I knew when I signed out the Versa that it was the stripper 1.6 model, but I couldn't stop myself from exclaiming, out loud, "What the &%$@, no radio?" when I got behind the wheel. I didn't mind that there were manual windows and no power locks or mirrors - in fact, that's what I expected to find in this base model Versa. But no music? The fact that a stereo system of any sort isn't even available in this model (although it is prewired for you to install an aftermarket unit) strikes me as a gimmick, especially when you consider that this particular model comes standard with air-conditioning and has an automatic transmission.
I fully expected this to be a penalty box, but from the first moment behind the wheel, I was pleasantly surprised by the Versa sedan. It costs about $13,000, and it's a stripper, for sure, but the only thing it's really missing is a radio---and it really is inexcusable not to have a radio; everyone wants a radio, no matter how poor or desperate they are. And I'd like a little more padding on the driver's door armrest, and I'd like a driver's right-side armrest, but I can live without it.
Despite the absence of any sort of stereo system, the Versa is still my favorite small car. I'd much prefer a Versa hatchback to a Honda Fit if I were buying a compact hatch right now. The biggest difference between the Fit and Versa is sound deadening. Even without a radio masking the road and tire noise, the Versa was well insulated. I could have easily held a conversation at 70 mph without raising my voice, which wasn't always possible in our Four Seasons Honda Fit.
We might have a bright yellow Dodge Challenger in our fleet right now, but this Versa delivers more retro flashbacks than the Mopar muscle car does. I learned to drive a stick on my aunt's 1990 Nissan Sentra E, which was devoid of virtually every luxury known to mankind. No radio, no A/C, no power steering, no power brakes, no power windows, no power locks -- you get the picture.
Fourteen-inch wheels! Wow! Unlike Evan, those were the source of my first retro flashback when I drove the Versa 1.6. The other was in the opening and closing of the trunk. Since there's no sound-deadening material inside and no remote trunk release, you're rewarded with a satisfying metallic plonk as you turn the key and the lid simultaneously pops open. I swear it sounds exactly like opening the trunk of my dad's 1973 Dodge Dart Sport. The memories came flooding back ...
Of all the content stripped from this Versa-the radio, power door locks, power mirrors, power windows-Nissan went too far by pulling out one specific element: the clock. Surely the clock had to go out the window with the radio, but I was hoping Nissan had a substitute in the instrument cluster LCD. It's also inexcusable that antilock brakes are optional on this Versa. As a $250 option, it seems like that cost could easily be buried into the sticker price without ill effect.
2010 Nissan Versa Sedan 1.6