Reviews

2010 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL Hatchback

The bright blue hue and upright profile of this Versa reminded me of our Four Seasons Honda Fit Sport, but I’d argue that the similarities end there. Both cars run roughly $19,000 and include navigation, but the Versa has the little Honda outclassed. At this price point, Nissan adds other features like a sunroof, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and keyless entry/ignition.

Not found on a spec chart, however, is the Versa’s ability to feel like a much more mature automobile. Wind noise is relatively well insulated, the suspension isn’t rock-hard, and the CVT does a commendable job of pairing the 1.8-liter I-4 with a drive ratio that keeps it from buzzing endlessly on the highway. There’s also the matter of the cabin-no, it doesn’t have the Fit’s nifty flip-and-fold seating, but Nissan imbues the Versa with much classier materials throughout. The seating has a really nice three-dimensional weave pattern, while plastics on the upper door panels and armrests are soft and very nicely grained.

There are many ways one can spend $19,000 on a subcompact hatchback these days, but it’s hard to argue that the Versa isn’t the best way to do so. It will be interesting, however, to see if that remains the case once Ford brings its new Fiesta to North American showrooms.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

The Versa hatchback, like the sedan we tested a few weeks ago, is a solid competitor in the subcompact segment. The Versa rides well and has a reasonably powerful engine. The back seat is particularly roomy, and the hatchback design and 60/40 fold-down rear seats mean that this vehicle can carry bulky items easily.

This particular car is pretty much fully optioned, coming in at a just under $20,000, which is fairly steep for a subcompact. But a look at the equipment list shows that you’re not lacking for much of anything: power windows and locks, cruise control, sixteen-inch aluminum wheels, satellite radio, Bluetooth, navigation, sunroof, and traction control are among the many amenities. You could easily save yourself about $5000 by opting for the hatchback with the six-speed manual transmission. You’d have to sacrifice some of the above-listed amenities, but you’d still have a solid subcompact that is satisfying to drive and delivers good fuel economy.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

It’s striking how similar the Versa is to the Cube. Both are relaxed-driving compacts that prioritize comfort. Like the Cube, the Versa has wide, soft seats and plenty of interior space. Cushy armrests and nice cloth upholstery are unusual for this class. Of course, both cars use a continuously variable transmission, and it’s an agreeable unit that doesn’t call undue attention to itself. No automaker has embraced the CVT with the fervor of Nissan, so it’s a good thing that Nissan does them well. Nissan also has a fixation with pushbutton keyless ignitions, and I must say I’m less enthralled with those. Being able to leave the key in your pocket is convenient, but the pushbutton is less precise to use than a twist ignition switch (like the keyless ignition offered by Mitsubishi).

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

This Versa is far preferable to the stripper version we had a few weeks ago. Its upgrades include a radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and even a navigation system. As you might imagine, these additions push this compact Versa hatchback’s price to a not-so-compact $19,595 sticker price. That’s $1000 more than our recently departed Four Seasons Honda Fit Sport. But the Versa feels more refined than our Fit did; superior interior comfort, better radio controls, and mellower highway cruising also struck a big plus in my book. Even this navigation unit is easier to use than the outdated one in the Fit.

Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator

Yes, this Nissan Versa looks just as geeky as the Honda Fit from the outside but, as Evan and several others have mentioned, it feels far more civilized from behind the wheel. This refinement is most obvious on the highway, where, at 80-plus mph, the Versa was quiet and composed. It even shrugged off strong wind gusts that would have easily unsettled our Four Seasons Honda Fit.

Also like the Fit, the Versa has a low beltline and front cowl that give occupants a clear view out, and the tall roof makes for an abundance of headroom, even in the rear seat. Tall-roofed vehicles often have an awkward seating position or odd ergonomics, but I was instantly comfortable in the driver’s seat and didn’t have a problem reaching any of the controls. My only complaint is that I could have used at least one more down detent in the steering wheel’s rake adjustment.

Overall, the Versa is a excellent entry in the subcompact segment but with new, more-attractive competition like the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 on sale soon, this nerdy little Nissan might soon have a harder time making a case for itself.

Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

Every time I get into a Versa, I’m surprised by how well it drives. I guess I have low expectations for a subcompact, but the Versa has a firm chassis, compliant ride, good steering, and a general air of quality and refinement about it. As well it should, now that I think about it, for nearly $20,000.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

As my colleagues have already pointed out, this Versa is very comparable to our Four Seasons Honda Fit in both content and price. And it compares very well. In fact, the Versa seems quieter on the highway and better finished inside. The drivetrain isn’t as enjoyable, though, because Honda’s manual gearboxes are always so good. The Honda also offers superior fuel-mileage ratings (27/33 mpg city/highway versus 24/32 mpg for the Versa).

I do prefer the Versa hatchback’s styling to that of the somewhat dorky-looking Fit. The stripper Versa sedan that we had in the office recently was a very impressive bare-bones vehicle, but my choice is definitely this more versatile, stylish, and refined hatchback-but then it would be nicer, what with its price premium of a whopping $6500.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

2010 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL Hatchback

Base price (with destination): $17,250
Price as tested: $19,595

Standard Equipment:
1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine
Xtronic CVT transmission
Electric power steering
Anti-lock brakes
Stability control
Traction control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Air-conditioning
5-speaker 180-watt audio system
Auxiliary input jack
iPod interface
Tilt steering wheel
Cruise control
Power door locks and windows
60/40 fold-down rear seat

Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $980
– Nissan intelligent key
– Bluetooth connectivity
– Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls
– Leather-wrapped steering wheel
– 16-inch alloy wheels

Navigation and satellite radio package — $610
– Navigation system
– 5-inch color touch screen
– XM satellite radio

Power moonroof — $600

Five-piece floor/truck mat set — $155

Key options not on vehicle:
Auto-dimming rearview mirror — $125

Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
28 / 34 / 30 mpg

Engine:
Size: 1.8L I-4
Horsepower: 122 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 127 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

Drive:
Front-wheel

Transmission:
CVT automatic

Curb weight: 2758 lb

Wheels/tires:
16 x 5.5-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
P195/55R16 86H Continental ContiProContact all-season tires

Competitors: Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta

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