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Nissan Versa, Hatchback
#24 of 94 First drive: Versa S 6MT
Jul 15, 2006 (2:18 pm)
I finally got to drive the new Versa today, a S model with the 6-speed, convenience package, and mats--sticker $13.9k. It was the only stick they had. They also had two SLs with the CVT. I sat in one of those to check out the upgrades and the seating position with the height adjuster--more on that later. The SL with CVT and convenience package (Bluetooth, Intelligent key etc.) was $16.9k.
From the outside, the fire-engine-red Versa looked rather sporty, with decent-looking plastic wheel covers. The rear hatch lifts to reveal a sizable luggage space, but the cargo cover is rather odd--the back half is rigid and lifts with the hatch, the front half is two flaps of thin fabric. That leaves me to believe that the rear seat reclines, but I didn't check that out. The rear seat backs fold flat on top of the rear seat bottom, creating a platform that is about 8" higher than the rear storage compartment. The step-up is taller than I thought it would be, and I can see how that would be a deal-breaker for folks who will frequently haul a lot of cargo.
The interior room, as many have noted, is a strong suit of the Versa. With the driver's seat set for my 5'10" frame, the back seat had plenty of stretch-out room. Good thing, too, because the back seat bottom is relatively flat, so if there were less leg room, thigh support would be a problem. But it wasn't because of the legroom and the toe space under the front seat. There is no center headrest in the rear seat, and no center armrest either (the SL has the armrest). The black short-nap velour was comfortable and felt durable--it seemed similar to the cloth in the Fit. The headliner was a textured off-white cloth that looked quite rich. Overall, I thought the quality of the interior materials was excellent for such an inexpensive car--just a small notch below the Rabbit in this class.
The driving position was tolerable. The steering column tilts but does not telescope. The seat bottom doesn't adjust for height (it does on the SL). I really wanted more thigh support, or the beefy dead pedal to be forward another inch or two. There was no center armrest up front (the SL has one, a rather cheap vinyl-covered folding one that is useless when your right hand is on the wheel). But with the convenience package (and also on the SL) there are thickly padded armrests on the doors. The plastic wheel felt OK (the leather-covered wheel in the SL felt much nicer). Controls and displays were clear and had a quality feel. There is no cruise control available (but there is cruise on the SL). The standard radio sounded fine in my short test of it--but I didn't expect much in a $14k car. The glove box is immense. At first I thought it was tiny--then I noticed it extends WAY back into the dash--a long reach, but lots of room in there.
The first thing I noticed when starting out is that the clutch is smooth and easy to use. The next thing I noticed was that the short-throw shifter makes a "thunk-thunk" sound on every shift. It was not a rich sound either--it was loud and annoying. If it is typical of this car, I would have to opt for the CVT because I don't think I could live with the sound. Other than the noise, the shifter moved through the gates just fine. The car revved higher than I thought it would in 6th--about 3000 rpm at 65 mph. I'd prefer a taller final gear for maximum fuel economy on the highway. The engine growled when accelerating, but it wasn't an unpleasant sound to my ears. The 1.8L engine was plenty peppy for around-town driving, and accelerated onto the freeway without drama. The car was quiet and smooth when cruising. The suspension soaked up small bumps well (the roads I was on were pretty smooth), but the feeling was a bit rubbery vs. well damped (but this is a $14k car after all). I didn't get to really push the car in the handling department, but it was easy to drive around suburban roads and highways.
Back at the dealer, the sales manager confirmed they had not seen any ABS-equipped Versas yet, but that they would try to order some cars with ABS when they can put in their orders in early August. The manager said that until then, they will get whatever Nissan sends them. He noted that Nissan has suggested they not stock any more than 10% ABS-equipped cars. I don't know if that means Nissan doesn't think ABS will sell in the Versa, or that Nissan doesn't want ABS to sell in the Versa. Anyway, lack of ABS is a deal-breaker for me. Fortunately I am not in a hurry to buy, so I can see what happens with the supply of ABS-equipped cars.
In summary, I think that if you don't need ABS and want a solid, smooth, comfortable small car and haul long-legged adults in the back seat on a regular basis, or the driver is very tall, and cargo space is not a priority, the Versa would be a great choice. The S offers good value, while the SL has a lot of comfort and convenience features including some uncommon options for this class like Bluetooth and IntelligentKey. The height adjuster on the SL may be important to some people, but it didn't make the driving position all that much better for me (it might come in handy for shorter drivers). The problem I see with the SL is that it it overlaps the real-world price territory for larger cars, such as the Matrix, Sonata, Accord VP, and Mazda3s, and even Nissan's own 2007 Sentra.
#25 of 94 Re: First drive: Versa S 6MT [backy]
Jul 15, 2006 (7:49 pm)
First off great review..
Now, the S model does not come with the convience package, Only Power Package and ABS package.
His has been talked about in the form for weeks, the ABS package has not been released yet, Nissan is very slow on releasing that for some reason..
#26 of 94 Re: First drive: Versa S 6MT [flightnurse]
Jul 15, 2006 (7:55 pm)
Personally I found the power windows, locks, and mirrors and padded armrests very convenient.
There are other options available on the S (e.g. rear spoiler) but I guess they haven't been released yet, either.
#27 of 94 Re: First drive: Versa S 6MT [backy]
Jul 16, 2006 (7:28 am)
there is a difference between Packages and Indivedual items. The rear Spoiler is a Item not a package.
#28 of 94 Re: First drive: Versa S 6MT [flightnurse]
Jul 16, 2006 (9:59 am)
ABS is a package though? What else is included in the ABS package besides ABS?
#29 of 94 Re: First drive: Versa S 6MT [backy]
Jul 16, 2006 (10:43 am)
ABS Package comes with ABS (obviously!), EBD (electronic brake force distribution) and BA (brake assist). And on the S model you have to first get the Power Package to get ABS. Probably what I will order if I pass on the silver S model hitting my dealership Tuesday.
#30 of 94 Re: First drive: Versa S 6MT [wulfgar]
Jul 16, 2006 (11:01 am)
Ok. Since ABS almost always includes EBD and often BA, I wasn't thinking of those features constituting a "package".
Good luck ordering the Versa with ABS. That will be a test of how available that package really is.
#31 of 94 Drove the 6 speed
Jul 17, 2006 (3:30 pm)
Went to another dealer and drove the 6 speed S.
Quick notes to add to my previous SL/CVT drive:
1. The SL seats were definitely more plush but again, I'm having trouble finding $1300 worth of difference.
2. I didn't notice the rev-hanging issue
3. I didn't get to take it on the highway but I noticed the RPM were a little bit high for the corresponding gear. Maybe I was letting the above review influence me, I don't know. However, it didn't sound like the engine was working nearly as hard at those RPM as many other cars do. It was almost like it enjoyed the slightly higher RPM. Or it could be I'm completely crazy.
4. The shifter is noisy. Not a transmission grind type of sound. Just a "thunk" of the shift lever hitting. It didn't bother me during the drive but it left me wondering if it was one of those sounds you just get used to or one that drives you nuts after a year.
I drove my friends Kia Rio5 just about and hour and a half before driving this. They are definitely going after two different drivers. As has been said before, the Versa was no jack rabbit. It always felt well powered and responded well when pushed but it never gave you that pocket rocket feel. The Rio5 was much more "go-kart" like where the Versa was much more "big car" like. If you are after the driving experience then the Versa is not the car for you. The Versa seems designed at the commuter or family who want to get into a more fuel efficient vehicle but don't want to feel like they are riding around in a kleenex box.
I asked the dealer about ABS and he said they aren't even able to order packages yet. He said they can trade with other dealers or can put in requests for colors but Nissan is more focused on getting inventory out to dealers for test drives. Special orders are taking second priority. Again, this is from the salesman. I don't know how true it is.
Anyway, just thought I would report back in.
#32 of 94 Re: Drove the 6 speed [bsbc]
Jul 17, 2006 (7:53 pm)
I have the same thoughts about the "thunking" of the shifter. Personally I think it would bother me long-term, since I'd have to hear it dozens of times each day. It's the loudest noise I've ever heard from a modern car when shifted. I am wondering which engineer was in charge of the shifter.
So it looks like the CVT if I were to get a Versa. Problem with that is, I saw a SL model (the only one with CVT now) and with CVT and ABS the car would be around $16.5k. Pretty pricey for this class of car and getting very close to Rabbit/Mazda3s territory.
#33 of 94 Re: Drove the 6 speed [backy]
Jul 18, 2006 (3:14 am)
Exactly. I think the bang-for-the-buck factor goes down once you get into that territory. Personally, if I were up in that range I wouldn't think twice about getting a manual Civic LX or a manual Mazda3 (sedan obviously).
That being said, I think the manual Versa S is still at the top of the list. The shifter didn't bother me that much.