The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Breaking News

Local Gas Prices

September 2, 2011

Bigger spaces, better mileage

Sept 2 — DAVID SCHMIDT,writer


JRC Auto News SEATTLE — The idea behind Versa is "good space at a good price." This latest generation pushes both of those categories, as it's even larger inside and becomes the lowest price car sold in America.

Nissan's sold 350,000 of them here since the car originally came to the U.S. in July 2006. It's now the segment leader with 30.8 percent of sales in the sub-compact market.

Nissan wanted to keep the price of the least expensive new Versa under $10,000, but too many people wanted air conditioning. So for $10,990, you get air conditioning, a manual transmission and even a radio. Nissan expects perhaps five percent of buyers to opt for this trim level.

The Nissan Versa is sold worldwide as the Versa, Tilda and Sunny, depending on the market. A primary product of Nissan's global "V" platform, it's an all new design with a new engine, new transmission and better numbers. All of that means bigger spaces and better mileage. Plus, the platform weighs 150 pounds less and has 20 percent fewer parts than before, mostly due to a smaller engine and transmission.

The engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder transverse engine that produces 109 hp. and 107 lbs.-ft. of peak torque. That's about par for the class. It comes with a five-speed manual transmission in the base model, or a continuously variable transmission in other models, and availability on the base model as an option. The CVT has a better final gear ratio of 7.3 to 1 using a planetary gear arrangement.

This new Versa has a lower roofline and less front overhang, which works to get the car's slipperiness down to a reasonably good coefficient of drag of 0.31. The car is 175.4 inches on the same 102.4-inch wheelbase as the previous generation.

Because the car is shorter in the front, the rear gets

an addition 2.7-inches of length, most of which goes into making rear seat space bigger. The passenger space consists of 90 cubic feet and 14.8 cubic feet of trunk space with the rear seat up, which adds up to a total of 104.8 cubic feet.

The Versa even sports a new Nissan badge, so when you see a Nissan with a "PUREDRIVE" badge on it, it means Nissan considers the vehicle to have demonstrated innovations when it comes to fuel economy or CO2, which the rest of the world worries more about than we do. In addition to the badge, the Versa has an estimated EPA rating of 30 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg combined with the CVT transmission.

The suspension is a standard MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear with standard 15-inch wheels. The power steering is electric and brakes are disk in front and drum in the rear. Traction control and vehicle dynamics are standard, as is ABS and all the normal safety features.

But the driving isn't what's really important in this car category. Buyers in this market want dependability, capability and affordability. They're either younger or older, with a few in between. Their average household income is around $55,000.

This group is important, especially the younger ones, because as a group, they'll buy many vehicles throughout their lives. They begin with the Versa, then typically move from compacts to family cars, trucks, utes, although some will end up in luxury cars. Making a good impression with these buyers is essential, especially since the number of competitors is expected to grow from nine to 16. This is no time to be resting on laurels, or anything else.

The new Versa design isn't revolutionary, but the shape is more pleasing. It has a bit more presence than the previous model.

Inside Nissan's Versa, you get plenty. First, it's big. I sat in the back seat for an hour or so while on our test drive and was as comfortable as I'd been in the front seat. I couldn't adjust the rake of the rear seat, but I didn't need to.

I could see well out the front and the sides, and the climate control worked as well for me as the guys in front. The stereo sounded equally as good. If I were a kid, I'd be happy back here — if we weren't driving to the store, that is.

Up front I was pleased that the least expensive car in America included plenty of features of great interest to buyers in this segment: Bluetooth hookup, iPod connections and an integrated navigation system that cost only $400. It had a color screen, and the audio system included the availability of satellite radio.

The engine had enough pickup with the CVT to enter highways safely without slowing anybody down. The steering is nicely centered, and at highway speeds, it didn't take a lot of sawing back and forth to keep the car straight.

Today getting good brakes on a car this size is easy. While some may pooh-pooh rear drum brakes, they're a price consideration and have no impact at all on normal braking in a car that's rarely driven aggressively. If you did drive it on a racetrack, you may find rear brake fade a bit sooner than with disks, but that's the only real-world impact.

The Versa's price starts with the Versa S at $10,990. Nissan expects the volume model to be the Versa SV, which starts at $14,560. The top-of-the-line Versa SL starts at $15,560. If you put everything you can on a Versa, you'll spend about $17,000. The 2012 models went on sale this month.

Later, there will be a hatchback. It's interesting that they've introduced the sedan first. In America, people choose the hatchback more often than the sedan. In Asian and European markets, the hatchback is overwhelmingly the best seller. The Chinese like sedans. In fact, the Chinese like pretty much the same things in a car that Americans like, despite the fact that they're members of a potential market almost as big as all other existing markets combined.

Interesting, isn't it? Get your Versa sedan while you can.

If you have any questions, comments or ideas, please send them to

Text Only
Local Gas Prices
  • mark twain manor No sale

    A challenge grant and a frenzy of winter and spring fundraising events led to the cancellation of Wednesday’s advertised sale of the Mark Twin Manor in Jamestown.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Snow Shovel 112613.jpg Thanksgiving trip could get tricky

    Holiday travel plans may have to be put on hold thanks to the 7 to 11 inches of snow expected to be dumped on Mercer County through Wednesday, with more to follow on turkey day.

    November 26, 2013 1 Photo

  • Kelly Road bridge is coming down

    Rod Alexander has given up trying to save the historic Kelly Road Bridge but is supporting a new plan to preserve parts of it.

    November 25, 2012

  • fireworks-by-age.png Feds warn that fireworks injuries are common and sometimes serious

    Everybody knows fireworks are dangerous but every year, thousands of injured consumers wind up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries that range from minor to fatal.

    June 28, 2012 2 Photos

  • stove.jpg Electric or gas: Which appliances are better?

    If you're moving into a new house and have the luxury to design your kitchen, should you set it up to run gas or electric appliances? The same question applies to those who are searching for a new apartment. Should you choose a building that uses gas to power its appliances, or electricity?

    June 25, 2012 1 Photo

  • Americans hold dimmest view on economic outlook in five months

    The fewest Americans in five months said the economy was improving in June, signaling the slowdown in employment is seeping into consumer psychology.

    June 22, 2012

  • trucking.jpg Truckers as leading indicator show stable U.S. growth

    Rising truck shipments show the U.S. economic expansion is intact, even amid concerns that a slowdown in retail sales and Europe's sovereign-debt crisis could stall growth.

    June 20, 2012 1 Photo

  • grocery-cart.jpg Store brands can knock 36 percent off grocery bill, survey says

    What's the difference between an advertised brand and a store brand? Sometimes it's just the label.

    June 20, 2012 1 Photo

  • movie-theater.jpg Forget movie critics, mindless Internet chatter predicts blockbusters and bombs

    Why did "The Avengers" blow the roof off the box office, while "Battleship" sank to the bottom of the sea? Blame internet chatter. The number of times a film is mentioned in blog posts and social media strongly reflects how much money it is pulling in at the box office, according to a new model developed by Japanese physicists.

    June 20, 2012 1 Photo

  • Warming gas levels hit 'troubling milestone'

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The world's air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant.

    Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. The number isn't quite a surprise, because it's been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395.

    June 5, 2012

  • Pittsburgh company converting 50 cabs to propane

    PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Transportation Group has begun converting 50 of its taxi cabs to run on propane, a fuel the company says will save its drivers money and pollute less that gasoline.

    June 5, 2012

  • DCNR To Collect Money From Drillers Who Harvest Gas Under Public Streams

    Natural gas drillers have to sign leases and compensate the state if they plan to collect gas trapped deep beneath publicly owned streams and rivers, according to a policy developed recently by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

    The policy applies to gas gathered from pads on neighboring properties - away from the streams and their banks - where wells are drilled vertically before turning and boring laterally underground.


    June 5, 2012

  • Honda appeal seeks to reverse hybrid owner's award

    TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — Lawyers for American Honda Motor Co. returned to court Thursday to try to overturn a highly publicized small claims court award to a woman who sued over the fuel economy of her hybrid Honda Civic.

    April 20, 2012

  • Anyone want to buy electricity, sludge?

    When Hermitage Municipal Authority’s expansion of its water control pollution plant is complete, the authority will have two marketable products to sell: electricity and treated sludge that can be used as fertilizer and fill.

    February 2, 2012

  • Best first cars for your kids

    There comes a time in almost every middle-class family’s life when mom and dad must decide if they’re going to get the kid a car.

    If the child is fired up about it, a discussion often comes just before the 16th birthday, or six months or so after the license is earned, when the delight of having another wheeled errand runner in the household peaks. It peaks then because that’s usually how long young drivers are willing to do nice things for their parents just to be able to drive a car.

    December 6, 2011

Local Gasoline Prices
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter