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.
This Versa, in a sense, is the spiritual successor, although the recipe used for a "stripper" subcompact is much improved over those offered twenty years ago. As Joe noted, this isn't a penalty box. In fact, stripping away many of the luxuries we usually take for granted helps reveal just how good the Versa is. Apart from some wind and tire noise, the car is relatively quiet. Perhaps more impressive, the 1.6-liter I-4 doesn't endlessly drone at 80 mph like the 1.5-liter I-4 did in our Four Seasons Honda Fit -- unless you stomp on the accelerator, it just quietly hums in the background. It's a little odd that Nissan did without the CVT in the lower-level cars, but the four-speed automatic shifts smoothly and is relatively quick to respond to throttle inputs.
I had plenty of complaints about that old, worn Sentra, but I have few -- if any -- in regards to this Versa. It's a surprisingly competent car for an amazingly low price. If the lack of a radio really bothers you, swing by Best Buy and pick one up for $70. Nissan's already saved you the trouble of buying speakers, an antenna, and the associated wiring harness, making installation much less of a headache (and expense).
Evan McCausland, Web Producer