By Chris Chase, Autos.ca
Introduced in 2007, the Versa was Nissan’s entry in a class of entry-level cars that included the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent and Chevrolet Aveo. All of those cars were notable in some way, but they were also all small. Not surprising in a category where pricing begins not far off the $10,000 mark, but the Versa’s claim to fame was its size. It was marketed as a subcompact, and yet offered a roomier interior and more refined performance than just about anything it could be compared to price-wise. The Versa was large enough inside that Natural Resources Canada classed it as a mid-sized(!) car for the purposes of its fuel consumption ratings.
The Versa was sold in four-door sedan and hatchback body styles. Power was provided by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder that generated 122 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Unusually, three transmissions were offered: a six-speed manual was the base gearbox, and a four-speed automatic and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) were the options.
The 2010 model received the expected mid-model makeover, which included a new grille, wheel designs and updated interior fabrics.In 2009, the sedan’s packaging and pricing were altered to make it a true base model: it was offered only with a new 1.6-litre engine (107 hp/111 lb.-ft.), five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions, and came with very few features (even a radio was extra).
Fuel consumption figures in 2007 were 7.9/6.1 L/100 km (city/highway) with the CVT; 7.9/6.3 with the four-speed auto and 8.5/6.2 in stickshift form. For 2008, the CVT’s figures improved to 7.5/6.0 L/100 km, and dropped again in 2011, to 7.2/5.7. With the 1.6-litre engine, ratings were 7.7/5.8 with a five-speed manual and 7.8/5.9 with the automatic.
Thus far, the first generation Versa has held up quite well, reliability-wise. Consumer Reports gives the Versa an average used vehicle rating, but the problems noted by the publication are minor. The big stuff, like the engine and, importantly, the continuously variable transmission, which is still a relatively new technology, are solid.
There’s the matter of climate control blower motor resistors failing, which leaves you with a fan that will only run on the highest setting. The fix is simple and inexpensive.
The check engine light makes frequent appearances. This can be caused by a number of components in the car’s emissions control system, and the easiest way to find the cause is to take the car to a garage with on-board diagnostic equipment. That costs money, though, and if you don’t want to spend it, try this procedure.
Beyond that, watch for noisy brakes and interior squeaks and rattles, both of which are common.
The Versa fared well in crash safety, earning “good” ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) frontal offset and side impact tests, and scoring four stars (of five) in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) frontal and side impact tests. Curiously, the 2011 model scored only “acceptable” in the IIHS’ side impact test, due to a higher likelihood of torso and pelvis/leg injury for the driver.
Used Versa values range from $9,300 for a 2007 S sedan, to $16,950 for a 2010 SL hatchback with sunroof and sport and luxury option packages. (2011 values weren’t available at the time of this writing.) A 2008 Versa SL hatch with the Technology Package (upgraded stereo, Bluetooth) is worth $12,225.
Price-wise, there are many cars the Versa can be shopped against, but in terms of comportment, the closest thing might be a VW City Golf or Jetta, the fourth-generation models that were carried over as entry-level models when the fifth-gen Jetta and Rabbit were introduced. The City models weren’t as comprehensively-equipped, so if you’re into the latest tech (or what was the latest tech in a three or four-year-old car), the Versa is the better choice; on the other hand, the Volkswagens are the more entertaining cars to drive.
What I’d suggest is that, given its subcompact price point, unusually roomy interior and grown-up driving demeanour, the Versa is an affordable alternative to many cars priced to compete in the compact class (Civic/Corolla/Elantra, among many others). Given its good reliability record, the Versa should be near the top of your list if you’re after comfortable basic transportation.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) May, 2011:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
|2010||Versa 1.8 S hatchback (automatic, air, power windows)||$15,350||$15,198|
|2010||Versa 1.8 S hatchback (automatic, air, power windows)||$13,575||$14,998|
|2010||Versa 1.8 S hatchback (automatic, air, power windows)||$11,875||$15,598|
|2010||Versa 1.8 S hatchback (automatic, air, power windows)||$10,575||$15,598|
NicoClub.com’s Versa section is the busiest Versa discussion site I found. Other places to check out include NissanVersaForums.com; NissanClub.com; NissanForums.com; NissanForum.org and NissanHelp.com.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006186; Units affected: 954
2007: Certain vehicles equipped with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) fail to comply with CMVSS 101. The odometer and trip record counter are calibrated in miles rather than kilometres. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the odometer to record the distance traveled in kilometres. Where such reprogramming is not feasible or practical, the odometer will be replaced with one recording in kilometres.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006213; Units affected: 4,782
2007: Certain vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of CMVSS 135. Specifically, the “WARNING: Clean filler cap before removing” portion of the required statement on the brake fluid reservoir cap was omitted. Correction: Updated brake fluid reservoir caps will be mailed to vehicle owners along with installation instructions.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007069; Units affected: 6,124
2007: On certain vehicles, the terminals for the passenger side seatbelt tension sensor harness connector may have been damaged during manufacturing process. This could result in a loss of electrical continuity causing the Occupant Detection System to become inoperative. If this occurs, the airbag warning light will come on and the passenger side frontal airbag will not deploy in a crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the connector for the seatbelt tension sensor harness.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2010434; Units affected: 73,697
2007-2010: On certain vehicles, the relays in the daytime running light (DRL) circuit could have become contaminated with silicon during the assembly process. This could, in some circumstances, cause one or both of the relays to stop functioning, which would cause one or both of the daytime running lights not to illuminate automatically when the vehicle is driven. Should this condition occur, the lack of DRL function may render the vehicle less visible to other motorists and pedestrians, possibly resulting in a vehicle crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the relays for the daytime running lights circuit.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.