2007 Nissan Versa S
If you want in-car gadgets, stop reading now. If, however, you are looking for a small but roomy compact car which is economical and fun to drive, the 2007 Nissan Versa S is an attractive package. The standard Versa may be woefully deficient by today's digital in-car entertainment standards (come on, Nissan, throw us a standard auxiliary jack at least), but for basic transportation duties, interior comfort, and fuel economy, it's hard to beat for the price.
Test the tech: Top gear
As the Nissan Versa has precious little cabin tech to speak of (the electric windows are optional) we decided to focus on its six-speed transmission for our practical test. The higher-spec Versa SL gets the option of a continuously variable transmission ($1,000 extra), but the only alternative to the manual for the S-trim is a four-speed automatic transmission, so we definitely recommend sticking with the stick. The tall shifter is far from being sporty, but it slots into the gates with a satisfying snick, and the gear ratios are well-spaced.
For having a relatively small engine, the Versa displays admirable acceleration off the line: first gear can be held to about 30mph before reaching the red line, while 50mph can be reached in second gear. The ratio between first gear (3.7:1) and second (2.1:1) is close enough to ensure that the car maintains its peppy acceleration from standing, but by the time you get to third, the drivetrain is past its racy best. While it's not going to break any records on the highway, the Versa will cruise comfortably at 80mph, ticking over at 3,500rpm in sixth gear.
In the cabin
Other than the Toyota Yaris, the 2007 Nissan Versa S has to be one of the least-equipped cars we have reviewed here at CNET. With our tech-focused agenda, we had little in the way of gadgetry to amuse us during our week with the Versa S, which is the entry-level model priced a couple of thousand dollars under the SL-trim model. In terms of cabin electronics, the base-level Versa S comes with a double-DIN stereo with AM/FM radio and a single disc slot that can read only standard CDs (there is no support for MP3- or WMA-encoded discs). The stereo is hooked up to a four-speaker audio system, which sounds adequate at lower volumes but quickly starts to distort output when cranked up past half way. Other than the stereo, cabin tech on the Versa S stretches to the optional power windows, power door locks, and glove compartment light (all part of the $700 Power Package).
Cabin materials in the Versa are plain and neutral, and we like the silvery, plastic trim on the dash and on the door sills. However, the felt upholstery on the seats and door panels might not stand up too well to a lifetime of soda spills. The Versa has a surprising amount of interior space for such a compact car. Its high roofline may give it the aerodynamics of a shoebox, but it does lead to plenty of headroom for those up front and those in the back seats. More good news for those in the back seats is that there is a generous amount of legroom, even with 6-foot drivers in the front, and at 17.8 cubic feet, the Versa's trunk space is also more than adequate for a car of its size.