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.
Once I got over the fact that I was going to have to do my daily commute in silence, I was able to look around the cabin and see that, while not exactly luxurious, all the basics were covered. Cup holders, the aforementioned A/C, comfortable seats, controls that -- while few in number -- are easy to use. The back seat is very roomy for a subcompact, and the trunk is quite spacious, with 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space. Still, ABS is only available as an option (albeit a cheap one, at only $250), and stability control is not available at all.
The 1.6-liter engine is a little noisy, but it performs quite well, with a decent amount of get-up-and-go. Fuel economy isn't spectacular but is quite good at 26/33 mpg.
Still, if I were buying a stripper Versa, I'd go with the five-speed-manual model and skip the A/C, which brings the cost down to about $10,000. If I absolutely couldn't live without a climate control system, I'd probably go for the 1.8S with the six-speed manual transmission, which has a slightly more powerful engine, a stereo system (!), and standard ABS and traction control, all for about $1100 more than the 1.6 sedan we tested here.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor