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2007 Nissan Versa Hatchback Road Test
Small car has big intentions
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
Nissan is banking on its all-new 2007 Versa (available in sedan and hatchback models) being a real winner for the company. In fact, it is expecting to sell 30,000 units in its first full year on the market. That's pretty ambitious for a team that hasn't truly played in the sub-compact playground since it retired its Sentra Classic in 1993.
So how does this new kid on the block shape up? Is it going to change the whole game or could Nissan be about to drop the ball?
Well, Nissan is certainly going to stir up the other players, as they have packed this little entry-level car with more features, performance and room than most buyers would expect at this end of the market.
From the outside, the Versa Hatchback is quite pleasing to the eyes. It carries the familiar Nissan front-end look and the build quality is typical of the brand. Overall, I think that the vehicle carries a rather nice wrapper for a small car.
Did I just say 'small car'? Open the doors and that phrase could be deemed slightly misleading, as the Versa is surprisingly roomy inside. In fact, I'm told that the useable cabin space in the Versa is a millimetre longer, front to rear, than the company's much larger Maxima model.
Together with the sense of space, you'll also notice a level of comfort not typically found in a vehicle of this size. Much of this comes down to the fact that Nissan has fitted what can only be described as 'oversized seats'. These give you a feeling of being in a much larger vehicle and are extremely comfortable.
Nissan has also gone to great lengths to supply a quality feel to the interior of the Versa, and has replaced most of the hard plastics usually found in this class of vehicle with some rather nice 'soft-touch' materials. On the whole, the cabin area of the Versa is a very pleasant and relaxing place to be.
The interior of the Versa also offers better than average rear legroom and a reasonable load-carrying capacity. It should, however, be mentioned that the stylish tapered design of the rear means that access to it is slightly limited, and loading larger items might prove a tight squeeze.
Standard safety features include the Advanced Air Bag System (includes dual-stage front supplemental air bags and front seat side-impact supplemental air bags for chest protection), roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system, child safety rear door locks, child seat upper tether anchors and front-seat Active Head Restraints.
My test vehicle featured Nissan's Technology Package, which includes a Rockford Fosgate 280-watt audio system with a six-disk CD changer that is MP3/WMA capable, seven speakers, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, an auxiliary input jack, RDS (radio data system) and speed-sensitive volume control. The package also includes a leather-bound steering wheel with built-in audio controls. The cost of this package is around $1,000, and I'd call that pretty a reasonable price tag, considering what you get.
Ok, so Nissan's batting a pretty good average so far, but now we come to the all-important ride and drive. This is the area that often lets the sub-compacts down.
A 1.8-litre, 16-valve DOHC engine producing 122 hp doesn't sound particularly performance inspiring, yet the Versa is surprisingly peppy once it gets going.
My tester was fitted with Nissan's Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), which further aids performance and fuel economy (Transport Canada ratings: City 7.9 L/100 km, Hwy 6.1 L/100 km). This unit works extremely well, although there is a certain price to pay as the vehicle can become a little noisy under hard acceleration.
On the whole, the ride quality of the Versa is quite good. Obviously any vehicle weighing a mere 1,225 kg is going to feel the odd breeze or two on the highway, but it certainly couldn't be called excessive.
The Versa carries power-assisted disc brakes up front and drums on the rear. This setup appears to work just fine, and the car remains stable even under harsh braking manoeuvres.
All in all, the road manners of the Versa are quite respectable. The ride is firm but friendly and the comfort level of the interior suggests that this could be a nice little car for a long road trip. That's not something that I would usually recommend for people driving a sub-compact.
To me, that's the big thing about this little car. It has all the benefits of its compact size; it's good on fuel, it's easy to park, etc. Yet it offers the comfort level of a much larger vehicle. In many ways, it is a fresh approach to this segment of the market and shows that Nissan is continuing to think outside the box.
The Versa might not transform the whole sub-compact game, but it is certainly going to make the other teams think about their strategies. Now, that has to be a good thing for all small car fans.
By the way, in the 2007 AJAC Car of the Year competition, the Versa placed second to the Honda Fit in the Small Car Under $18K category.
For more information, visit www.nissancanada.com.
Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan is a regular contributor to CarTest!. He is based in Caledon, Ont., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Base Price: $14,498 (1.8 S); $17,098 (1.8 SL, which includes ABS, alloy wheels, cruise control and a six-way adjustable driverís seat)
Price as tested: $19,398 (SL model with Technology Package at $1,000, CVT transmission at $1,300, special paint at $125)
Freight and PDI: $1,150
Fuel economy: City 7.9 L/100 km, Highway 6.1 L/100 km
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 10.7 seconds
Acceleration (80-120 km/h): 9.6 seconds
Braking (100-0 km/h): 45.2 metres
Posted Jan. 11, 2007