The combination of the CVT and the 1.6-liter engine means decent fuel economy, although Nissan did not push the Versa into the 40 mpg set. Its EPA numbers are 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. I ended up with an average of 32.8 mpg, on the low side because of some time spent going uphill on a winding mountain road.
Ride quality is about what I would expect from a car at this price, jouncy over rough roads and bumps. The suspension gear is textbook for this class of vehicle, independent struts in front and a torsion bar at the rear. Similarly, the brakes are discs in front and drums in back, which, however, does not prevent the Versa from having traction and stability control systems. Nissan also implemented an electric power-steering system to help with efficiency.
One of the strangest features of the car, and a possible hint toward Nissan's future cabin electronics, was a proprietary port on the console. Similar to Audi's digital music interface, this port accepted a cable with an iPod connector at one end, and I assume that cables with a USB port, mini-USB, and auxiliary input would also be available.
The stereo features a couple of dedicated iPod buttons, as well. Although the Versa only has a single-line radio display, it is possible, if not terribly intuitive, to access a connected iPod's music library, and even browse music by artist and album. I found myself accidently turning up the volume until I figured out that the seek and track buttons scroll through the music category lists.
Continuing in the economy-car vein, the Versa SV only gets a four-speaker audio system, but for all that it did not sound terrible. There was little separation or distinction of the different instruments in a track, as I would expect, but the music came through with little distortion.
The optional Bluetooth phone system was also very basic, the same one Nissan has been putting into its cars for some time. It actually did have a phone-book function, but instead of pulling contacts from my phone, I would have had to manually load it, not a fun prospect. Voice command is the only way to access the phone system, and that is the only car system it controls.
Tech is obviously not the focus of the 2012 Nissan Versa SV. Navigation is only available at a higher trim level, and the stereo and Bluetooth phone systems are not quite as good as those found in competitive vehicles, such as the or .
The running gear is more impressive, as Nissan uses modern technology to help fuel economy. The small displacement engine has variable valve timing, and the CVT gets the most efficiency out of the engine without negatively impacting drivability. The electric power steering system is well-tuned for feel.
Although boring, the car has a reasonably attractive exterior design. The cabin and trunk are surprisingly roomy. The cabin electronics interface is hampered a bit by the single line radio display. Other automakers are beginning to explore larger displays, even in economy cars.
|Model||2012 Nissan Versa|
|Powertrain||1.6-liter four cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||30 mpg city/38 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||32.8 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Auxiliary input|
|Audio system||4 speaker system|
|Price as tested||$15,840|