The Ride:

2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan

The Review:

I think some car reviewers have a hard time transitioning.  Go take a quick look at 2012 Nissan Vera reviews on the net and you’ll see the words “uncomfortable”, “cheap” and “ugly” popup repeatedly.  It’s easy to call the Nissan Versa cheap when you had an Audi A8L or a Porsche 911 to review the week before.

I believe a car deserves to be judged on its merits and the 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan surprised me.

The car represents Nissan’s most basic of offerings.  With a 5-speed manual the base price comes in at a svelte $10,990.  Not bad for a car with air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary jack, six air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, electronic brake distribution, brake assist and a tire monitoring system.

The car does, of course, sacrifice some features for economics.  You won’t find power mirrors, power locks or power windows in the Versa.  You’ll be opening the car with a key and rolling the windows with a crank.

My tester car came with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which raised the base price to $12,760.  While Nissan’s CVT is one of the better I have tested I’d definitely recommend saving the dough and shifting for a savings of $1,770.  My tester came with two other options as well; carpeted floor and trunk mats ($170) and the Cruise Control Package, which includes – as you probably guessed – cruise control, silver trim accents on the steering wheel, 2 rear speakers for the audio system and a light in the trunk ($350).  With the CVT and options my tester came in at a total of $14,040.

Yes, the Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan is quite basic, but it does basic well.  The cars 1.6 liter four-cylinder puts out 109 horsepower and is surprising quick when merging and it’ll allow the car to cruise comfortably at 80mph.  Handling was a lot better than I was anticipating as well, no concerns here when cornering or braking.

While the Nissan CVT was one of the better I’ve driven, their’s still wasn’t good enough to make me a convert.  The CVT struggles to find a comfortable place to sit and constantly sounds like a clutched manual, which I think is particularly bothersome to someone that normally drives a stick.  The CVT also adds a descent amount of cabin noise to the vehicle.  Again I’d highly recommend skipping the CVT and going with the 5-speed.

If you’re in the market for an entry level sedan, you’re probably also concerned with gas costs.  The Versa doesn’t disappoint.  The EPA estimates 30 in the city and 38 on the highway for the vehicle.  I saw an average of 36 in mixed conditions which is outstanding for the class.

The Nissan Versa’s Spartan accommodations really are not that big of a hardship when the tires hit the road.  Rolling the windows by hand is no biggie and the stereo in the vehicle was better than many that I’ve seen in cars two or three times the price.  The lack of power locks took a little more getting used to, the problem is aggravated by the fact that the only place they chose to put a keyhole was in the driver’s door – make gentlemanly car entrances near impossible.  And if you have kids prepare to do a lot of car crawling.  Another oddly missing feature was an interior trunk release – makes dropping people off at the airport a bit of a hassle.

Overall though, the issues I had with the vehicle were minor and let’s not forget the Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan only costs $10k base.  To get power locks, power windows, mirrors, upgraded seat material and a few other upgrades you can step up to the 1.6 SV, but that starts at $14,870.  But, as an economy vehicle the S is decently equipped and in reality you could easily put a third party keyless entry system in it for far less than the $4,900 upgrade cost to the SV.

The Competition:

The Chevrolet Aveo and Hyundai Accent

Bragging Rights:

You won’t be snapping any necks but you will be saving a lot of money with a vehicle that starts at $10,990 with an EPA estimated 30mpg in the city and 38 on the highway.

The Price:

The Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan with a CVT checks in at $12,760. Carpeted floor and trunk mats ($170) and the Cruise Control Package, which includes cruise control, silver trim accents on the steering wheel, 2 rear speakers for the audio system and a light in the trunk ($350).

Windup:

The Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan hits its target dead on.  It’s an economical vehicle both initially and in fuel costs and it drives quite well.  You will sacrifice the little things like keyless entry and power mirrors but the saving are substantial.

The Photos: