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Thread: 2009 Nissan Versa

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2009 Nissan Versa

    Say "economy car" and you might as well say "cheap" and "depressing." Most are strippers; few do much of anything except get you from A to B as inexpensively as possible - often at great cost to your self-esteem.

    The Nissan Versa is not like that. Though affordable - only $12k to start and nicely equipped, too - it isn't cheap. It comes standard with more power than any other competitor, a bigger interior, standard 15-inch rims and a six-speed manual transmission, too. The fact that it gets great gas mileage on top of that is just the icing on the cake.

    Seriously - this is a neat little car.


    The Versa is Nissan's least expensive and smallest car; it's also the most fuel efficient car Nissan sells - with an EPA rating of 27 city and 31 highway. The Versa comes as a four door sedan or five-door hatchback wagon and can seat up to five people. It competes against other small, value-priced economy sedans and hatches like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris - but it is more powerful, better equipped and has more room for people and cargo than anything else in its segment.


    For 2009, the Versa is a carryover from 2008 - with the only notable difference being a slight uptick in price, from $12,880 to $12,990 for the base 1.8 S version with manual transmission to $16,210 from last year's $15,980 for the top of the line 1.8 SL with continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission. But don't blame Nissan - blame the depreciating value of the U.S. dollar.


    All versions of the Versa come equipped with the same 1.8 liter, 122 horsepower four-cylinder engine. This is a pretty powerful engine for an economy-minded (and economy-priced) small car. In fact, no other car in this class can match it.

    For comparison, the Toyota Yaris sedan ($12,425) has a smaller 1.5 liter engine that generates just 106 hp. The Honda Fit ($13,950) also has a 1.5 liter four - rated at 109 hp.

    The Versa is thus significantly stronger than its two chief rivals. It also comes standard with a six speed manual transmission - an extremely rare feature to find in such a low-priced car.

    The Yaris and Fit have five-speed manual transmissions.

    In addition to the manual six-speed transmission, there are two optional automatics - one a CVT, the other a conventional four-speed automatic. The Versa is again unusual - in a good way - because it offers buyers the choice of three available transmissions instead of the usual two.

    Because it's more powerful - and has a more performance-minded transmission - the Versa feels peppier and beats the Fit and Yaris to 60 mph by a couple of clicks of the stopwatch - about 9.4 seconds vs. closer to 10 seconds for the other two.

    There is a slight penalty to be paid at the pump, however. The Versa's EPA fuel economy rating of 27 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway is lower in both cases than the Toyota's outstanding 29 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and the Honda's almost as good 28 city, 34 highway.


    As with its straight-line performance, the Versa has more verve than its rivals. Evidence of this can be seen in the standard wheel/tire package. The Versa S comes with 15x5.5 inch wheels with 65-series HR (130 mph) speed-rated tires - fairly performance-minded shoes when compared with the Yaris, which comes with econo-car 14-inch rims with econo-car tires designed for low cost and high-mileage - period. There's no pretense of sportiness to be found here. The base model Honda Fit also comes with 14-inch rims, too. (15 inch rims are available, but you have to buy the $15,270 Sport version of the Fit, which is priced $2,280 higher than the $12,990 Versa S.)

    Like the six-speed gearbox, the more aggressive wheel/tire package (and fast-ratio electric-assist power steering) clues you in to the Versa's different design emphasis.

    Yes, it's an economy-minded car - but it has more than just economy on its mind. While its rivals are all about fuel economy uber alles, the Versa's designers figured it might be more appealing to have a car that's 95 percent as efficient - but a lot more fun to drive.


    Looks are subjective, but to my eyes, the Versa looks less like an obvious econo-box than other cars in its price range - some of which seem to be cringing in fear (like the Yaris).

    Objectively, the Versa has - by far - the roomiest interior and the most cargo room of any car in its segment. With the rear seats down, the Versa hatchback has a truly amazing 50 cubic feet of total capacity. The Honda Fit can't fit nearly as much stuff with just 42 cubic feet of total cargo capacity. Even with the back seats up, the Versa has nearly 18 cubic feet of trunk space - vs. 12.9 for the Toyota Yaris.

    With the front passenger seat folded down, objects as long as six feet can be carried, too.


    This car could easily pass for an $18k car - and has a more quality look and feel to it (especially inside) than the $12-$15k cars it directly competes with. AC, tilt steering and a perfectly decent single-disc CD playing stereo are all standard equipment. And you can order some pretty high-end equipment in the Versa, too - including keyless ignition, Bluetooth wireless and a high-powered Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with a thumping subwoofer.

    In terms of crashworthiness, the Versa scores at the top of its class - 5 Stars in NHTSA testing and "good" (best possible) rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The car comes standard with front seat side-impact air bags as well as active (anti-whiplash) head restraints.


    Even with the optional CVT automatic, the Versa has enough extra power to screech the tires if you punch it from a stoplight. That alone tells you a lot about this econo-hot rod. With the manual six speed, you can get a chirp on the 1-2 upshift - good for many surprised facial expressions on the part of passengers and other drivers, too.

    With its sporty wheel and tire package (even on the least expensive version) and highly responsive electric-assist steering, the Versa does no harm to Nissan's reputation as a performance car brand. Witha little aftermarket tuning, this thing could be legitimately quick. And it already handles much more sharply than you'd expect from what is, after all, supposed to be "basic transportation."

    One small thing: The optional CVT (like all CVTs) can be noisy at higher speeds. Or more accurately, it makes the drivetrain noisier - because of the way it holds the engine revs at the higher end of the scale when you keep your right foot down. If you're doing, say, 45 mph and you punch it to pass another car, instead of the usual downshift and then running up through the forward gears, the engine will surge right up to redline - and stay there - pretty much as long as you keep the accelerator floored. This is just the way CVTs work - because there are no gears to shift up or down, just a single forward speed that tries to wring as much power form the engine as possible. Which is why the tachometer pegs near redline and stays there until you back off the gas.

    There's nothing wrong - and nothing to worry about. CVTs are in fact very efficient, which is why so many smaller/economy-type cars now offer them. But a CVT does make more racket than you may be used to - or like. I personally prefer the six-speed manual anyhow. It offers the most control, the most fun - and (if driven properly) the highest mileage potential, too.


    If you can live with 4-5 mpg less than the most economical compact sedans and hatchbacks can deliver, the Versa more than repays you with superior performance and handling compared with its single-minded economy car competitors.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Feb 2007

    Re: 2009 Nissan Versa

    Just posted this article on the main page with pictures:

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