2010 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL Hatchback

The Nissan Versa is a likeable car.

The Nissan Versa is a likeable car.

While that may seem like damming with faint praise, that is not the intention. Rather, it is to make the point that hyperbole notwithstanding (i.e., I can’t image that Nissan would run an ad including: “Likeable”—autofieldblog, preferring something along the lines of “Breathtaking!”), the Versa is a small car—though in the EPA midsize category, thanks to its generous interior space—that people buy primarily for purposes of safe, comfortable, reliable transportation, not because they’re in search of exotic exhilaration. There’s the GT-R for that. And this isn’t a GT-R.

But the Versa delivers on what it is meant to.

It isn’t supermodel stylish. But it isn’t plain Jane. It isn’t 0 to 60-oriented, but the 122-hp four has enough to get out of its own way.

 

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And the place where it really exceeds expectations is inside, where it is roomy enough to put one’s mother in the back seat—and I like my mom.

That is, the headroom in a Versa hatch equipped with a moonroof is 39.5 in. for the front passenger and 38.3 for the person in the rear. The front legroom is 41.4 in. and the rear is 38.0 in. And the shoulder and hip room numbers (53.5 and 48.8 front; 50.7 and 47.2 rear) are comparatively generous, too. Real people can sit in the car without feeling like they’re in some sort of medieval torture device on wheels.

Realize that this is a car with a 102.4-in. wheelbase and an overall length of just 169.1 in. and you think that it has something of Doctor Who’s Tardis: there is more room on the inside than one might figure from looking at the outside.

The aforementioned four-cylinder engine is mated to a to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is something that the driver need not think about as it is smooth and seamless in its “shifts” (actually there are just belts riding on pulleys, so there really are no “shifts” per se). What the driver might only want to know is that the CVT—as well as things like electric power-assisted steering—help contribute to better fuel efficiency: the car is rated at 28 city/34 highway.

 

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The exterior design is a 1.25-box, meaning there is a comparatively small hood, which constitutes the 0.25, and a full box that is the cabin. But there is a nice arc to the roofline, so this isn’t like a minivan processed via a Rick Moranis movie. Overall, it resembles the Honda Fit, but it is larger and less angular. Still, you can see a resemblance to a type of car that is more similar to people in Japan than has been the case in the U.S., although I think the hatch will become more visible, with not only these cars but the 2011 Ford Fiesta.

The base MSRP of the vehicle is $16,530. Then $720 for destination. The vehicle as Driven had four option packages:

  • Power moonroof, which also includes—oddly, I think—dual illuminated vanity mirrors--$600.
  • Five-piece floor/trunk mat set, the sort of thing you might get a dealer to throw in--$155.
  • Premium package, which includes the Nissan Intelligent Key keyless entry system. This provides a keyfob that allows one to open the doors with the fob in purse or pocket. And the car can be started without sticking a key in the steering column cylinder. However, this is not a pushbutton-start car. There is a plastic knob on the steering column where the key would otherwise be inserted that must be turned. . .like a key. Odd, I think. The package also includes a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, which is becoming more important as states enact cell phone restrictions, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that has audio controls. Last but not least, 16-in. alloy wheels.--$980.
  • Navigation and sat radio package, which has a clever 5-in. color touch screen display for the integrated navigation system. There is XM NavTraffic capability. The point here is that you can get integrated navi for far less than you might think: this package--$610.
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As I write this, I have another Nissan that I am test driving, the Sentra. The Sentra is bigger, yet still a small(ish) car. And I have got to say that if I was given a choice between the two, the Versa would be my choice, hands down. It’s that likeable.

Selected Specs

Engine: 1.8-liter four. Aluminum block & heads

Horsepower: 122 @ 5,200 rpm

Torque: 127 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Wheelbase: 102.4 in.

Length: 169.1 in.

Width: 66.7 in.

Height: 58.3 in.

Curb weight: 2,758 lb.

Fuel economy: 28 mpg city; 34 mpg highway