Friday, March 23, 2012

Nissan Versa Revised

I just gave back my Metallic Blue Nissan Versa sedan and, you know, it's better than you might think for under $16,000 (including shipping). And--it's surprisingly big inside, with shockingly accommodating legroom.

Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's teeny. Actually, if you want to pay more, you can buy a new Fiat 500 or a MINI Cooper and get more gadgets (and driving amusement) but you'll run short when you try to stuff your friends and their gear inside.

The Versa sits at the bottom of the Nissan food chain--in America. Europeans and Asians get cars like the Micra, which I covet. It's THEIR MINI.

In any case, I put lots of miles in the Versa driving to see my son and daughter-in-law--and my sweet little 3-year-old granddaughter. The thing is, without fanfare, it just goes. With just 1.6 liters of engine and 109 horsepower, it is no powerhouse but other than on some sustained grades, where the revs climbed to build the necessary torque, it was a quiet and even pleasant ride. And, I got a genuine 35.0 miles per gallon, which is actually higher than the EPA average of 33. Must be all that freeway driving (30 City, 38 Highway per the EPA).

The door panels are solid, hard plastic, styled to look like something more elaborate. The seat cushions are short and cloth-covered. There's no mirror on the driver's sunvisor. And most odd--the windshield wipers are both hinged in front of the driver--so you see both of them going across the glass when it's rainy. My only explanation is that the Japanese market car on which it's based is set up for right-hand drive, and those lucky folks see NO wiper blades.

The Versa sedan gets an all-new look this year, while the hatchback keeps the old. It's a pleasant, but not especially distinctive, with a rising window line in back leading to a triangular point and oddly fanciful taillights that sit below one of the most recent evocations of the 2004 BMW 7 Series butt. The inside is rounded and not much like the chunky, old-fashioned (somewhat French-looking) older car.

There are three levels. The S is the base car and starts at a mere $11,770 (including shipping).

The mid-range SV adds cruise control, chrome grille accents, body-color dual power remote-controlled rearview mirrors, upgraded cloth seats, power windows and more. My test car was an SV with the Convenience Package, with Bluetooth phone connection (easy to set up), steering wheel mounted audio controls and an iPod interface.

The top-level SL models add 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, variable intermittent wipers, chromed inside door handles, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, the Convenience Package stuff standard, an upgraded audio system, and more stuff.

If you want a manual transmission, you'll have to go with the base car. Few are expected to.

Nothing fancy, but nothing to complain about either, really--you sure get your money's worth.

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