New York 2011: Nissan Reveals 2012 Versa
By Chris Haak
Nissan’s Versa, which competes against subcompacts such as the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, has the value proposition of being the “big small car,” and indeed, the current Versa is a relative value. It’s a good car that accomplishes the rare feat of “small on the outside, big on the inside,” but is saddled with oddball looks, as if its designers spent a little too much time with its French cousins from Renault.
Today in New York, the Japanese automaker showed its next-generation Versa (also known as Tiida in other parts of the world). It’s clear that the 2012 Versa’s designers tried very hard to give the car a more fluid, dynamic, upscale shape. It’s not clear, however, that they completely succeeded.
The Versa sits on Nissan’s new global “V” platform, which will underpin a number of variously-sized products (some smaller than the Versa), and the car seems to have slightly awkward proportions, at least in sedan form, in order to give it a commodious trunk and reasonable space. The wheelbase looks a bit oddly short, and the rear overhang looks oddly long. Confirming this observation, the press release notes that there was a 2.7 inch increase in rear overhang. So much for “pushing the wheels out to the corners” as many other automakers are prone to brag about. Instead, the Versa’s corners were pushed out from the wheels.
However, the Versa’s gangly looks do yield practical benefits. Nissan is proud of the rear-seat legroom, as they should be. I’m 6’4″, and I adjusted the driver’s seat to a comfortable position for myself. I then “sat behind myself,” and my knees didn’t even touch the front seatback, and I have a photo to prove it. That’s remarkable in a car that starts at $10,990. Not only that, but my head didn’t touch the ceiling. That’s also impressive in a small car.
Good thing my head didn’t touch the ceiling, too, because that ceiling is covered in furry cardboard. What were you expecting in an $11,000 car, cashmere? Alcantara? The design of the interior is functional, with a bit more style – and more color – than the old Versa offered. I was impressed by the glove box; you guessed it – it’s huge. Basically, the armrests on the door panels are soft, there’s no center armrest, and everything else is hard plastic. That’s par for this price class, and I really don’t have a problem with it.
By changing to the new platform, the Versa dropped around 150 pounds. That, plus a new engine and CVT, help the new car to handily exceed the old car’s fuel economy performance. Nissan cited a 30/37/33 MPG city/highway/combined number. The most efficient 2011 Versa is the 1.8 liter/CVT combo, rated at 28/34/30 city/highway/combined (a 3 MPG improvement), but Carlos Tavares cited a 5 MPG improvement. He must have been referring to one of the 2011 Versas with four-speed automatics, which are rated between 26 and 27 MPG combined. The four-speed auto goes away for 2012. With the five-speed manual, the 2012 Versa is rated at 27/36/30.
All of the expected safety features are included in the 2012 Versa, including front, torso, and curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring, and stability control. Even the loss-leader 1.6S model (the one hitting that sub-$11,000 price point before destination charge) includes air conditioning, which is a shift for Nissan from the A/C- and radio-less base Versa of a few years ago.
The car has a summer 2011 on-sale date. If you are more concerned about your car’s practicality than its looks, the Versa seems to be absolutely worthy of your consideration.