Test Drive: Nissan Versa

We get spoiled driving 150 new vehicles a year, most of which are top of the line models loaded with the options.? I?m sure the manufacturers justify providing well equipped models so we can try the options making it easier to write about them.

When the 2010 Nissan Versa 1.6 sedan arrived, it was at the other end of the spectrum, you might say it was a ?vice Versa?. ?Our test car had crank windows, manual locks and manual mirrors.? There was no remote switch to get into the trunk, no keyless entry and there wasn?t even a radio or CD player or satellite radio.? It was back to basics and without a radio, we had to think about things to talk about.

What this littlest Nissan did have, however, was a roomy interior, spacious trunk, good fuel economy and low price.? The Versa also drives much better than the low price tag would indicate.? The car feels substantial holding the road nicely, providing a good ride without wallowing through corners.? It?s not a sports car, but it is still an enjoyable car to drive.

Powered by a 107-hp, 1.6-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, the Versa has respectable performance with 0 to 60 mph acceleration taking about 9.5 seconds.? The standard transmission is a five-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels with an optional four-speed automatic transmission for an additional $1,000.

Versa is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.? Our personal preference is for the hatchback, which looks more sporty and is more usable with the enhanced cargo capacity.? Even though the Versa is Nissan?s smallest car sold in the United States, the interior room is very generous and earns it an EPA midsize car rating with plenty of room for four six footers.? The Versa is designed for five, but the center of the rear set is strictly for show, or a child who is too young to complain.

Storage space is equally generous with 13.8 cubic feet in the sedan trunk.? The appeal of the hatchback is the 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seatback up and 50.4 cubic feet with the rear seats down.

Versa is available in four sedan and two hatchback trim levels.? Pricing starts at $10,710, including the destination charge, for the base level sedan.? That makes it the second cheapest new car sold in the U.S., and that?s only $20 more than the cheapest, which is a Hyundai Accent Blue.

The Versa 1.8SL sedan has all the equipment that was missing on our test car plus a larger 1.8-liter engine, Xtronic CVT transmission, stability control, antilock brakes, premium audio, cruise control and several more features for $16,820.? The hatchback pricing is from $13,870 to $17,250.? The top of the line SL models have an available navigation and satellite radio package for $610.

With cars good and this cheap, it?s surprising people are still buying used cars.