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2007 Nissan Versa test drive

A small car that thinks big

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)

By BJ Killeen

2007 Nissan Versa

2007 Nissan Versa

Photo © Nissan
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Let’s be honest. No one wants to buy an entry-level car. If money grew on trees, we’d all be cruising the boulevards in top-dollar, fire-breathing sports cars or diamond-encrusted sedans. However, circumstances and reality being what they are, many of us have no other options. Does that mean, though, we’re relegated to cheap plastic and tiny tires? Not anymore, now that the 2007 Nissan Versa—starting at around $13,000—is here. The Versa comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty.

First Glance: A small car you won't be ashamed to be seen in

The Versa is not a new vehicle; it’s just new to us. It’s sold as the Tiida in Japan and China, where it's considered a small luxury car. Since "small" and "luxury" are rarely used in the same sentence in America, we’re reaping the benefits of an already-established vehicle.

The Versa is on Nissan’s global “B” platform, and represents its entry to the B-class (entry-level subcompact) cars that have started to migrate to North America. This class should prove to be quite popular now that gasoline purchases require a co-signer. The Versa also allows Nissan to move the Sentra up-market in size, power, and price. It's a real car that you won’t be embarrassed to be seen in.

Nissan claims the Versa is a “no compromises” vehicle, and after driving it around Nashville, I agree with that statement. Short front and rear overhangs and a long (for the segment) wheelbase of 102.4 inches (versus Honda Fit at 96.5 and Toyota Yaris at 96.9) give it a much more substantial look. Standard 15-inch tires (versus 14s for Fit and Yaris) also prove that the Versa, like all Nissan vehicles, is designed for sporty driving. There are four trim levels, five packages, and some stand-alone options; the fully loaded price is about $17,000.

Continued below...

In the Driver's Seat: Lots of room and lots of standard equipment

2007 Nissan Versa interior

Interior reveals Versa's luxury-car roots

© Nissan North America
Inside the Versa there’s room and more room. Six-footers sit comfortably in the rear, the cargo area with standard cover is close to 18 cubic feet (almost a third more than Yaris), and front door pockets are deep and useful. Since it’s a luxury car in other markets, the materials feel worlds better than on most subcompacts. The armrests are thickly padded instead of a piece of cardboard covered by cheap fabric. The seats are supportive and comfortable, and the dash, instruments and all interior pieces look more upscale than expected. Nothing feels tinny or cheap, or appears as if it was added as an afterthought.

What you get for that entry price on the 1.8 S model is amazing: air conditioning with filtration, audio system with CD (Yaris doesn’t even give you a radio standard!), tilt steering column, rear window defroster, front/side/side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, and a quality look and feel that will pleasantly surprise you. If you want more, Nissan delivers. On the 1.8 SL you get a higher-level audio system, auxiliary input jack for an MP3 player, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power doors/locks/mirrors. Options include a Rockford Fosgate audio system and Bluetooth® phone compatibility.

On the Road: More power and more fun than Fit or Yaris

As with many Nissans, Versa is king of power in the segment. Where the Toyota and Honda products offer 106 and 109 horsepower respectively, the Versa steps up and delivers a standard 122 horses and 129 lb-ft of torque. Yaris only produces 103 lb-ft of torque and Fit only 105. The Versa engine is a newly developed 1.8-liter DOHC inline aluminum four cylinder that was designed for the Versa platform, as well as for the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Under full load the noise tells you there's a four-cylinder under the hood, but once you reach cruising speed it's as quiet as any luxury sedan. Even the transmission is smoother than Nissan’s previous CVT. Steering is tight and responsive, and even though the brakes are drum in the rear (you should know by now I’m not a fan of rear drum brakes), the front discs provided excellent stopping power. The Versa is nimble, well-balanced, fun to drive, and doesn’t make you feel as if you’re in a subcompact, which is something I can’t say about the Yaris and Fit after driving them both. If I have one negative comment, it’s about the center storage console. You have to lift the cover to buckle the seatbelts: a bit awkward, but forgivable.

Journey's End: Unchanged is good

2007 Nissan Versa rear view

Versa will be available as both a hatchback and a sedan

© Nissan North America
Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Versa. I like that it's so roomy and so well equipped for such a reasonable cost. Of course, if you want to pay more for more features, have at it; the Versa offers options such as keyless ignition, power sunroof, steering wheel audio controls, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Since fuel economy is the topic of the day, Versa with the CVT will achieve 30 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. When equipped with the 6-speed manual, those numbers are 30 city/34 highway. When the 4-speed automatic arrives later, the numbers drop slightly to 28/35 city/highway. To compete with the Yaris’ sport package, Versa also will offer one for the hatchback with rear roof, side sill, and front and rear chin spoilers as well as foglights.

Versa started life as a more upscale product than the competition, and I'm both happy and thankful Nissan brought it here “as is” instead of stripping it of personality and features to justify the cost. There’s no question this is my favorite ride of the “B” cars. -- BJ Killeen

Next page: Pros, cons, who should buy it and specs

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
2007 SL Hatchback CVT-Grey, Member richclark49

Purchased September 2007. Added OEM rear spoiler and max legal tint in TN. 42K miles lifetime fuel economy is 28.5 mpg. Pros: rides and handles well; comfortable front seats; astounding rear seat leg room that is comfortable for 2 adults; great head room all around; the best cruise control of any vehicle except Ford trucks; cruises all day at 85 without straining (may contribute to fuel econ :->). Cons: dissappointing fuel economy for this class car; 1.8L engine knocks since day 1; CVT tranny has electronic quirks that cause slipping, gauges to go wacky and cruise control to fail unitil engine is shut down and restarted; OEM tires worn out at 25K miles; so-so luggage space. Dealer service states that engine knock is ""normal"" and is ""unable to duplicate"" the CVT problem. Overall a good little car. Add the spoiler, cool wheels and window tint to improve the look. Avoid the CVT -- it's neat but not all it's supposed to be.

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