First Look: 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan

Nissan's smallest sedan appeared at the New York auto show with a long list of changes, but the 2012 Versa looks more like an evolution of the old car than a full-fledged redesign. The car wears revamped styling inside and out, and is said to be more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.

The 2012 Versa rides on an evolution of the last car's platform called V, for Versatile. The sedan's wheelbase and width are unchanged from the current model, but it loses about an inch of length and height. Despite this, Nissan says that packaging improvements for the engine and transaxle mean there is more trunk space. The new car also should be marginally lighter than before.

Styling-wise, the new Versa takes cues from the larger Altima and Maxima sedans, starting with a new grille design and oval-shaped headlights, and continued with a smoother rear and reshaped taillights that sweep from the rear bumper to the Versa's rear haunches. The hood and sides are broken up by an assortment of creased character lines akin to those seen on the Hyundai Elantra. Whereas the old Versa had a more conventional flat roof and steep rear window, the new car's roofline gently slopes toward the trunk, following the coupe-like trend. The exterior changes reportedly help achieve a low 0.31 drag coefficient.

Nissan claims the Versa's rear seats offer more legroom than a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and says much effort was spent making the seats comfier and the interior more spacious and appealing. The new dashboard has rounded, contoured controls in place of the drab flat-plastic layout in the old car, a simpler dual-gauge instrument cluster, and a redesigned steering wheel. That said, the interior continues to showcase expanses of plain plastics and fabrics (in either Sandstone or Charcoal color schemes) that don't look particularly upscale.

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ugly as hell!

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