2009 Nissan Versa SL Hatchback

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With so much talk about the environment, the recent “cash for clunkers” program and the health of the car industry in general, the products themselves get lost in the brouhaha. The focus on function and overall value for money is getting lost in the flood of talk about prices and rebates. With that being said, some cars are worth a deeper look for their intended purposes. The Nissan Versa happens to be such a vehicle.

Let’s just get this out of the way. The Versa isn’t going to win any beauty contests and it isn’t going to set hearts aflutter with excitement. Rest assured, however, that Nissan offers other models which will do exactly that – the 370Z and GT-R, to name a couple. But what may be lacking in the excitement department is made up for in the utility department, with a deceptively spacious cabin and a hard-working 1.8L 4-cylinder engine that delivers good fuel economy.

Positives

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  • The CVT (constantly variable transmission) works well and always seems to be in the right gear at the right time
  • Although the 4-banger produces only 122bhp & 127lb-ft of torque, it FELT faster on freeway on-ramps and getting away from stoplights than vehicles with more power

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  • The interior is spacious, able to hold four 6′ adults with ease
  • Options added to our tester included XM satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling and keyless entry / ignition; all added up to a level of civility that we normally expect from higher priced vehicles
  • Crash safety is addressed through airbags all around, including side curtain airbags for rear passengers
  • Standard tire pressure monitoring system takes all the guesswork out of wondering if the tires are up to proper pressure
  • EPA fuel economy is stated at 27mpg city / 33mgh highway, we achieved a solid 29mpg with lots of stop-and-go city driving thrown in for good measure

Negatives

  • Under full throttle, the engine and tranny seemed to groan & strain, with an accompanying level of noise; the Honda Fit’s engine / tranny combination feels smoother and quieter in comparison
  • Our SL trim level tester starts off at $16,333 and comes in at $19,110 as equipped, including destination & handling charges, which is higher than what we’d normally pay for a vehicle in this class
  • Fit and finish compared to the Honda counterpart doesn’t seem up to par
  • Yes, there is a trunk / cargo area but it’s not really big enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries
  • There’s decent on-center feel in the steering but overall steering feel is a bit lazy

Overall, we feel the Nissan Versa makes a good commuter or a first time car. We must point out, however, the premium one must pay for the SL trim seems high, especially when comparing it to a comparably equipped Honda Fit – and at $18,000, the Honda comes equipped with a navigation system. If you opt to take a look at the Versa, we recommend the S trim level. Sure, it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of its more expensive brother – the 15″ alloy wheels, for example – but it comes with the same 1.8L engine, same 6 airbag safety system and a 6-speed manual transmission (the 4-speed automatic is optional) for $13,110. If you want an even more economical alternative, then the Versa sedan is worth a look (starts at $9,910), although we feel the price premium for the hatchback is well worth it from an aesthetic standpoint.

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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