Nissan brings its B-car platform — the one that bore the Nissan Cube (similar to the Scion xB) in Japan — to the U.S. with the 2007 Versa. Available in sedan or hatchback form, the Versa is one of several subcompact cars introduced this year. It will go head to head with new offerings from Toyota, Honda and General Motors.
Nissan hopes to win buyers with size: The Versa's exterior dimensions beat those of the Chevrolet Aveo, Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit, and the five-seat interior trumps all but the Aveo in volume. Nissan says the name Versa refers to the vehicle's versatile space. It's also much better for this market than Tiida, the vehicle's name outside the U.S., which is difficult to attribute to any English phrase, let alone a vehicle descriptor.
The Versa is built in Mexico. The hatchback will hit dealerships in summer 2006, and the sedan will follow late in the year. Prices are expected to start around $12,000 not including the destination charge.
In the spirit of basic transportation, the Versa features a monotone exterior free of side moldings, mesh grilles or chin spoilers. The grille bears a familial resemblance to Nissan's larger Altima and Maxima sedans, and the flanking headlamps are oversized and angular. A large windshield and side windows — particularly on the hatchback — increase visibility, and the sedan's rear end sorts things out cleanly. The hatchback adds a little drama with sharp cut lines and triangular taillights that call to mind Nissan's Murano sport utility vehicle.
Fifteen-inch steel wheels are standard, with 15-inch alloy wheels optional.
A two-tone dashboard slopes away from the driver with a high-mounted center control panel and a three-spoke steering wheel. Metallic-look trim divides sections of the upper and lower dash and also appears on the gearshift, steering-wheel spokes and door-handle surrounds. Upscale touches include stitched armrest padding and an available premium sound system with satellite radio.
Nissan says the cabin stretches 6 feet from front to back. The rear seat is especially commodious for this class; legroom considerably beats the Aveo, Yaris and Fit, and headroom trumps all but the Fit. Front dimensions also rank at the head of the pack, and total passenger volume exceeds all but the Aveo's.
The cargo volume measures 13.8 cubic feet in the Versa sedan and 16.9 cubic feet in the hatchback.
Under the Hood
A 1.8-liter inline-four-cylinder generates an estimated 120 horsepower and 125 pounds-feet of torque. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, but optional offerings include a four-speed automatic or a CVT automatic that eliminates shifts via chain-driven pulleys that infinitely vary gear ratios. With the CVT, Nissan estimates, the Versa gets a combined city/highway fuel economy of 38 mpg.
A tire-pressure-monitoring system and front-seat side-impact airbags are standard. Options include side curtain-type airbags and antilock brakes.