2008 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL HB Review

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Model: Nissan Versa 1.8 SL HB
Engine: 1.8-liter I-4
Horsepower/Torque: 122 hp @ 5200 rpm/127 lb.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: CVT
Wheelbase: 99.8 in.
Length x Width x Height: 177.5 x 67.3 x 55.5 in.
Tires: 185/65R15
Cargo volume: 17.8/50.4 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/folded)
Economy: 27 mpg city/33 mpg highway/30.0 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.
Price: $17,285 (includes $625 destination charge and $1,100 in options)

The Bottom Line A capable compact car that is comfortable on long trips, economical, and offers a host of virtues that one wouldn’t normally expect in a compact. It’s a super value.

Let’s have a conVERSAtion about the VERSAtile Nissan Versa. Okay, the idea isn’t new, but I couldn’t resist it.

The Nissan Versa became one of my North Carolina cars this year. Carolina cars are those I was fortunate enough to be able to use in my frequent trips down south to care for an ailing family member. In these trips we put an enormous amount of miles on the cars and learned to know them pretty well.

I must honestly admit that I probably would have preferred a larger vehicle for the trip, especially since the return voyage involved transporting a lot of stuff back home. But on the other hand, the compact nature of the Versa made fuel purchases minimal, and the versatility of the Versa (oops, I did it again) offered more than adequate carrying capacity for all we needed.

On the positive side, the Versa was comfortable on long rides and was easy to park and maneuver.

For example, this is the first time I made the trip where I didn’t have a fuel purchase of more than $30. This was in an era of fuel prices slipping up and gas was in the region of $3 a gallon. One of the reasons was the excellent 30.0 mpg test mileage. Granted, this included a large amount of Interstate miles, but still I felt the economy was excellent. The other half of the equation was the Versa’s relatively small 13.2 gallon tank, which kept the volume of gas pumped to a minimum, no matter what.

The economy is enhanced by a 1.8-liteinline four-cylinder engine connected to a CVT transmission. The constant velocity transmission was smooth (although “shift points” were programmed in) and kept us in the correct gear most of the time. The engine was relatively quiet for a four, and allowed us to merge onto highways with a minimum of fuss.

Inside, the front seats were comfortable with decent side support. I found the molded-in head rests to be in an ideal location for me, where I could lean back in “race driver” fashion on the longer runs.

The rear seats offered excellent leg- and headroom, thanks to the hatchback style of the car. There was a fold-down arm rest in the rear that had two cupholders. The rear seats folded to create the maximum carrying capacity of 50.4 cubic feet, but we found that we had excellent trunk room (17.8 cubic feet) so we kept the rear seat backs up and carried objects in the rear seats as they were, since we only had two passengers all the time.

The trunk itself was a nice size for suitcases and duffle bags.

Back inside, there was an assist handle for the front passenger and on the two rear doors. We hung clothes on the rear assist handles.

The front doors had built-in cup holders that were ideal for water bottles. We had an excellent sound system, although we used a plug-in XM Radio Roadie for maximum entertainment on the longer drives and when we didn’t know the local stations. There was a smart steering wheel with audio and cruise control switches. The cruise was excellent but we occasionally hit the wrong buttons on the audio side and had to re-search for the correct stations. The front door pulls had bottoms, which are ideal for cell phones. And finally, the glove box was huge and offered the opportunity to place objects in there besides the owner’s manual.

I was very favorably impressed with the Nissan Versa. Despite its compact size, it proved to be an excellent car for Interstate driving, with a good amount of cargo capacity and decent power. It became a trusted friend in the two weeks we drove it.

2007 The Auto Page Syndicate

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