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2012 Nissan Versa SL Sedan Review Roadtest By John Heiilig - VIDEO ENHANCED

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Nissan Versa SL Sedan


Model: 2012 Nissan Versa SL Sedan
Engine: 1.6-liter inline 4
Horsepower/Torque: 109 hp @ 6,000 rpm/107 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: CVT
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Length/Width/Height: 175.4 x 66.7 x 59.6 in.
Tires: P185/65R15
Cargo volume: 14.8 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway (27/36 with 5MT)
Fuel capacity: 10.8 gal.
Curb weight: 2,459 lbs.
Sticker: $10,990 (base) to $16,260 (top) plus $750 destination charge

My Top 5 Reasons to Buy the 2012 Nissan Versa SL Sedan

1. Low cost

2. Spacious for a compact car

3. Decent handling in urban situations

4. Feature-laden for price

5. More space-per-dollar in class

The Bottom Line: Nissan's new Versa isn't in the same class as a Rolls-Royce, but in its class, the Versa has been a proven leader. The new Versa has outstanding rear seat legroom for its class, good handling and good economy.

Nissan introduced the 2012 Versa recently in Seattle, which turned out to be a good location for the car. First, the drive route took us past all the corporate headquarters in the Seattle area - Microsoft, Starbucks, Nintendo, T-Mobile, etc. This drive also showed off the Versa's capabilities in urban traffic, as we negotiated Seattle's many twisty streets and hills, plus had good views of Puget Sound along the way.

Nissan also advised us that a Versa Hatchback redesign will arrive shortly as one of Carlos Ghosn's plan to have Nissan introduce a new product globaly every-six-weeks over the next five years...WOW!

The first generation Versa was introduced in July 2006 and has generated 350,000 sales. It is the US segment share leader at 30.8 percent.

You'll note that the Versa has fuel economy figures of 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. While the 38 highway doesn't reach the magical 40 mpg, we were told that the difference between 38 and 40 over 15,000 miles is $36, not worth the expense to get there.

The first thing you note in driving the Versa is its size. Yes, it's still a compact sedan, but great effort has been put into increasing interior space. For example, the Versa has very good front legroom and excellent rear legroom. Nissan claims there's more rear legroom in the Versa than can be found in the Lexus LS460, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. That's pretty heady competition.

Watch the complete Versa Press Conference at the 2011 NY Auto Show

Interior fabrics range from cloth in the low-end S with a manual transmission, to high-end cloth in the top-of-the-line 1.6SL CVT. The SL is well-equipped with XM Satellite radio, iPod controls, a navigation system with a clear screen that got us back on track when we tended to wander, and all the safety equipment you'd want.

Nissan uses what it calls "fine vision" instrumentation, which consists of black-on-white gauges with red pointers. The two heater controls (temperature and fan speed) are simple and intuitive.

What was slightly disappointing was the "not luxury" feel to the car. Yes, I know it's an entry-level compact, but the roominess makes you think it's a larger, higher-grade car. Not that the Nissan is low grade by any means, it just that when you slam the doors, there's a lack of the solidity you'd expect from a car with that much interior room. However, considering the price and economy, you can soon learn to live with that.

Nissan expects the entry level segment to peak at a little over 700,000 vehicles a year through 2016, while competitors in the segment will grow from 9 to 16. Hyundai, for example, introduced its new Accent at approximately the same time as Nissan.

While most Nissan products are at the end of their life cycle (thus the high introduction rate over the next five years), Nissan has shown growth. Its 2010 market share is up 0.4 percent and North American sales are up 18 percent.

2011 The Auto Page