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Quick Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan

Kamil Kaluski October 20, 2011 First Impressions, Nissan Reviews 51 Comments

Please ignore the other Nissan in the picture

This is the 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan. In its lowest trim level, this is the cheapest least expensive car sold in the United States, priced just shy of eleven grand. I drove the mid-level $14,560 SV model which adds useful features such as power windows and door locks. There is also the baller SL version too for a few bucks more. All models are powered propelled by a 1.8L direct-injected four-banger with Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System® (CVTCS) on the intake side. This engine makes 122hp and 127torques. At this time I would like to point out that the B13 Sentra SE-R had a 2.0L 140hp/132trq engine, and that was twenty years ago.

EDIT – I screwed up. The engine in the Versa SEDAN is a dual-injected (why?), variable cam timing on both cams, 1.6L. with 109hp and 107 torques. My bad, thanks to Tyler Lipa of autobirdblog.com for pointing that out.

Mandatory Ethics Statement (MES) – Nissan delivered a trailer full of Nissans, which included two Versas, two Zs, two GT-Rs and Maxima to Brookline, MA. They invited a whole lot of journalists, and me (!), and offered dinner. I missed dinner because I was busy playing with the GT-R’s computer, but I had some cookies and a bottle of water. Nissan was also nice enough to skip a boring PowerPoint presentation and just told everyone to go drive their cars. The cookies and the water did not influence this review of the Versa, but the GT-Rs may have.

While no one will mistake it for an Audi, the interior is certainly not cheap. Seats are basic but not uncomfortable and the lack of any side bolsters hints at this vehicle’s performance characteristics. The real surprise is the amount of room each passenger has, especially those in the rear seat. With the driver’s seat set for my 6’2” height, I could comfortably seat “behind myself” with plenty of legroom. The Nissan rep was quick to point out that the Versa had more rear-seat legroom than the BMW 5-series.

Functionally, there are the typical door pockets and a glovebox. Noticeably missing is a center armrest/storage-bin and the cup-holders are down low and in front of the shifter. The trunk is what one would expect it to be the vehicle this size, for a lack of a better measuring tool, spacious and easily accessible, with a space-saver spare tire. It should be noted that the rear seats folds down only on the pimpy SL version, so those on the budget and in need of room may want to consider the previous generation hatchback or wait until the new Versa hatchy comes around.

Driving dynamics are what one would expect of modern day economy car. There is nothing bad about the way this car drives, just as there is nothing exciting about it either. All models are rated for 30mpg city and, ohmygawd-why-not-40-40issomuchmore, 38mpg highway. SRS, VDC, TCS, ABS, ALR, EBD, ELR, and TPMS are all standard, so you know it’s gotta be safe.

Given a $10,000 budget, every single reader of Hooniverse would buy a used car or two. A few nuts might even buy a dozen cars for that amount. So, why are we even writing about this car? Because it’s good to know that even the cheapest car on the American market is well made vehicle and it deserves to be kept in mind when someone asks you about an inexpensive new car. It could also make for a fun race series.

  • Jim-Bob

    I don't mind it, but these cheap cars all seem to raise the same question: Why not put in taller gearing to get better fuel mileage? If I were buying a cheap new car I would want it to get mid 30's in the city and mid 40's on the highway and would gladly sacrifice a second or two of 0-60 time to get it. It seems to me that manufacturers are holding back in order to not make a basic car that challenges their hybrids for fuel economy dominance.

    • Andrew

      Taller gearing does not necessarily equate to better economy. Engines have a certain RPM range in which they operate most efficiently- that is to say, generate the most power using the least amount of fuel. Power is what allows a vehicle to maintain a given speed, and, being a unit of energy output over time, is independant of drive ratio.

      • Relieved I don't have to give the geeky engineering-heavy answer for once.

      • Kamil_K

        Also, it has a CVT… which I don't know the max ratio of… which makes this comment pointless.

        • njhoon

          He brings up a good point though. I had an 91 corolla that got the same or better mileage than this, and it was 20 years ago. You would think that all of the tech etc of the last 20 years these would get better milage, even with the government mandated bloat.

          • Kamil_K

            Agreed, I attempted to allude to that with the reference to the S14.

          • ptschett

            The official EPA numbers claim that the Versa actually is more efficient. (Though all that means is that it does better on a standardized test… as always, your mileage may vary.)
            <img src="http://i52.tinypic.com/23lo66o.jpg&quot; width="500"/>

            • Ate Up With Motor

              Yes, it's important to remember that the EPA changed its test procedures in 2008 in an effort to make them more real-world representative. (If I remember correctly, the previous highway cycle wasn't run at speeds higher than a (simulated) 55 mph, even though many states now have highway limits of 65-70 mph.) Unless you look at the EPA's updated numbers, it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison.

          • McQueen

            Ya and what was the weight of your car 20 years ago ? I don't want to sound like a dick but I hate how people always compare new cars to cars of yore . Everybody seems to forget that the shit boxes we drove around 20 plus years ago were mobile death traps , and it's statistically proven, just look how each year less and less people are being stuffed into pine boxes because of the heavy safety features we have in cars now. I'll spend a couple hundred bucks more for fuel gladly each year as long as I'm home to eat dinner with my family every night.

      • Jim-Bob

        I realize this ( I am setting up a 3 cylinder Geo Metro right now and have spent a considerable amount of time calculating and simulating the trade offs between gearing, tire height and the torque curve of the new 3 banger I am building in hopes of seeing 55 city/65-70 highway) but it seems that there are other trade offs that could be made for the sake of greater mileage. Taller gearing (or a different ratio spread) usually does help on the highway but it may not help in the city. I have actually seen this first hand with a small block Chevy G body I built that gained 3 mpg in the city by switching from a 2.41 final drive to a 3.23 (it had 360hp/425 ft/lbs of torque). However, that does not mean that the car is not being somewhat hobbled by the gearing as I tend to think a mild shift taller (on the order of magnitude of switching from, say a 3.73 to a 3.54) would help and not unnecessarily impact city economy. They could also go to a smaller engine or at least offer the choice of doing so like they do in Europe.

        The other thing that bothers me is that the Hyundai Elantra and Accent have the same fuel mileage despite one being heavier. It seems to me that the Accent is being hobbled to benefit the sales of the more expensive Elantra.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Wow, the least expensive new car in the US is almost 4 times the cost of the cheapest (and least expensive) car 25 years ago.

    I guess I make 4 times as much money…though the '86 Yugo came out before I got to go to college and whatnot.

    So…when do we get a diesel car of this size for the 55+ MPG WIN?

    • McQueen

      That's another pet peeve of mine , people screaming for diesel powered cars , why ? You realize buy the time you pay for the buy in price for that power plant and do the more expensive maintenance for five years you would be lucky to recoup the costs ? Not to mention that but as demand for diesel goes up so does the cost at the pump , meaning anything trucked in also gets driven up in price.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        More expensive maintenance?

        You mean like spark plug changes, PCV valves, catalytic converters and the like, right?

        Diesel pricing is currently a scam because it is limited to mostly corporate use, IMO.

        Also, I keep vehicles for 200K miles, so I have -0- issues with recouping the initial buy-in. Also, torques are better-suited for US stoplight-to-stoplight driving.

        • McQueen

          Ya good synthetic oil for diesel is way expensive I pay $120 per 5 gallons for the good stuff not to mention filter is now $32 instead of $7 plus the price at the pump for fuel is on par with gasoline if not more expensive

          • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

            $120 for five gallons is $6/qt. On par with gasoline synthetic, and honestly, on dead-dino Delvac or Rotella, that engine will still outlast the car.

            Sure, fuel is slightly more expensive, but you're looking at 30%-40% higher efficiency.

            Not sure what vehicle it is you drive, but I find a $32 filter difficult to believe. The filters for my ISB are $15 and recommended changes are every 15K miles. That engine does hold four gallons of oil, but I'm good with it.

            • McQueen

              05 F 350 6 Liter oil filter is no longer screw on , is sits ontop of the motor

  • pj134

    So… they styled it after a last generation Elantra…

  • I like the idea of a Versa Versus Race Series.

    • Kamil_K

      All cars would be equipped with factory tires for that extra bit of frustration.

      • pj134

        Having worked at a rental place, I will say that the lap times would be quite high, as giving anything over half throttle means the hard plastic OEM tires will just spin and spin and spin and anything under half throttle means the CVT won't let you accelerate. Of course, this is saying that Traction Control is outlawed in our Versa racing league, as it should be.

    • pdb

      Clearly they all need to be driven by drunk prostitutes, so we can have the Vice Versa Versus series.

      • They would need to have a foul mouth, too. Vice Versa Versus Curses Series.

        • Alcology

          Needs to be on the Versus network. The Versus Versa Versus Versa Challenge.

          • ptschett

            …brought to you by Versatile.

            • Devin

              They could then race them against medical professionals in cars meant to carry the deceased.

              So The Versatile Vice Versa Curses Versus Nurses' Hearses on Versus Challenge.

              • The Versatile Vice Versa Curses Versus Nurses' Hearses on Versus Challenge live from Versailles?

  • M5Manny

    Kamil, can you get that small can out of my sight of Godzilla!?!?!?

    • Kamil_K

      Be nice or you won't get a Godzilla review. 😛

  • "A few nuts might even buy a dozen cars for that amount."

    Well, I usually prefer to know a few more details first, but okay. Do you take personal checks?

    • pj134

      Sorry, you aren't allowed to. These all run.

      Also, why is it tritesticularly exclusive?

  • Not unlike a year ago when I had an '11, the Versa is a perfect example of how what should be among the worst cars available for purchase is completely, totally adequate.

    Was that the case in 2001?…'91?…'81?

    I'm not sure what it means, but it's not meaningless.

    • It means you've forgotten about the Aveo.

      • Devin

        Everyone who has ever driven an Aveo has tried desperately to forget it.

        I keep hearing the Sonic is supposed to be alright, but my old Kenwood stereo has me leery about the blue speedo and the price seems a bit dear. The local dealer has one specced out to $22k, which is just… ack!

  • I had a B13 Sentra XE coupe with the 5 spd manual and that car was CHEAP and FUN at the same time.

    but somehow this seems more appliance than a fun zippy car. I think all subsequent small Nissans have suffered the bloat disease.
    Although if they bring over the 5 door Tiida it may prove a nice affordable option to the more expensive Mazda5 and Focus (25 grand for a Focus? really?)
    <img src="http://img2.netcarshow.com/Nissan-Tiida_2012_1024x768_wallpaper_02.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • dukeisduke

    Oy, what a penalty box of a car. The roofline looks awfully similar to this:

    <img src="IMAGE URL" width="600">
    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Zd0HQO9_PXA/TFGwg-2-q-I/AAAAAAAAADk/C0SOUkNGNj4/s1600/prius_first_generation.jpg"&gt;

  • I think it's nice that Hooniverse is posting new car reviews. However, maybe you should set the post date to 10 years in the future: by then your target audience will be shopping for these cars 😉

    • Kamil_K

      I'm thinking twenty. 🙂

  • Insert Britney Spears reference here…or is it too soon?

    • Van Sarockin

      I think you just did it again.

    • Kamil_K

      No! In fact I had references in there but I pussied out in the end.

  • Mike

    I'm not even sure the engine you're talking about in the first paragraph is even in that car…. everything i've seen says a 1.6L I4 making around 106-108hp, or something around that range.

    The 1.8L is in the Versa hatch (the old design is still being sold) and I also have a feeling neither the 1.6 or 1.8 have direct injection since the Rio/Accent twins are the only car in the class that do….

    • Kamil_K

      I fucked up and fixed it. Sorry.

  • smokyburnout

    Never heard of ELR or ALR before. Apparently it has something to do with seatbelts?

    • Kamil_K

      Yea, seems that way. I shall check if the press kit has anything on it. Coincidentally, the USB drive that the press kit is on looks like a Nissan key. Fancy.

  • Vavon

    But is it available with one of these???

    ‎1 3 5
    2 4 R

    • Devin

      From what I hear, base model only in the US, base model and SV in Canada. The SL apparently is all CVT all the time.

      And I think it goes like so on these:
      1 3 5 R
      2 4 6

    • pj134

      No, Nissan likes to screw with people, so it has one of these:

      5 3 1
      2 4 6

      That way they all add up to seven. to reverse you put it in neutral and a hole opens up for you to flinstone it.

      • Vavon

        Hahaha… That would be hilarious!

  • Buickboy92

    Pretty neat little car! I love Nissan, and this Versa Sedan looks pretty cool! 🙂

  • Karim Pollah Abdul

    I just got one at nissan ny actually. It does have it quirks, but I can definitely say that the Versa is a solid choice for those on a budget.

  • fregardmos

    Been looking forward to buying my first Fairlady-Z just like the one in the picture.