When Nissan introduced the new, 2012 Versa sedan at last year's New York show, the company noted that the Versa hatchback would continue unchanged. Now, finally, Nissan has given us an early look at the 2013 Versa hatchback that will go on sale here later this year or earlier next year. At the same time, Nissan revealed that the 2012 Versa sedan will receive several equipment changes -- including one tweak that helps the car return 40 mpg on the highway.
Nissan previewed the new Versa hatchback by way of the 2013 Note (pictured), which goes on sale in Japan in September and in Europe early 2013. The hatchback is based on the Nissan global "V" (for Versatile) platform that also underpins the Versa sedan. We first saw the Note/Versa last year at the Shanghai auto show.
A large, wraparound black grille dominates the front end of the Nissan Note, leading into large headlights that are swept backward in the same fashion as those of the Leaf electric car. The carmaker refers to the multitude of creases on either side of the car as "Squash Lines", and says the interior design was inspired by "ripples in sand." It's a bold, unusual design that will stand out from the rest of its segment.
A lighter continuously variable transmission and engine stop-start feature help improve fuel economy. In the U.S., the 2013 Versa hatchback will probably use the same 109-hp, 1.6-liter inline-four engine as the current Versa sedan. The Japanese and European models also can be equipped with Nissan's Around View Monitor 360-degree camera, a feature that was once exclusive to luxury division Infiniti. Nissan won't confirm when the hatchback goes on sale in the U.S. -- but it probably won't be until early 2013.
Nissan also revealed several equipment changes for the 2013 Versa sedan. There's a new 1.6 S model with a four-speed automatic transmission, which is offered as an alternative to the 1.6 S model that has a manual transmission. All of the higher trim levels (S Plus SVT, SL, SV) have a continuously variable transmission. The idea of the new trim level is simply to provide a cheaper model, without forcing buyers to get a manual transmission.
The 2013 Nissan Versa sedan also is now said to return 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with a continuously variable transmission, up from 38 mpg previously. The improvement comes from new programming for the engine and transmission, as well as a decklid spoiler and underbody ducts that improve aerodynamics. 2013 Versa models with the CVT are thus rated at 30/40 mpg. In 2011 and 2012, the Versa sedan was rated for 27/36 mpg (city/highway) with a five-speed manual transmission, and 30/38 mpg with a CVT.
The 2013 Nissan Versa sedan goes on sale in August.