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Thread: 2009 Nissan Versa 1.6

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2009 Nissan Versa 1.6

    Nissan - not Hyundai or Kia or anyone else - now offers the least expensive new car with four doors and four tires you can buy in the United States. It's a new version of the Versa compact sedan - and it has a sticker price just under ten grand.

    WHAT IT IS

    The Versa is Nissan's entry-level front-wheel-drive compact. It competes against other small sedans and hatchbacks in the under $13k range like the Chevy Aveo, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai accent - but is now available at a price point significantly lower than all of them - just $9,990 ($10,990 with AC).

    In comparison, the $12,965 Yaris, $12,920 Accent sedan and $11,965 Aveo sedan seem almost extravagant.

    WHAT'S NEW

    While the '09 Versa itself is basically the same car as last year, Nissan has added a new 1.6 liter "value edition" to the lineup that is priced more than $2,000 below the sticker price of last year's least expensive Versa - which cost about $12k.

    The '09 Versa 1.6 has a smaller, less powerful engine and fewer standard (and available) features, but in this economy, a $10k economy car is probably just what many buyers have been hoping for.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    The new 1.6 liter engine is slightly smaller than the 1.8 liter engine used in higher-priced versions of the Versa, and its 107 hp rating is lower than the 1.8 liter engine's 122 hp. However, the 1.6 liter four is exactly the same size as the Chevy Aveo's 1.6 liter engine and produces exactly the same output. The Hyundai Accent also has a 1.6 liter engine in the same ballpark, power-wise (110 hp). And the Versa's 1..6 liter engine is actually slightly larger and slightly more powerful than the Toyota Yaris' 1.5 liter, 106 hp engine.

    The Versa's 1.6 liter engine can be paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. This is another area of difference between the "budget special" Versa 1.6 and higher-priced models equipped with the larger 1.8 liter engine - which comes standard with a sportier six-speed manual transmission.

    0-60 takes about 10 seconds.

    Gas mileage is very good - 26 city, 34 highway. The class-leading Yaris sedan beats this performance only just barely, 29 city, 36 highway.

    RIDE & HANDLING/DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    Equipped with the smaller 1.6 liter engine, the Yaris is about half-a-second slower to 60 mph than the 1.8 liter version. But it still gets there in about 10 seconds, which is within a step of two of what other economy compacts like the Aveo and Accent and Yaris can manage.

    The important point is, it's adequate. You won't be jousting with Mustang GTs, perhaps - but you'll have enough power to keep up with most traffic situations, merge safely - and even make a successful pass every now and then.

    Some perspective is in order. Back in the '70s and '80s, economy cars had about 30 hp less on average and typically took 15-20 seconds or more to reach 60 mph. These cars were uncomfortably - even dangerously - underpowered. There was so little reserve power on tap that on the highway, it was sometimes difficult to maintain 60 mph.

    Passing anything (other than people on foot) was out of the question.

    In comparison, a modern economy car like the Versa 1.6 is a mini-Corvette.

    It's certainly plenty adequate for the purpose it was designed to serve.

    Standard 14-inch steel rims and skinnier tires (the 1.8 liter Versa comes with 15 inch rims and larger tires) reduce rolling resistance and thus boost potential fuel economy - and are also cheaper to replace when the time comes. If you autocross your Versa, you might notice a bit less grip and earlier tire squeal when "pushing it" - but in the normal slow-poke stop-and-go type of driving this car was built for, the differences are unnoticeable.

    One thing about the Versa really stands out compared with its competitors: It feels like a bigger, more solid car. This is due to the fact that it is a bigger car. The Versa's 102.4 inch wheelbase, for example, is large-living compared with the scrunched up 97.6 inch wheelbase of the Aveo and the 98.4 inch wheelbase of the Accent. The Yaris' 100.4 inch wheelbase is fully two inches less than Versa's.

    The Nissan is also several inches longer, nose to tail, than any of its competitors - which shows up in a big way in the back seats, where the Versa has a class-leading 38 inches of legroom vs. 34-35 inches for the Yaris, Aveo and Accent.

    The point being, the Versa is a reasonable conveyance for five people - not two adults and one or two small kids (or two very short-legged and/or discomfort-loving grown-ups).

    That makes it more highway and long-trip worthy than just about any other car in this segment or near this price point.

    STYLING & UTILITY

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

    Objectively, the Versa has the roomiest interior and the most cargo room of any car in its segment - 13.8 cubic feet vs. 12.4-12.9 for its chief rivals.

    One downside is the 1.6 liter Versa is only available as a four-door sedan. If you want the even roomier five-door hatchback version, you've got to pony up for the 1.8 liter Versa, which starts at $13,100.

    Hopefully, Nissan will relent and allow buyers to get the roomier, even more versatile five-door hatchback with the 1.6 liter engine - and under-$10k price tag.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    There's another small catch that comes with the Versa 1.6's modest MSRP - and it is that if you want ABS, you're out of luck. It's not even offered on the low-bucks Versa (and it's a $250 option on the 1.8 liter model).

    On the other hand, you do get standard front seat side-impact air bags - a feature that's almost always extra-cost or not available on cars under $12k. And the Versa's larger size gives it a built-in safety advantage over physically less substantial econo-compacts.

    The Versa earned a 5 star rating in NHTSA crash testing and a "good" (best possible) rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    The Versa 1.6 is arguably the best deal going on a new car. It's about two thousand dollars less than the next-closest in price small sedan on the market (the $11,965 Chevy Aveo sedan), is a bigger, more usable car than the rest - and gets excellent gas mileage, too.

    It's too bad it took the collapse of the economy and a cripple auto industry to make such a car available - but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.
    Last edited by Eric; 03-20-2009 at 09:08 AM.

  2. #2
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    Does it have the usual power conveniences?
    Windows
    Locks
    Doors

    It's been a while since I've seen a car that had wind-up windows...

    Chip H.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    Does it have the usual power conveniences?
    Windows
    Locks
    Doors

    It's been a while since I've seen a car that had wind-up windows...

    Chip H.
    The main "big ticket" options are AC and an automatic transmission. AC gets the price to about $10.5k; with the automatic, about $11.5k.

    That's sticker, too - and usually you can get a car for 3-5 percent less with a bit of haggling.

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