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.
The six-speed manual transmission in the Versa S makes it a fun car to drive.
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).
The Versa S comes with a double-DIN stereo with a single CD slot.
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.
Thanks to its bulbous exterior design, the Versa has lots of interior room.
While our S-trimmed tester was threadbare on cabin technology, the Versa SL comes with more standard equipment (some of which we saw recently on the 2007 Nissan Sentra), as well as some interestingly bundled options packages. The SL's Convenience Package (Intelligent Key keyless ignition and entry system; Bluetooth hands-free calling; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; satellite radio prewiring) is a good tech option at $700, but the $300 Audio package (upgraded speakers plus a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer) cannot be purchased without the Convenience package plus either the sport package (fog lights, rear spoiler, and special fascias and body sill) or the Satellite Radio package. Why you need extra body trim in order to get better speakers is beyond us--it must have something to do with marketing. The SL also comes with a standard upgraded stereo system, which features a six-disc in-dash changer with the ability to play MP3 and WMA discs, as well as an auxiliary-input jack for playing music from portable media players and two extra speakers.
Under the hood
According to Nissan, the 122-horsepower Versa has the highest power and torque of any car in the lower small-car segment, and performance-wise, the 2007 Nissan Versa is a nimble and surprisingly responsive car. As we found in our time testing the gearbox, the variable valve timed,1.8-liter engine can shoot the car forward from standing, and gives it just the right kind of power for driving around in the city.
The Versa's 1.8-liter engine has a surprising amount of gusto.
Nevertheless, a look at the minivan-like lines of the Versa hatchback shows that this was not a car built for the left lane of the freeway (at over 60 inches tall, it is taller than most full-size sedans). While it whips into parking spots with sure-footed agility, at higher speeds, the Versa's handling becomes much looser, and the car lunges when changing lanes on the freeway. Over potholes and expansion joints, the Versa's suspension feels reassuringly rigid, and the car gives an overall impression of being solidly built. The Versa does not come standard with any advanced braking systems, although our tester was equipped with the $250 ABS package, which gave us ABS, brake assist, and electronic brake force distribution. Stability control is not an option on either trim level.
Our 2007 Versa S came with two of the four available options packages: the $700 Power package (remote keyless entry, power door locks, power windows, door armrest pad, rear door pockets, glove compartment light) and the $250 ABS package. Added to the Versa's base price of $12,450 and a destination charge of $605, our tester rang up for a very respectable $14,005. At that price, the Versa finds itself in direct competition with many other models in the compact car sector, including the Toyota Yaris, the Honda Fit, and the Scion xA.