality: value.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s be frank, the last Versa hatchback to grace our shores was strange looking. This is because Nissan sent us the Japanese market “Tiida” hatchback, while Europeans got the related, but more attractive, Nissan Note. 2014 brings a change, with Nissan aligning America with the redesigned Note from Europe. Meanwhile China and other countries get a redesigned Tiida. (Check out the picture below.) Nissan decided that there was value in the Versa brand so the final product was dubbed the “Versa Note.”

2014 Nissan Tiida Hatchback, Picture Courtesy of NissanI must admit that the product shuffle strikes me as a mixed bag. While the outgoing Versa hatch was undeniably dowdy, I find the new Tiida (above) downright sexy for a small car. The Versa Note? “Note” so much. Nissan tells us the Note is all about practicality, and the math is simple: the squarer the hatch, the more stuff you can jam inside. Thankfully Nissan included a few swoopy door stampings to prevent any 1980s flashbacks, but the resulting design obviously prioritized function over form. At 66 inches wide and 60 inches tall, the Note looks doesn’t just look square from the side, but from the front and rear as well. Proportions like these are hard to avoid with a small hatchback but the Versa’s horizontal grille helps detract from it in a way that the Spark’s tall grille amplifies the effect. When it comes to looks, the Rio and the Fiesta win the beauty pageant.

While the Versa continues to hold the title of “least expensive car in America”, the Chevrolet Spark ($12,995), Smart ($13,240) and Mitsubishi Mirage ($13,790) and Kia Rio 5-door ($13,800)  all ring in below the Note’s $13,990 starting price. For those of you counting, that’s a whopping $2,000 (or 17%)  bump over the Versa sedan. I’m going to cross the Smart car off the list  because it’s a two-seat hatch, and we can call the Mirage and Rio near ties in starting price, but the Spark is a decent $1,000 discount. Since this review is all about value at the bottom of the automotive food chain, I’m not going to cover the more expensive options in this segment.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-001

Interior

Despite the price bump from the Versa Sedan, the Note’s interior is nearly identical. The same hard plastic dashboard, thin headliner and minimalist controls are all cast in the same shade of black. The only notable changes versus the sedan are a steering wheel lifted from the Sentra, and standard folding rear seats. Jumping up to the $15,990 SV trim buys you nicer seat and headliner fabric, but the rest of the interior remains the same. The discount interior is something that doesn’t bother me in the Versa sedan, but the Note is two-grand more. At this price the Rio is made from nicer materials for slightly less and the Fiesta’s classier cabin is a scant $110 more. Materials tie with the Chevy Spark which is great for the Chevy but not so good for the Nissan. Meanwhile the Mitsubishi looks dated both inside and out with the most discount cabin I have seen in a long time.

Base shoppers will find standard air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seats and sun-visors that extend, but notably missing from the starting price are power windows, power door locks, vanity mirrors and rear cup holders. This is where I say: “what did you expect?” After all, the Spark and Rio don’t offer all the goodies in their base models either. Here comes that pesky “value” proposition again however: the Spark is cheaper so the lower level of equipment seems more appropriate. If that’s not enough of a value proposition, consider this, for $50 less than a base Versa you can get a Spark with all those missing features plus cruise control.

Nissan tells us the bulk of Note volume is the $15,990 SV model which adds a “2-speed CVT,” cruise control, armrest for the driver, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and some Bluetooth love. Trouble is, that Spark gives you all that and a 7-inch touchscreen nav system for less. $995 less to be exact.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-007

Front seat comfort proved good around town, but I found the lack of lumbar support a problem on longer trips. Cushioning is firm but comfortable and the range of motion in the 6-way manual seats is average for this segment. Sadly Nissan doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel in the Note like many of the competitors do. I didn’t notice this problem with the Versa sedan, but the Note I had for a week suffered from a footwell that barely fit my size 11 shoes. If you have bigger feet you may have difficulty wedging your footwear in.

The big selling point for this sub-compact is, oddly enough, the back seat. Although sitting three abreast in the rear is a cozy affair due to the car’s width, rear leg room is simply amazing. You’ll find 7 inches more rear legroom than the Rio making it possible, and relatively comfortable, for a quartet of six-foot-five guys on a road trip. No other hatch even comes close to the Note’s rear seat numbers which are just 1/10th lower than a Jaguar XJ. Because the Spark is the narrowest of the group by several inches, it only has two seats in the rear. The Mirage claims to seat five, but if the Note is “cozy,” the narrower Mitsubishi is downright cramped. Thanks to the tall body, the Versa also delivers more headroom than the competition without the rear seats riding on the ground. Cargo volume grows 30% from the Versa sedan to 21 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 38 with the rear seats folded.

2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect -002

Infotainment

Base shoppers get a simple head unit with a CD-player, aux input and four speakers. Here again the Spark beats Nissan to the value game. The base Spark is just as basic, but for the same price as a base Note, Chevy sells you a 7-inch touchscreen, USB integration, 6 speakers, XM Satellite radio, smartphone integration with smartphone-based navigation and OnStar. Getting to this level of technology in the Note will set you back $18,140 and Nissan doesn’t have an OnStar alternative for the Note at any price.

The Note that Nissan lent me for a week was the fully-loaded SL model. This meant I had the NissanConnect system you see above along with an all-around camera system. This low-cost system, also found on Sentra and NV200, is one of my favorite systems on the market. The interface is simple, easy to navigate and intuitive. The latest software builds on their old “low-cost navigation” unit by adding streaming media, smartphone and Google data services. The touchscreen also integrates with the Note’s available around view camera which gives you a bird’s-eye view while parking. Although I found the low-res images lacked in detail, it did help keep the Note scratch-free in tricky parking situations. Now for the fly in the ointment. Nissan puts this head unit in an $800 bundle with the fancy camera system and requires that you also have the $540 package that includes rear seat cup holders and a two-stage load floor in the back. The total cost is $1,340 or a nearly 10% bump in MSRP.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Engine 1.6L

Drivetrain

Like the sedan, the Note gets a 1.6L four-cylinder engine featuring variable valve timing and twin injectors per cylinder to deliver 109HP at 6,000 RPM and 107 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. This is a reduction of 13 horses compared to the 1.8L engine in the old Versa hatch which seems like a valid trade for improved efficiency. Base S models get a 5-speed manual, but if you want to make the most of the small engine, you’ll want Nissan’s CVT with a twist. The Versa CVT uses a two-speed planetary gearset after the CVT belt/cone unit. This extends the ratio spread to that of a conventional 7-speed auto. When starting out, the CVT is at its lowest ratio and the planetary is in “low.” Once the CVT reaches a high ratio, the planetary gearset switches to high allowing the CVT to reset to a lower ratio as you continue to accelerate. This improves low-end grunt, top-end fuel economy and allows the CVT to “downshift” faster than a traditional CVT by shifting the planetary gearset to “low” rather than adjusting the belt. Meanwhile the Spark and Mirage use a conventional “single range” CVT. (GM swapped out the old 4-speed for 2014.)

Thanks to a curb weight that is only 25 lbs heavier than the sedan (300lbs lighter than the 2012 hatch) and active grille shutters, fuel economy has jumped to a lofty 31/40/35 MPG  (city/highway/combined) with the CVT and a less spectacular 27/36 with the manual. While 109 horsepower sounds less than exciting, consider that the Spark’s 1.2L engine delivers just 84 and the Mirage’s rough 3-cylinder is down another 10 ponies.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-006

Drive

Thanks to a relatively long 102-inch wheelbase, the Note rides more like a mid-size sedan than the Spark or the Mirage. The difference is most notable out on the open highway where the Spark and Mirage “bob around” on washboard pavement. I wouldn’t describe the Note as “refined” in the general sense, but compared to the lower cost entries the Note holds its own. Even when compared with the Kia Rio and the Chevy Sonic, the Versa has a well-engineered feel out on the road. This is where I have to repeat: “keep your expectations priced at $13,990.”

Nissan decided to fit low rolling resistance tires to the Note which help bump fuel economy to a 35 MPG combined score. While the Note manages to out handle the Mirage, the Rio, Fiesta and Sonic whip the Note’s bottom on winding mountain roads. The Spark strikes a middle ground between the Rio and the Note. The electric power steering is accurate but numb. Acceleration is lazy but thanks to the deeper ratios in Nissan’s CVT it easily beats the Spark or the Mirage to highway speeds. Nissan spent considerable time injecting more sound insulating foam in every nook and cranny making this the quietest Versa ever at 70dB.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-008

The Note managed a surprising 38.8 MPG during my 761 mile week with the “wee hatch,” as my neighbor called it. The high mileage numbers are largely thanks to the light curb weight, low rolling resistance tires and Nissan’s CVT which allows the Note’s tiny engine to barely spin at highway speeds. Although the Spark has the same EPA rating, I averaged 2 MPG less the last time I was in one. TTAC has yet to test a Mirage, so I’ll have to defer to the EPA’s 40 MPG average.

Being the cheap guy that I am, the more I cross-shopped the Note and the Spark, the less “value” I found in the little Nissan. The Note isn’t without its charms. The huge back seat and enormous cargo hold make it by far the most practical small hatch in America, the problem is all down to value. If you want sporty or luxury, buy the Fiesta but the best value in this compact segment is the Spark. It’s low $12,170 price tag rivals Nissan’s Versa sedan for the least expensive car but the $14,765 “1LT” with the manual is where the value is to be had. Priced several grand less than a comparable Note, the Spark beats Nissan at their own game. Minus one seat.

 

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.39 Seconds

0-60: 9.13 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.08 Seconds @ 81.4 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 38.8 MPG over 761 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 70 dB

2014 Nissan Versa Note Engine 1.6L 2014 Nissan Versa Note Engine 1.6L-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-002 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-003 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-004 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-005 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-006 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-007 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-008 2014 Nissan Versa Note Instrument Cluster 2014 Nissan Versa Note Instrument Cluster-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-002 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-003 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-004 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-005 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-006 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-007 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-008 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-009 2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect 2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect -001 2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect -002 ]]>
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Chicago 2014: Nissan Versa Note Gets “Sporty” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-nissan-versa-note-gets-sporty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-nissan-versa-note-gets-sporty/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 05:51:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=736081 2015 Nissan Versa Note SR

Nissan has added a few “sports car-inspired” design cues to its practical grocery getter.

Badged as an SR model, this facelifted Versa Note features a new grille design, smoked headlights, dark wheels, ground effects and a nice little rear spoiler. The interior has also been given a little bit of the 370Z treatment with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and suede-like fabric seats featuring orange accents.

While the little 1.6-liter fourbanger delivers the same 109 horsepower as the base model, this car will make for an aggressive-looking subcompact capable of 31 and 40 miles-per-gallon in the city and on the highway, respectively.

Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-11 Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-09 Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-08 Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-07 Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-05 Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-02 Nissan-Versa-Note-SR-01

 

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Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683986 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was four years ago and 214,000 Fiestas ago. Since then the Fiesta has proved that an American car company is capable of creating a desirable compact car. Is the party over, or is the car’s first refresh a sign that the party has just begun? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

After being on the market for just four years I hadn’t expected much for 2014 which makes me all the more impressed with the Fiesta’s transformation. Ford’s new “Astonesque” grille which debuted on the new Fusion turned the plain-Jane family hauler into one of the sexiest cars Ford has ever made, and Ford indicated the look was going to trickle down the lineup. I was worried. You see, when a new nose is penned for a new cars, and the existing line-up is modified to accept the new schnozz, you end up with something like the questionable looking Lexus GX 460. Fear not , Ford didn’t just paint on a their trapezoidal grille, they poked and prodded the hood and lamps as well until things looked right, and right they do. The launch photos looked impressive but the final product was even better in person.

It’s hard to avoid Aston Martin Cygnet references so I’ll just say it now: add some hood louvres and a leather dash and Ford’s compact would be more Aston than the iQ based Cygnet. Paired with the new nose, is a tweaked rear end featuring new tail lamps. The only downside in my mind is that the minor nip/tuck to the rear fails to bring the Fiesta’s rump up to the same level as the front. Park the Fiesta nose first in your driveway, and nobody will notice. But back it in, and passers-by are likely to be impressed. As before there is a considerable difference in dimensions between the sedan and the hatchback with the sedan being a whopping 13-inches longer. Thanks to that length, the sedan looks less like a caricature than it would otherwise.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006

Interior

Four years ago I praised the Fiesta’s interior as class leading in terms of materials choices and fit/finish. That largely remains true despite the Fiesta undercutting the Kia Rio in price. That’s not to say the Fiesta is a revolution, but compared to the hard plastics in the competition, the Fiesta looks and feels more premium. The injection molded dashboard, refreshed steering wheel and seats would not be out of place in the slightly larger compact car category. I found our tester’s black-on-black interior somewhat cold while the lighter interiors available on my local Ford lot were warmer, more attractive and showed off the optional ambient lighting better. (The upper half of dashboard is black on all models.) Helping the Fiesta’s new “premium compact” theme is ability to add real leather seats as opposed to the “leatherette” you find in all but the Kia Rio. Dominating the dashboard in our tester was Ford’s downsized MyFord Touch infotainment system, lower trim levels get a revised SYNC display nestled in a similar binnacle. As you’d expect with any car starting at $14,100, base “S” trim cars suffer severe de-contenting with manual windows, no dome lights, no ambient lighting, only one 12V outlet and no cruise control. This is an important distinction as the majority of the competition feel like upper trim levels are base models with do-dads added.

The front seats don’t offer much thigh or back support unless you opt for the sporty Fiesta ST with its Recaro thrones. Even the Titanium model lacks the range of motion, or support, you’ll find in most mid-sized sedans and power seats are not an option at any price. Even so, the Fiesta’s seats are among the more comfortable in the class. Finding an ideal driving position is easy thanks to a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Rear seat passengers encounter the same firm padding in the sedan or hatchback, and essentially the same amount of headroom with the sedan form factor taking only a 1/10th of an inch toll and ranking near top of the class. Sadly however, the Euro origins are clear when it comes to rear legroom. The Fiesta trails here, and not by a small amount. The Sonic and Rio offer three 3-inches more while the Versa Note is a whopping 7.1-inches more spacious. Likewise, cargo hauling ability of 12.8 cubes in the sedan and 15.4 in the hatchback are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004

Infotainment

My major gripe about the 2011 Fiesta was a lack of infotainment love. The SYNC-only 2011-2013 models used a small red display in the center of the dashboard while Kia and Nissan were offering touchscreen navigation units. To address, Ford shrunk their 8-inch MyFord Touch system down to 6.5 inches and dropped the system in a new binnacle on the dash for SE and Titanium Fiestas. Because Ford reduced the system’s dimensions, not the resolution, the system’s graphics have a crisper and high-quality look to them when compared to the 8-inch system in the Focus. There are a few ergonomic downsides however. The screen’s high position on the dash means it’s quite far from the driver requiring a decent reach for most functions and it makes the screen look smaller than it actually is. Also, because the “buttons” have shrunk, it’s easier to stab the wrong one. Thankfully most system operations can be controlled via voice commands negating the need to touch the screen for the most part. Ford’s latest software update (3.6.2 in August 2013) seems to have finally fixed the crashing and random re-boots that plagued earlier versions of the software.

Some buyers won’t care about the 6.5-inch woes as the snazzy system is standard on the Titanium, a $995 option on the SE and not available on the base model. Those shoppers will be happy to know that the Fiesta delivers one of the better audio system values. S and SE models come with six standard speakers, two more than you usually find in a stripper sub-compact, while Titanium models swap in an 8-speaker Sony branded audio system. The base speaker package is notably more crisp and accurate than the four-speaker fare in the competition while the Sony audio system sounded almost too bright at times. Both the S and SE models share the same AM/FM/CD/USB/iDevice head unit with SYNC voice commands and smartphone streaming integration.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002

Drivetrain

The big news under the hood for 2014 is the arrival of a 3-cylinder turbo option. Sadly one was not available for testing, so keep your eyes peeled for that review later in 2014. All trims get a standard 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing the same 120 HP and 112 lb-ft as last year, meaning that three-banger is optional, yes optional, for 2014. Aside from the novelty of paying $995 to have one cylinder removed, the 1.0L Ecoboost engine promises 32 MPG in the city, 45 on the highway and 37 combined which is a 7 MPG bump on the highway and 5 in the combined cycle. If the fuel economy wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the 1.0L engine cranks out 123 HP and 125 lb-ft across a flat torque curve, with a 15 second overboost good for 145 lb-ft. Ford mates the boosted engine exclusively to a 5-speed manual while the 1.6 can be mated to an optional 6-speed dual-clutch box.

Ford’s 6-speed PowerShift gearbox has received plenty of criticism from owners and Consumer Report. After talking with a number of Fiesta owners I have come to the conclusion the problem is mainly a lack of understanding. You see, PowerShift is Ford-speak for DSG. While Volkswagen’s robotic dual-clutch manual is smoother under certain circumstances (thanks to their use of wet clutches) VW seems to do a better job marketing and explaining their fuel-sipping tranny. Inside the Fiesta’s gearbox lies essentially two robotically shifted manual transmissions, one handling the even gears and the other taking the odd ones. The lack of a torque converter increases efficiency, and the twin-clutch system allows shifts to happen faster than in an automatic. By their very nature, dual-clutch transmissions feel more like a hybrid between a manual and an automatic. When you start from a stop, you can feel the clutch slip and engage. If you’re on a hill, the car will roll backwards when the hill-hold system times out. Occasionally you can hear a bit more gear noise and shifting noise than in a traditional slushbox and reverse has that distinctive sound. Because the Ford system uses dry clutches, starts are more pronounced than in VW’s DSG units with wet clutches (not all DSGs are wet clutch anymore).  2014 brings a major software update that noticeably improves shift quality but there is still a difference in feel. My opinion is: I’ll take PowerShift over a standard automatic any day as I prefer fuel economy and rapid shifts to “smoothness.” What say you?

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002

Drive

Little was done to the Euro suspension for American duty, making the Fiesta the firmest ride in the segment, tying with the Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is a close second, but the Japanese compact is starting to show its age, feeling less refined and composed over rough pavement. The Versa Note feels composed but delivers more body roll, while the Rio’s suspension feels softer than I prefer while at the same time transmitting more road imperfections to the driver’s spine. Regardless of trim, the Fiesta handles incredibly well. This is due as much to the suspension as the light curb weight. Ranging from 2537lbs to 2628lbs, the Fiesta is a featherweight in America and it shows when you toss the Ford into corners, being far more willing to change direction than a Focus.

When it comes to straight line performance, the 6-speed PowerShift scooted our tester to 60 MPH in 9.08 seconds, a full second faster than the last manual-equipped Fiesta hatchback we tested. The reason for the variation is down to the gear ratios in the 5-speed manual. Ford combined low first and second gears with a tall fifth gear (taller than the Euro Fiesta) for better hill starts and improved EPA numbers but the decisions take a toll on performance and driveability. By dropping first and second, the delta between second and third grows to an odd gap that hampers acceleration after 50 MPH while the tall top gear means frequent downshifts on moderate inclines. Although I normally prefer a manual to any automatic, the Fiesta is one of my exceptions. The PowerShift box seemed to always have the right gear for the situation and made hill climbing a much less frustrating experience.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008

The Fiesta has always been small, but the Fiestas and Festivas of my youth were mainly known for being cheap. The new Fiesta however is all about value. Ford’s new pricing strategy is a mix of an aggressive $14,100 starting price for the sedan, a $500 premium for the hatchback and an options list that pushes most Fiestas on the lot to between $17,000 and $18,000. Fully loaded, (excluding the ST) the most expensive Fiesta you can get is $21,705. My realistic starting point for the Fiesta is the SE at $15,580 which includes all the essentials the S lacks.

When you compare that to the competition, the Fiesta starts only $110 more than a Versa Note and at the top end is just $855 more than a Rio. Nissan’s Note stacks up best at the bottom of the food chain, delivering more room, better fuel economy and a similar level of equipment for less. Putting things nicely, the Mazda 2 is outclassed by the Fiesta in every way at every level, while the Kia matches the Ford closely in terms of price for content. Although the Rio is the more spacious alternative and it offers a more powerful engine and 6-speed manual, the Fiesta is more attractive and more fun to drive. Chevy’s Sonic suffers from a bargain basement interior and a price tag that doesn’t offer much of a discount vs the Ford, even when you take into account some of the features Chevy offers that aren’t available on the Fiesta.

What the Fiesta does best of all however is wear that $21,705 price tag. No matter how you slice it, the Rio, Sonic and Fit feel like an economy car at the top end of their price range. The Fiesta Titanium however feels like a decent deal for the cash. Those shopping lower in the food chain benefit from a cabin that feels like a cheap version of a more expensive cabin, unlike the Versa Note SL which feels like an expensive version of a cheap car. Plenty of you will baulk at a Fiesta that lists over 21-grand when a base Fusion is just 2000 bucks more, but those looking for mid-size sedan comforts and luxuries in a compact carrying case will do well to drive a Fiesta.

 

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.4 Seconds

0-60:9.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 81.6 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG over 561 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 72.5 db

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-011 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-012 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-013 ]]>
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First Drive: 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/first-drive-2014-nissan-versa-note-hatchback-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/first-drive-2014-nissan-versa-note-hatchback-video/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 17:41:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493324 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-007

I seem to be the only car guy with a soft spot for the Versa. My peers at Car and Driver, Consumer Reports and Autoblog (among others) came off less than impressed by the least expensive car in America when we were all invited to its launch. That left me scratching my head. So I borrowed another one and came to the same conclusion: “Versa delivers a totally unobjectionable experience at a very compelling price.” This apparent disconnect bothered me for a while but I wrote it off as a “lack of perspective” suffered by my peers in the biz. Seriously guys, what do you expect out of the cheapest car in America? The new 2014 Versa Note however isn’t the cheapest car in America, nor is it the cheapest hatch in America. How does it stack up? Nissan flew me to San Diego to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The last Versa Hatchback we had on our shores wasn’t the least expensive hatch in America either and that was a big problem. I can forgive anything for the right price, but the old hatch sold along side its redesigned sedan namesake which had a much lower price tag. Before we dive too far into the Versa Note, let’s talk price. Why? Because Nissan didn’t just completely redesign their smallest hatch for 2014, they slashed the price tag as well. At $13,990 the Note misses the title of “cheapest five-door hatchback” by $190 to the 2013 Kia Rio 5-Door. Admittedly that’s not the best way to start a conversation about a Versa which usually sells on “least expensive” taglines. Still, the Versa isn’t terribly expensive and undercutts the Accent by $585, Fiesta by $610, Mazda 2 by $730, Yaris by $1,405 and the Fit by $1,435.

About that Note. Nissan’s Versa hatch has been sold in other markets as the Nissan Note for a while and they decided to globalize things. Instead of renaming the car, they just tacked Note to the end since “Versa” seems to be a well-known model. That’s why this hatch is singing this tune.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-006

On the outside, the Note wears completely different sheetmetal than the Versa sedan thanks to being 13-inches shorter overall (163 inches long). That’s six inches shorter than the 2012 model (There was no 2013 Versa) and about three inches shorter than a Rio. Nissan left the Versa’s 102.4 inch wheelbase intact so all those inches were removed from the front and rear overhangs. The result is a profile that is more attractive than the last generation hatch to say the least. Nissan finished off the transformation with new doors and a new horizontal grille with large headlamps. Why not graft a hatch onto the existing Versa? Nissan’s PR folks told us that even as ancient as the 2012 model was, it accounted for nearly half of the Versa volume. Apparently nobody told Versa shoppers that Americans hate hatchbacks.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-002

Inside the cabin we get the same dashboard as the Versa sedan with a few tweaks. 2014 brings Nissan’s new Nissan Connect radios to the low-cost platform and Note engineers snagged the Sentra’s more attractive steering wheel to help justify the $2,000 price bump from the sedan. By all appearances the headliner and seat fabrics seemed to be a notch above the base Versa sedan I last sampled but you’ll still find plenty of hard plastics on the dash and doors. Jumping up to higher trim does buy you nicer fabric, so keep that in mind.

Seat comfort proved good for me during my 6 hours in the Versa, but I would like to see at least optional adjustable lumbar support offered on the driver’s seat. Cushioning is firm but comfortable and the range of motion offered in the 6-way manual seats is average for this segment. Sadly Nissan doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel in the Versa Note like many of the competitors do.

Base shoppers will find standard air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seats and sun-visors that extend, but notably missing from the starting price are power windows, power door locks, vanity mirrors and rear cup holders. This is where I say “what did you expect?” No, the Rio doesn’t offer these goodies for the same price, or even for $190 less. If you want a basic hatchback, this is your ride.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior

No matter, Nissan claims that less than 10% of Versas are the low-rent model, so what of the $15,990 SV? The price bump buys you a car with a fabric headliner (instead of trunk-liner material), Nissan’s 2-speed CVT, cruise control, center armrest for the driver, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and some Bluetooth love.  This 16-grand SV and the oddly named “SV with SL” ($17,690) and “SV with SL Tech Package” ($18,490) Versa Notes will be the bulk of sales. These models push Nissan’s “value” message more believably than the bargain model with better fabric, nicer headliners, USB/iPod interfaces and an optional nav system that is one of the best on the market. Nissan’s new Connect system builds on their old “low-cost navigation” unit by adding streaming media, smartphone and Google data services to the mix. Nissan even tosses in their all-around camera system from the Infiniti product line on that high end “SV with SL Tech Package” model. Can’t we just call that an SL? Please? If you want to know more about that snazzy camera system, check out the video.

The Kia still puts up a fight in this 16-19-grand space with a nicer dashboard, more modern design and a few more gadgets. Hwoever, the Kia doesn’t manage to be any more comfortable or quieter on the road, especially if you’re often carrying rear passengers. Like Nissan’s new Sentra, the Note puts an emphasis on rear accommodations. You’ll find 7 inches more rear legroom than the Rio making it possible, and relatively comfortable, for a quartet of six-foot-five guys on a road trip. Try that in any other compact hatch, none of the competitors even come close.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Under the hood beats the same 1.6L four-cylinder engine as the Versa sedan. The new mill uses dual variable valve timing and two injectors per cylinder to pump out 109HP at 6,000 RPM and 107 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. While I wouldn’t say no to the turbocharged version you find in the Juke, acceleration is liveable thanks to a light 2,460lb curb weight. Although I didn’t get a chance to test it, I expect 60 to happen in the same 11.5 seconds as the Versa sedan since the hatch weighs a scant 25lbs more. Thanks to a 300lb reduction over the 2012 model and Nissan’s new “CVT with sub planetary gerarset,” the loss of 13HP vs the old 1.8L engine goes largely unnoticed. What you will notice is the 31/40/35 MPG  (city/highway/combined) in every model of Versa Note with the CVT. If you’re paying attention to fine print on the Fiesta and Rio, you know that the respective 30/41 and 30/36 numbers only happen in the special “economy” trim models.

I’m not sure how Car and Driver (and a few other publications) got this one wrong, but contrary to reviews that imply the Versa “starts off in a fixed gear” and then “switches to the CVT at a predetermined speed,” Nissan’s technical documentation on the CVT is clear. The two-speed planetary gearset sits AFTER the CVT belt/cone unit inside the transaxle, not in parallel with it. The transaxle uses the high/low range planetary gearset to extend the ratios of the CVT design beyond what you’d find in a traditional 7-speed automatic. When starting out the CVT is at its lowest ratio and the planetary is in “low.” Once the CVT reaches a high ratio, the planetary gearset switches to high allowing the CVT to reset to a lower ratio as you continue to accelerate. At certain speeds this also allows the Versa to “downshift” faster than you’d think a CVT could because the planetary gearset drops to low rapidly compared to a traditional CVT ratio change.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Note manages 40MPG highway thanks to a combination of engine down-sizing, new CVT, electric power steering, aero improvements, low rolling resistance tires and that crash curb-weight-diet. The 35MPG combined score is perhaps more important because it shows the true impact of curb weight savings on your pocket-book. Over 156 miles of driving we scored an admirable 34.9 MPG during our day with the Note, a “notable” improvement over the competition. Keep in mind we spent plenty of time idling, at wide-open-throttle and generally abusing the car around town.

So it gets great mileage and is inexpensive to own, how does it drive? Like I said, it gets great mileage and is inexpensive to own. The low rolling resistance rubber puts the Versa towards the bottom of the pack when it comes to road holding if you compare it to the regular editions of the competition and middle of the pack with the “special economy versions” of the same. The electric power steering is accurate but as numb as anything on the road and you shouldn’t expect much from 109HP. Acceleration is lazy, but then again so is a Prius. Thanks to along wheelbase, the Note’s ride is well composed, and Nissan spend considerable time injecting more sound insulating foam in every nook and cranny making this the quietest Versa ever. Nothing here is objectionable and every dynamic metric of the Note met or exceeded my expectations. Expectations which (I think) were set reasonably with the $15,990-18,490 price tag in mind. Again, don’t expect Savoy Grille experiences at Taco Bell prices. Now I’m hungry, and guess where I drive-thru. (Hint: it’s not the Savoy.)

The Versa sedan is the easy sale in my mind. As the cheapest car in America I can forgive anything. Seriously. But the Note is a trickier ball of wax. The “I can forgive anything” title goes to the Rio 5-door which is the cheapest hatch. Except I find less to forgive in the Rio than in the base Note. That being said, the Note delivers better fuel economy, more rear seat legroom than many luxury cars and if it follows in the Versa sedan’s footsteps it is likely to be very inexpensive to own. That leaves me with a split decision. If you want sporty, buy the new Fiesta. If you want the biggest little hatch with the best real-world fuel economy, the Versa Note is likely the option for you. Where the Rio and the Note lock horns is in the value argument. The top-end SL (I’m going to call it that since its easier) has almost all the goodies I need in a car at an impressive price. The Rio on the other hand offers a similar value but trades improved thrust for lower MPGs.  With the 2014 Versa Note Nissan has really stepped up their game and it’s still a car I would buy, but keep an eye on that Kia, the Koreans aren’t resting on their laurels either.

 

Nissan flew me to San Diego and stuffed me full of Italian food for this review.

Observed fuel economy over 156 miles: 34.9 MPG

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-013 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-012 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-011 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-010 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-009 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-004 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-005 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-007 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-008 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-003 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-002 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-006 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-007 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-008 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-009 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-010 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-004 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-005 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-003 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-002 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Engine 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Engine-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior ]]>
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NAIAS 2013: Nissan Teases Versa Note, Because Note Means Hatchback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/naias-2013-nissan-teases-versa-note-because-note-means-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/naias-2013-nissan-teases-versa-note-because-note-means-hatchback/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 13:06:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473613

Nissan is keeping true to its promise of offering up a new model every 3.5 seconds for the rest of time. What you see above is the newest child to be birthed from Yokohama Prefecture, Japan – the Nissan Versa Note.

You can buy a new Nissan Note in Japan – a high roofline 5-door hatchback – but, we still have the older Versa hatch (though, honestly, who would want a Versa hatch that looks anything like the new Versa Sedan? Smart move, Nissan.)

Why not just ship the new Note from Japan, add a Versa badge, and call it a new model? Product development at its finest!

…or maybe Nissan will give us a surprise.

Never mind, who am I kidding?

The Nissan Versa Note is set to be revealed tomorrow, so keep your eyes here.

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Question Of The Day: Have We Passed The Peak Of Cheap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/question-of-the-day-have-we-passed-the-peak-of-cheap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/question-of-the-day-have-we-passed-the-peak-of-cheap/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 15:25:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461129

The good old days of late summer 2009.

It was a great time to buy a new car. Monthly new car sales in North America had plummeted to under 10 million units.  Access to financing seemed to be near impossible for a lot of consumers. Brands were orphaned. Leasing collapsed. Banks were picky. The future was uncertain and… raw materials were cheap.

It was a good time to buy new at a deep, deep discount.  Has that time passed?

What got me thinking about this was a late model car I was using for my auction travels. A popular car. One that sells like hotcakes. Yet it looks like nearly every interior component within it has been parts binned, deconteted and cheaped out to epic proportions.

It offered good fuel economy, a nice radio display, and several hundred pounds of plastics that were in varying forms. Could the car get any cheaper and remain marketable?

I had my doubts. From the wafer fin door panels. To the glossy, Tonka like display of the center dashboard. It reeked of cheap to the point where an hour inside of it felt like a petrochemical bath.

As I went to that evening sale, I thought,  “I wonder if this material is cheaper to buy than cardboard boxes?” It was an honest question because everybody uses this cheap stuff. From the mightiest of manufacturers to the most irrelevant of niche players. The hollowness of material quality and feel for anything 20k or under seems to be an epidemic of cheap these days.

Yet everything costs more. Reconsider those MSRP’s for a moment. There was a time not to long ago when a $13,000 Yaris, Versa, Cobalt, Aveo, Rio, and PT Cruiser were publicized on a paperish pulp we used to know as a newspaper. Remember those?

Now a few of these names, along with their far more marketable descendants are venturing hard towards the $20,000 mark. There a few discounts. Maybe even a rebate or two.  But the hard march to the next big round number seems to be the new tune of 2012. A loaded Camry can now retail for well over $30k. The Lexus LS400h can now cost nearly $100k.  We’re talking two decent foreclosed houses in the ex-urbs here folks!

This brings the TTAC readers to our question for today. Have we passed the peak of cheap? Are we bound to a new world of car buying where commuter cars only feel cheap and the ‘nip and tuck’ of cost containment has run the course?

What says you?

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Review: 2012 Nissan Versa vs 2012 Nissan Sentra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-2012-nissan-versa-vs-2012-nissan-sentra/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-2012-nissan-versa-vs-2012-nissan-sentra/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2012 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425981 Here’s a statement you won’t see at any other automotive outlet – when I hopped out of a 2012 Mercedes CLS and into a 2012 Nissan Versa SL, I felt like I was at home. This has as much to do with my auto journalist salary as it does my love of bargains. As much as I love $50,000 pickups and supercharged sports sedans, my friends and relations rarely ask which AMG product they should buy. Usually, the decision looks a little like the photograph above. Today’s quandary: the 2012 Nissan Versa vs the 2012 Nissan Sentra. Let the games begin.

Compact cars have a wide appeal to many customers, even if they’re not the sexiest choices out there. You might be shopping for a commuter car, or something for your college bound teen. Maybe it’s your first car, or a car for your elderly mother who doesn’t want anything “complicated”. Whatever the reason, when you’re shopping in the sub-$20,000 range, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether the “next size up”  is worth the 30 percent premium that often comes with it. With the introduction of the all-new Versa, and the continued production of the venerable Sentra, Nissan has made the conundrum that much harder, with the new Versa continuing the tradition of delivering a large interior for a small price. But does that mean the Sentra is superfluous?

Clad in a sporty red finish, we have the middleweight 2012 Nissan Sentra 2.0S with a base price of $17,990 plus $850 in options, (Bluetooth, keyless go, leather wrapped steering wheel and cargo management in the trunk) and $760 in destination charges landing this competitor just shy of 20-large at $19,870. On the right in blue we have the bantam weight 2012 Versa SV sedan starting at $14,560 plus $520 of options (Bluetooth, iPod interface, map lights vanity mirrors, steering wheel audio controls and floor mats) and the same $760 in destination fees yields a $15,840 MSRP. While it is true you can find a Versa for the $10,990 base price, if you want features the market has come to expect like power windows, power door locks, automatic transmission, and more than two speakers, you have to move up the price ladder. Similarly, the base Sentra for $16,250 comes with a manual and lacks creature comforts the commuter car shopper will want like Bluetooth and a place to plug your iPod in. While our Versa SV tester lacked keyless-go and some price adjustment must be made, the Versa handily wins round 1 with it’s $4,030 smaller MSRP.

Looks are a personal preference, but placed side-by-side, the older design language of the Sentra was immediately obvious. The Versa’s curvaceous new form on the other hand seems less “economy” than the outgoing model and to some, more attractive than the Sentra. Sure, the Versa’s narrow track and tall roofline split my informal polling group between those who found the look strangely proportioned and those that found it strangely cute. Either way that was more emotion than the Sentra managed to evoke.

When shopping for a commuter car, the assumption is you’re going to be spending 30 minutes or more inside the car every day. After all, if you commute is short, why have a dedicated “commuter car?” As such, the feel and creature comforts are more important than styling, and in this fight, the Sentra makes a comeback. The Versa’s interior is designed to be profitable (or at least break even) at its $10,990 base price and it shows. From the lack of a center arm rest up front to the hard plastic trim on the doors, the interior certainly feels less expensive than the Sentra which sports a leather wrapped steering wheel, fabric door trim, a center armrest and plenty of silver plastic trim. While the Versa’s plastics may be low rent, they are no worse than those in the Mazda 2 or the new Chevy Spark and only a notch below the Sentra and Chevy Sonic. If you’re shopping a Versa, do yourself a favor and buy a model with the “sandstone” interior. The resulting two-tone dash makes the interior look far more upmarket than the black-on-black model – check out the gallery in our look at the pre-production model from last July if you don’t believe me. While I found nothing objectionable during my week with the Versa, my one-hour one-way commute did serve to remind me how much I missed having an armrest, a leather wrapped wheel and some cushy fabric on the door. The winner in this round is the Sentra with its higher quality touch points.

While the Sentra’s price buys a more appealing steering wheel and a significantly better headliner (the Versa’s “fabric” is reminiscent of the material GM uses to line trunks), the rest of the cabin materials are no more up-market than the Versa. As a result, the passenger comfort round sees some fierce competition. Rear passengers in the Sentra are treated to a center armrest with integrated cup holders and padded door armrests, but the Versa fights back with nearly four more inches of leg room than the Sentra. As oxymoronic as it may sound, the smallest Nissan still sells on spaciousness. This is a fact I did not fully appreciate until I agreed to take some friends to the airport. The send-off journey in the Sentra was a cramped affair (we are all six-feet tall or over) and the Versa proved more comfortable on the return journey home. The reason is due largely to those 38-inches of rear leg room, not only the most in its class, but more than a Ford Fusion or Honda Accord. It’s worth nothing that the Versa is four-inches narrower than the Sentra, meaning sitting three-abreast in the rear is far from enjoyable. For the young family shopper, the Versa was able to comfortably accommodate two rearward facing child seats and a 6-foot, four-inch tall driver while the Sentra was more of a squeeze. Unless you really need to carry 5 regularly or value armrests over leg room, the Versa wins this round with its rear seat leg room and accommodations for two child seats.

Commuters may not care about cargo capacity that much, but it’s handy to have it when you need it. The young family shopper may find this more important with a need to jam luggage for four in the trunk. On the surface the Sentra’s larger proportions and trunk hinges that don’t impact the cargo area set it up for an easy win, but the plucky Versa manages to best the Sentra by 1.7 cubic feet in the rear. With 14.8 cubic feet available, the Versa’s booty is only 4% smaller than a Dodge Charger’s trunk. Even subtracting the space occupied by the trunk hinges, our “airport shuttling” proved that it was easier to get our friend’s bags in the Versa than the Sentra. If this is your family car, you might not want to take the Versa as the ready winner.  The Sentra’s standard folding rear seats make loading IKEA flat-packs possible in the Sentra. The Versa does offer folding rear seats, but only in the more expensive SL trim. With a bigger trunk in the Versa, but no folding seats, our cargo carrying fight ends in a dead heat.

My journey to and from SFO is a 66-mile one way journey which involves going over a fairly windy 2,000-foot mountain pass. With 800-pounds of human cargo and easily 200lbs of luggage in the trunk, both vehicles had their work cut out for them.The Sentra has a respectably low (for a modern car) 3,000lb curb weight when equipped with Nissan’s CVT.  To shift this weight, the Sentra is equipped with Nissan’s popular 2.0L four-cylinder engine. For Sentra duty, this variable valve timing engine is worth 140HP and 147lb-ft of torque.  The Versa on the other hand weighs 576lbs less than the Sentra. At 2424lbs, the Versa isn’t just light for a four-door sedan, it’s light for our modern era period. The small Nissan is only 300lbs heavier than the microscopic Scion iQ despite having more doors and being four and a half feet longer. The Versa gets an all-new 1.6L mill capable of 109HP and 107lb-ft of twist. This may sound like an unfair fight with the Sentra cranking out 28% more power, but the Versa counters with 24% less weight and a trick two-speed CVT. The new “Xtronic” transmission marries ye-olde CVT with a two-speed planetary gearset giving the Versa’s drivtrain a broader range than the Sentra. This improved range was obvious when trying to maintain highway speeds at an 8-percent grade. While the Sentra has a better power to weight ratio on paper, the revised CVT delivers a sucker-punch, helping the smaller engine reach its optimum range faster and stay there longer. The results are clearly seen in our back-to-back quarter-mile tests. The Sentra ran to 30MPH in 3.35 seconds, 60MPH in 9.09 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 17.06 seconds at 80MPH. The Versa got a quick start hitting 30MPH in 3.11 seconds. By 60MPH the gap was closing with the Versa essentially neck and neck with the Sentra at 9.04 seconds. Above 60MPH, the two-speed gearset helped the Versa finish the quarter-mile race at 16.97 seconds and 81MPH. (It should be noted this was faster than our pre-production Versa in June by a decent margin due likely to improved tuning of the production drivetrain). If straight line performance is really what you’re after, then neither sedan is likely to get your juices flowing. If you just need to make sure you can get on the freeway without getting out to push, both sedans perform admirably. This fight also ends in a tie.

When the going gets twisty, those interested in performance should cross both sedans off their shopping list. If you want a Nissan compact sedan with decent handling characteristics you should just throw down $20,810 for a Sentra SE-R Spec V and call it a day. If however your primary interest is to not head into the forest at the slightest curve, the Versa with its lower curb weight and 185-width tires delivers a decent balance of road holding and ride characteristics due as much to its weight as its 102.5-inch wheelbase. Contrary to most of the automotive press, I have a peculiar love for the CVT and its passion for letting an engine rev at high RPMs endlessly while climbing a hill. Aside from the novelty, it pays dividends for the consumer in hill climbing performance and fuel economy. The Sentra also performs well and its longer wheelbase does make the ride a hair more composed over washboard pavement. For its overall refinement, the Sentra wins.

Speaking of those elusive MPGs, fuel economy is one of the most important factors for many compact sedan shoppers. If you don’t get twice the MPGs from your commuter car as your SUV or Town Car, why bother? Similarly, if you’re not getting near 40MPG, why not just buy a used Camry? During our 705-miles with the Sentra and 675-miles with the Versa we averaged 31.4MPG and 37.9MPG respectively in similar driving situations. Our numbers are taken from our own fill-up calculations but are fairly close to the car’s trip computer estimates. The interesting take-away for the commuter car shopper is that the Versa’s average fuel economy was far closer to its EPA 2008 highway numbers than the Sentra. If your commute requires a great deal of stop-and-go highway travel, then neither sedan will blow you away and you’d be best served waiting for something like the new Prius C. If however your commute is primarily highway, the Versa wins handily.

While the more expensive Sentra makes several compelling arguments with a few more creature comforts, two more speakers, a much-needed armrest for the driver and a more refined feel, the cost difference of $4000 skews the balance towards the Versa. Adjusting for additional content, the difference lands between $3000 and $3500 depending on which web tool you believe. While adjusted numbers are nice, if you want those basic commuter car features of Bluetooth and multimedia interfaces, then the difference is still about $4000 when it comes time to get that new car loan (less any cash on the hood). I’m not sure if this is a backhanded compliment or not, but the Versa delivers a totally unobjectionable experience at a very compelling price. So if you’re out there shopping Sentra vs Versa, save yourself some cash, get the Versa and take a road trip with the difference.

Nissan provided the cars, insurance and one tank of gas per vehicle for this review.

Specifications as tested

Sentra / Versa

0-30 MPH: 3.35 seconds / 3.11 seconds

0-60 MPH: 9.09 seconds / 9.04 seconds

1/4 mile: 17.06 seconds at 80MPH / 16.97 seconds at 81MPH

 

2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, 3/4 front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, 3/4 side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra, Front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Interior, cupholders, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Interior, dash, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra Interior, center console, 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Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Dashboard 1, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, HVAC Controls 2, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Cup Holders, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Ceiling, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, rear leg room 2, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, rear leg room, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Rear Seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Trunk 2, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Trunk , Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Gauges 2, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Gauges, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Radio 2, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, Radio, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, HVAC, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra & 2012 Nissan Versa, Interior dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Sentra & 2012 Nissan Versa, Exterior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Nissan Versa Interior, grey, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes sentraversa Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Nissan Versa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-2012-nissan-versa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-2012-nissan-versa/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2011 20:40:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414542

Do you have automotive tastes common among people of a certain age? Not a fan of huge wheels or firm seats? Want something economical? Meet the new 2012 Nissan Versa.

Some small cars are comfortable with their small car-ness. Others, not so well-adjusted, put on airs well above their station. Like more than a few post-war European sedans, the new Versa falls into the latter camp. A high, bulbous front end strives for big car road presence, but tall, narrow proportions blow the charade. In the side profile, a stylishly plunging roof line primarily succeeds in truncating rear headroom, combined as it is with a bulbous nose, barn door bodysides, and (by current standards) tiny 15-inch wheels. When the Chinese knock off the new Versa they might actually improve it.

As long as you don’t look closely or touch anything, the interior of the 2012 Versa almost passes as luxurious, with chrome highlights and the taupe/tan color scheme that’s been a Lexus staple since the first LS 400 rolled off the boat. High-mounted, spongy seats continue the “compact luxury” play. But the hard plastic door-mounted armrests do not—those in a high-end previous generation Versa were far more amenable to elbows. If there’s a design here it’s certainly not a coherent one. The tall, chunky center stack would be more at home in an MPV. In the Versa it locates the audio system controls beyond easy reach. And the climate control area at its base…I haven’t a clue what the designer was thinking. Shame about the impact of the plunging roof line on rear headroom, as there’s substantially more rear legroom than in most competitors.

Compared to the previous-generation Versa (which lives on in hatchback form), the new one is about the same size but, at just over 2,400 pounds, over 300 pounds lighter. The weight loss is welcome, as an uncouth 109-horsepower 1.6-liter engine is no longer just the base engine—it’s the only engine. Paired with a CVT (a five-speed manual is offered only on the base S trim), the 1.6 moves the flyweight car well enough. According to the stopwatch, anyway. Your ears will report all of the side effects that have made CVTs as (un)popular as they are today. Nissan has some passable CVT implementations that don’t inspire thoughts of rubber bands, slipping clutches, and angry lawn care equipment. This isn’t one of them.

The EPA fuel economy ratings of 30 city, 38 highway, while much better than the 2011 1.8SL’s 24/32, don’t quite match the segment’s best. But you’d never know this from the trip computer, which reports over 40 (even 46 for one light-footed fifteen-mile trip) in typical suburban driving. Trip computers can be optimistic, but the gas gauge (Nissan’s traditional orange LCDs) moved less over the course of a day than some move while idling at a traffic light.

The suspension is tuned much like the seats, so there’s copious body roll in turns, limited grip, and considerable bobbling about over poorly maintained roads. No dynamic surprises, though, aside from the modest amounts of understeer and tire squeal (credit the 185/65HR15 Continental ContiProContacts for the latter). Noise levels (when the CVT isn’t doing its thing) are in line with current competitors, so much lower than the bygone B-segment norm.

Clearly, the new Versa was engineered to hit a low price point, and does start at $11,750, $1,455 lower than the 2012 Accent, the second-cheapest car currently offered in the U.S. And the Versa, unlike the Accent, comes standard with conditioned air. Live large with an SL like the car reviewed and the sticker jumps to $16,320. Not so cheap, but over $1,700 less than a 2011 SL with Convenience Package (for the now standard Bluetooth). The 2011 did include about $700 in additional features according to TrueDelta’s Car Price Comparison Tool—some luxuries like keyless ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel, center armrests, and a passenger-side vanity mirror are no longer available—but this still leaves the 2012 a grand more affordable.

Unfortunately, the price cut only brings the Versa 1.6 SL in line with superior competitors. A Ford Fiesta SE with SYNC and Sport Appearance Packages lists for nearly $1,000 more, but includes over $1,000 in additional features. The story is much the same with the new Hyundai Accent GLS with Comfort and Premium Packages: $900 higher sticker, but over $700 in additional features.

So the new Versa isn’t a value play. Financially, it only makes sense—in base trim—for those who must pay as little as possible for that new car smell. In as-tested SL trim the Versa leads the competition in hardly anything, trails them in many things, and costs about the same. So who’s going to buy it? As noted in the introduction, not everyone is a fan of the latest automotive trends. Those seeking the character of a post-Reuss, pre-Lutz Buick, in a much smaller, more economy-minded package, will find what they’re looking for here.

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Review: 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan (Sunny) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-2012-nissan-versa-sedan-sunny/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-2012-nissan-versa-sedan-sunny/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2011 17:52:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404336

The last time we looked at the Nissan Versa, in October of 2010, it was the cheapest car in America at under 10 grand. Unfortunately, the price for such a low sticker was dearer than its four-digit sticker. The lack of modern essentials like air conditioning, anti-lock brakes and automatic transmission were more than just a bummer, as adding them to the Versa made the car less than cheap. For the first redesign of Nissan’s smallest family hauler, the boffins in Japan decided to attack the sedan first for an update, an interesting decision as the sedan only accounts for a supposed 30-35% of all Versa sales on our shores. Surprised? I was, especially since hatchback sales in the US are finally on fire. Nissan graciously invited us to Seattle so we could get down and dirty with the Versa before it arrives on showroom floors in August.


From the outside, the Versa (known as the Nissan Sunny or Nissan Tiida in other markets) looks considerably more grown up than its predecessor. Swoopy lines and the bold trapezoidal “signature” grille could almost be products of Infiniti. Nissan tells us to expect this schnoz to be adapted to all Nissan vehicles eventually. Out back, the trunk is acceptably well executed, prompting a sigh of relief as so many small cars get the rump all wrong. Hatchback lovers shouldn’t expect a new Versa hatchback soon; Nissan was tightlipped about a new hatch meaning we’ll probably see it in 2013, but that’s just a guess.

While some may scoff at hard plastics, the low base price of the Versa has always forgiven the econobox many faults and the new Versa is no different. Interior plastics are no snazzier than they were in the previous version meaning hard plastic dash and door bits are the name of the game. Still, the texture and color of the plastics are far less distracting than some of the alternatives coming out of Detroit regardless or price.

Under the hood beats an all-new 1.6L four-cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing and dual injectors per cylinder, good for 109HP at 6,000 RPM and 107 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. Fortunately for sedan buyers, the sedan now comes with a CVT instead of ye olde 4-speed auto. The new transmission incorporates the usual cone/belt arrangement and adds a novel twist: a two-speed planetary gearset giving this second-gen CVT a broader range than most 7-speed autos. Thanks to this crossbreed transmission and a slight weight reduction compared to the outgoing model, the loss of 13HP vs the old 1.8L engine goes largely unnoticed, and with EPA numbers on the rise most buyers won’t mind.

Because I had to share my driving time with a colleague from About.com, (and keeping in mind we were driving a pre-production vehicle) my experiences are based on some 80-miles in Seattle on mostly city streets with brief highway runs. Based on this fleeting encounter I’ll leave the majority of driving impressions to a full review. I can however say that the suspension is well sorted and composed even on the broken and under-construction pavement currently plaguing the Pacific Northwest, and the electric power steering is no worse than any of the others on offer in this segment. Acceleration is leisurely in relative terms, but not appreciably slower than vehicles like a Prius or Civic Hybrid. A quick test with our accelerometer resulted in a 0-60 time of 11.65 seconds. Nissan announced 2008 EPA numbers of 30/38/33 (City/Highway/Combined) and we averaged 29-34 MPG during our short time with the vehicle and mostly city driving making the Versa both cheap and frugal.

Safety has been on Nissan’s short list for a while and the Versa is no different, sporting all the safety gizmos mid-size car buyers expect. Side curtain airbags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, and seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters are all standard on even the base model. The only item conspicuously absent from the Versa’s safety list is Nissan’s active headrest, pity; it would round out all my favorite acronyms and would be a nice touch on the top-end low cost car.

Speaking of dollars, the Nissan Versa lineup starts with the base Versa S equipped with a 5-speed manual for $10,990 which now includes a radio with CD player (and AUX input) and two speakers (yes, just two) and air conditioning. (We were unable to test drive the manual-equipped sedan so I can’t comment on that model’s specifics). I have this feeling that most buyers will opt for the Versa S, a single step-up from the bottom. The S with CVT will set you back $12,760 but also brings a “high efficiency” alternator and wind deflectors to the party. For $350 more you can get cruise control and two extra speakers, good value in my book. The $14,560 Versa SV model bring power windows and door locks, standard cruise control, upgraded cloth seats, and some shiny chrome bits. $350 extra gets the SV Bluetooth phone connectivity with steering wheel controls, map lights, vanity mirrors and iPod control.

Top-line SL buyers get alloy wheels, fog lights, a split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, the aforementioned shiny bits and some cloth inserts in the door panels. Non-apple lovers will need to buy the SL and cough-up the $700 tech package to get the navigation system with USB interface. In addition the ability to browse tunes on your various USB devices, the 7-Benjamins buys an easy to use navigation system with XM radio and NavTraffic (service fees apply and it’s only available in the SL model). While $700 is a touch steep compared to the $199 Garmin special at your local box store, the look is well integrated with the steering wheel controls and in my book worth the extra dosh. This makes the fully-loaded price of the Nissan Versa some $16,260. Add in a $760 destination fee, subtract some inevitable wiggle room and it may actually possible to get a fully loaded Versa for under $17K plus tax.

On the electronic goody and luxury front, the new Versa attempts to be the best budget value without stepping on Sentra’s toes as the old Versa tended to in higher trims. For buyers this means niceties like the long-awaited center armrest, key-less go, and hidden cubbies for your USB devices are all gone. While I will mourn their loss as a tech-weenie, in their place comes standard air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, improved fuel economy and a new CVT.

Despite a base MSRP increase from $9,990 to $10,990, the Versa is likely to still be the cheapest car in America. Fortunately for the frugal shopper, the base price increase also means less of a penalty box than was checked in 2011 with A/C and anti-lock brakes now standard.

Real competition for the Versa can be seen in the form of the Hyundai Accent GLS when equipped with the manual transmission and air conditioning. So equipped, the Accent will run you $14,195 and the Versa S clocks in at $10,990, a difference of $3,205 which Nissan is quick to point out. On the surface, the Versa looks to deliver exactly what Nissan promises: cheap transportation without being a penalty box. When the Versa goes on sale in August of this year we’ll be sure to update our best & brightest with a full review. Until then, sound off in the comment section below: should buyers get an $11,000 new car with a warranty or something cheap in the certified pre-owned category? Is that the Versa’s real competitor?

Nissan flew me up to Seattle, put me up in a swanky hotel with free flowing drink, and provided the vehicle, insurance and gasoline for this review.


Statistics as tested

0-30: 3.75 seconds

0-60: 11.65 seconds

1/4 Mile: 18.44 seconds @ 76MPH

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New Nissan Versa: Sunny, With A Chance Of Hatchbacks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/new-nissan-versa-sunny-with-a-chance-of-hatchbacks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/new-nissan-versa-sunny-with-a-chance-of-hatchbacks/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2011 20:22:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=392193

We’ve been wondering whether Nissan would be bringing both a sedan version of its new Versa (sold abroad as the Nissan Sunny) and a hatchback version (sold abroad as the Tiida) to the US market, and now we know: The “Sunny” sedan will be sold here as the Versa sedan starting this summer as a 2012 model, while a hatchback version (possibly different than the Chinese version we’ve seen) is still a good year out.

Pricing will remain on the low end, with abase MSRP of $10,990, though interior volume is down slightly, from 94.7/17.8 (passenger/luggage) to 90/14.8 and its platform is 150 lbs lighter than its predecessor. The new 1.6 engine makes 109 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, returning 37/33 MPG with CVT, 27/36 with manual. And here’s the strange part: though Nissan refers to the Versa as a “compact,” a new Sentra is still planned for sometime in the next 18 months. Between a new Micra, the Versa sedan and hatches and a new Sentra to boot (not to mention the compact Leaf EV), Nissan seems to be going all-in on small cars.

2012VERSA_1001 2012VERSA_1002 2012VERSA_1003 2012 NISSAN VERSA SL Well-Versa'd... 2012VERSA_1006 2012VERSA_1007 2012 NISSAN VERSA SL 2012VERSA_1009 2012VERSA_1010 2012VERSA_1011 2012VERSA_1012 2012VERSA_1013 2012VERSA_1014 2012VERSA_1015 2012VERSA_1016 2012VERSA_1017 2012VERSA_1018 2012VERSA_1019 2012VERSA_1020 2012VERSA_1021 2012VERSA_1022 2012VERSA_1023 2012VERSA_1024 2012VERSA_1025 2012VERSA_1026 2012VERSA_1027 2012VERSA_1028 2012VERSA_1029 2012VERSA_1030 2012VERSA_1031 2012VERSA_1032 2012VERSA_1033 2012VERSA_1034 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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This Is Not The 2012 Nissan Versa… Or Is It? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/2012-nissan-versa-or-is-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/2012-nissan-versa-or-is-it/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2011 19:14:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391961 Like most auto industry executives, the 2012 Nissan Tiida (Versa) had a choice to make this week: Shanghai or New York? China or Chinatown? Central Park or YuYuan Garden? Reuben or Xiaolongbao? Decisions, decisions. Speaking of which, we’re not even positive at this point that this Chinese-market Tiida (just revealed at the Shanghai show) is the same car as the US-market Versa that’s set to debut in Detroit. Either way, expect the Versa to be offered as a Compact (C-Segment) model, as its smaller brother, the Micra, is set to arrive in the US within the next 12 months or so to take over subcompact duty…

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Review: 2011 Nissan Versa 1.8S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/review-2011-nissan-versa-1-8s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/review-2011-nissan-versa-1-8s/#comments Wed, 27 Oct 2010 18:25:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=370425

Americans like big cars. Even when designing a small car for the American market, it’s important that the small car be as big as possible. Sound like an oxymoron? It should. In a country where big is beautiful, the small practical cars go largely unnoticed, and so it is with the Nissan Versa. If you read TTAC regularly, you might know the Versa outsells everything in its segment, but did you know it just got a mid-cycle refresh? Even in the midst of a downsizing and belt-tightening economy, that news hasn’t made much of a splash. To find out if the cheapest four door car in America is worthy of more attention, we took a week to live with a Versa 1.8.

First things first, the Versa may hold the title of  cheapest four-door car in America, but nobody actually buys the base model for good reason. Stripper doesn’t begin to describe the lack of features that $9,990 will buy you in 2011, and adding those features back into the Versa can more than double the price tag. Though the under-10K advertisement will get you in the door (of a decontented 1.6 sedan), merely selecting the hatchback will set you back $3,510 more (though the 1.8 liter engine comes standard on the five-door). Oh yes, and air conditioning, ABS brakes and an automatic transmissions are all extra. Clearly the Versa’s recession-ready reputation needs just a little adjustment.

From the outside, little has changed since the model was introduced, which is not a bad thing. Up front Nissan has lightly reworked the nose and headlamps, but they have left the car thankfully devoid of the awkward acid-trip styling that afflicts some small cars (I’m lookin at you Kia). The Versa’s side profile is plain-Jane in a a thoughtful, function-leads-form way; even the extra-large door openings in the rear are thoughtfully executed and entirely functional making ingress and egress a breeze. Of course if funky is more your bag, Nissan will be happy to sell you a Cube which is essentially a Versa  with the weird turned way up. Or, for the fans of true automotive outsider art, there’s the Juke, which offers straight-outta-Arkham Asylum looks on a widened Versa platform. In any case, Nissan had room for a quiet, well-adjusted subcompact, and the Versa fits that bill well.

Inside the Versa, Nissan has added a much needed center armrest, tweaked some options packages and added optional Bluetooth and navigation options to the list while keeping base prices in the basement. Our tester came with both Bluetooth and nav, which worked surprisingly well given the discount pricing. $650 buys you the keyless-go package with Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and a leather steering wheel, and the navigation package with up-level audio commands a reasonable $610. For those willing to pay the monthly subscription, the Nav package also buys you an XM Satellite radio receiver and the Nav system has XM traffic built in.Also along for the ride in Nav package is a well-executed iPod interface. It’s obvious that Nissan had TomTom design the software for the nav system; it’s well laid out and as easy to use as an aftermarket unit. Oddly however you can’t type in an address while you are moving, but you can spend hours navigating thru your iPod on the same screen. What gives?

One excellent feature that is standard on all Versa models is an incredible 38 inches of rear leg room, a full two more inches than the recently inflated 2011 BMW 5 series sedan. Never before has small been this big. While the seats may be a touch firm for most adults, the ability to stretch out in the back will make up for some of it. As an aside, the Versa is quite possibly the cheapest vehicle on the market that can accommodate two rearward facing child seats with an average driver and passenger up front.

And when it comes to the Versa’s CVT transmission, I get the feeling that I’m going to part ways with the enthusiast-oriented review consensus. For some reason, reviewers tend to be critical of CVTs, complaining about feel or engine “buzz”  (the CVT will hold the engine at a particular speed for extended periods of time). This CVT whine committee has even caused manufacturers to design their CVTs to mimic shift points in a traditional slushbox. Crazy talk I say: the CVT is the perfect transmission for the Versa or almost any small car. Why? Simple: hills.

Let’s face it, compact cars with tiny engines and hills are a bad combo to start with. If you toss in a wide or uneven ratio manual, or an ever-so-popular cheap 4-speed automatic, hill climbing becomes an arduous task. Thankfully, Nissan’s CVT allows the diminutive 1.8L 122HP 4 banger operate at its peak RPM to help you up grades that would make a manual Fiesta a chore to drive. Yes, the Versa buzzes like a Las Vegas vibrating bed sans the “magic fingers,” and yes the transmission feels “unnatural,” but these are small prices to pay for the ease with which the Versa hops up hills. Would I want a CVT in all cars? No, but in a discount car like the Versa, it’s perfect.

Despite the similarly low 127lb-ft of twist on tap, the Versa felt somewhat lighter than its 2828lb curb weight would indicate. On downhill grades I love a car with good engine braking, and again the CVT shines in this area. Since it’s always adjusting the ratio, it can maintain a very even engine braking feel at a wide range of speeds. So why is there an O/D Off button? It would have been better if Nissan had just called the O/D Off mode and “L” position on the shifter “L2 and L1” or just “Low and Lower.” In my hometown of San Francisco, controlling your decent speed is critical so the fuzz doesn’t ruin your day, as a result I found “Low and Lower” a true gem. Ready for the rub? Nissan saddles all auto-Versa models except the 1.8SL hatch with their fun-hating 4 speed automatic. And you guessed it: the 1.8SL does not start at $9,990 but $16,470.

Going around corners, the econo-box DNA of the Versa shines through.. and not in the good way. The narrow tires, 3,000lb curb weight (with driver and fuel), and electric power steering conspire to suck the fun out of any windy mountain pass. The Versa may pack more cargo than a Fiesta or a Rio 5, but you can leave your driving excitement at home in your Mazda 3 hatch. Corners are met with minimum roll but maximum tire squeal, making it difficult to drive the Versa briskly and subtly at the same time.

Our Versa tester rang in at a not-so-cheap-anymore $19,840, only a couple bucks off the similarly equipped Honda Fit Sport ($19,850). Comparisons to the Yaris and Fiesta are inevitable so here we go: The Yaris is long in the tooth and without some decent discounts on the hood buyers should look elsewhere. The Euro-flair Fiesta marches to a different drummer than the Versa or Fit, its driving manners and parts quality are superior, but its price tag can be a hard pill to swallow. While it’s not possible to similarly equip a Fiesta hatch as Ford does not offer a Navigation option, at $20,335 sans-nav, the Fiesta is a touch spendy but offers far more refinement. If you need the extra cargo, passenger or child seat schlepping room, the Versa is king of the hill. If you value handling and performance, wait for the Ecoboost Fiesta to roll next year. If you’re just looking for America’s cheapest car, good luck finding one on Nissan’s lot.

Readers who are following TTAC on Facebook were given the opportunity to ask reader questions of the Versa, here are your answers: Brett W: Better in person than in pictures. Kevin M: The tweaks are actually welcome. Steven W: They are tiny, aren’t they? Megan B: CVT all the way baby. James M: No rubber what-so-ever. John L: The sedan Sentra is bigger than the Sedan Versa in just about every way. Tony J: My sound meter is on the fritz, but according to Nissan: Sound level @ idle is 40.4db, @ Full throttle 75.7db and @ 70 mph cruise 67.4db.Robert H: I had the opposite problem, I couldn’t find a stripper if my life depended on it. Make of that what you will.

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Visions Of A New Versa Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-visions-of-a-new-versa-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-visions-of-a-new-versa-edition/#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2010 18:25:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=368238

In this first look at Nissan’s 2011 Versa, we’re seeing a very different car from the high-roofed, gangly subcompact that has been dominating the B-segment sales charts all year. Which begs the question: should Nissan mess with success? With Kia’s Soul sneaking up on the Versa in year-to-date subcompact sales, will a sleeker sedan keep the Versa riding high, or will it lose out to boxier, more practical offerings?

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Geneva Gallery: 2011 Nissan Juke http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/geneva-gallery-2011-nissan-juke/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/geneva-gallery-2011-nissan-juke/#comments Wed, 03 Mar 2010 20:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=347441

No, it’s not a concept, and yes, it is coming to the US this fall. The Versa-based Juke clearly hopes to banish the term “Aztek” [noun, referring to the ugliest crossover ever sold in the US] from the modern automotive lexicon. We’d Juke around some more about this tiny rolling affront to the laws of natural beauty, but frankly we can’t bring ourselves to. For one thing, where do you start, and for another, where would we stop? Expect thesaurus sales to jump considerably when the Juke hits the press-car circuit later this year.

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Nissan Plans Low-Cost Cars For America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/nissan-plans-low-cost-cars-for-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/nissan-plans-low-cost-cars-for-america/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2010 15:29:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341796 The third world is not enough... (courtesy:allworldcars.com)

Yesterday we confronted established automakers’ fears of the disposable automobile imported from China or India, but as Automotive News [sub] reports, the majors aren’t just sitting still on the issue. Nissan, which already sells a decontented Versa for $10k is planning two more vehicles at that price point for the US market, based on its new low-cost “V” platform. “The V platform will be sourced in Mexico” reveals Nissan’s North American chairman. Three vehicles will actually be produced in Mexico on the platform, but only two of them will be sold stateside.

I think $10,000 is a good point. As you know, there are very few new cars sold at that price point in the United States… It is too early to tell you the (standard) equipment in those cars. The only thing that we can tell you is that we will hold that price point.

Nissan’s Carlos Tavares says Nissan’s Mexican plant will produce 200k of the million V-platform units it hopes to build globally. One of the vehicles produced will likely be a replacement for the global Nissan Micra. The other is likely to be some kind of subcompact MPV.

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