I just took my son to the pediatrician for his 1-year-old checkup. While he is totally advanced in most areas - he's already doing algebra, speaking Arabic and proving himself to be a young Tiger Woods on the golf course - he doesn't quite hit the mark when it comes to stature. It seems my genius, talented child is barely pushing the lowly 5th percentile in size. Some of the more competitive moms I know overlook all his other obvious talents and make snide remarks about my boy's size, but it doesn't get to me. I'm not fooled by appearances; I understand that good things come in small packages. My boy is cute, capable and moves around like a champ.
And so it goes with the 2008 Nissan Versa sedan. It's small, and from the outside it looks like a car that a cartoonist might sketch, but ultimately it's a capable little thing that moves around pretty well.
The Versa's exterior is cute in a quirky way, but it's the interior that really surprised me. It felt big - far bigger than I imagined it would. The folks at Nissan boast that the Versa has the roomiest interior of any car in its class, and I believe them. Of course, they also boast that this little car can fit five adults, and methinks that's probably pushing it, unless they're really small adults and you don't have far to go. Four would probably be a more comfortable way to roll in this car, especially if you have a car seat in the back. If you have two car seats, forget about getting any adults back there. I should also mention that the seats weren't that comfortable, so longer drives could start to wear on your back.
I was lucky enough to have a souped-up SL sedan. The SL comes standard with cruise control and power windows and door locks, but my version also had the optional remote keyless entry, sunroof and antilock brakes. I was a little surprised to learn that ABS was extra; it seems like it should be standard on any car these days. I shouldn't complain too much about a car that starts at $15,630, as the SL sedan does, but for folks like me who live in places that get icy and snowy, ABS is necessary. Furthermore, for the $250 it costs to add it, couldn't Nissan have just made it standard? I doubt $250 makes or brakes it (pun intended).
Speaking of safety, I must admit I wasn't sure how safe this car would be when I first laid eyes on it. Before I got in, I accepted the fact that I'd be driving a tin can on wheels for the next week or so. But I was wrong. This is one safe-feeling and safe-acting little car. While pickup is not its forte, once it got going the Versa felt steady on the highway. All versions come standard with six airbags, along with sensors to detect passenger weight and crash severity.
A few other pleasing things of note included a pretty pimped-out stereo for such an economical car, which you know I like. A six-CD changer is standard on the SL, as is an auxiliary audio jack. There were six cupholders, which you also know I like since I tend to have at least a caffeinated beverage and a water with me, as well as a bottle or sippy cup nowadays. Fuel economy is another thing I'm keen on, and the 27/33 mpg city/highway my test car got with its continuously variable automatic transmission is good in my book.
Finally, perhaps my favorite feature on the Versa was the small triangular windows up front where the front doors and windshield intersect. They help visibility a lot.
There were a few things that bugged me, including the fact that cargo space was limited. The hatchback has better cargo space (obviously), so if it matters to you and you're in the market, I would suggest taking a look at that. Speaking of cargo space, I could not find a button in the car to pop the darn trunk. Call me spoiled, but I like to be able to pop the trunk with relative ease. And though I'm aware that this is not meant to be a performance vehicle, the Versa's acceleration left a lot to be desired.
Overall, the Versa is a spunky little car that offers a lot at an affordable price. You may have figured out by now that my son does not in fact speak Arabic, or do algebra, or golf. He pretty much just cruises around making undecipherable noises, throwing food on the floor, tossing my cell phone into the toilet and never failing to make me smile. So he's right on track for his 1-year-old class, doing exactly what he should be doing. He's not an overachiever and he's not an underachiever, which is kind of like the Versa: It's a small car that performs well for its class and even has a few extras to offer.
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LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair - Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Some
2008 Nissan Versa 1.8SL Sedan SPECS
Base price: $15,630
Price as tested: $17,130
Engine: 122-hp, 1.8-liter I-4
Fuel: 27/33 mpg
Step In Height: NA
Turning Radius: 17.1'
Cargo space: 13.8 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 4 Stars
Passenger's side: 4 Stars
Front occupant: 5 Stars
Rear occupant: 5 Stars
Rollover resistance: 4 Stars
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