Ok, so I admit, I’ve managed not to achieve two blogs a week. Sorry. I’ll manage one a week though. Promise. Kind of.
A few months ago, I was given a Nissan Versa as a rental car. I’ve not driven a Nissan for many years, and it seemed fine from the outside. The Versa is equipped with a 1.6l petrol engine making 107bhp (80 kW) and 107 lb-ft (145Nm) of torque, sent to the front wheels. This might seem like not a lot compared to my previous reviews, and you’d be right. The 0-60 time is around 9.2 seconds, and the car has a top speed of 110mph. The engine was connected to a CVT (continuously variable transmission – a ‘gearless’ automatic) gearbox. The model I had was the SV, which is the mid-range vehicle.
So, the bad. Unfortunately, that can really be summed up with three words: The whole car. Let’s elaborate on that point, though, else this wouldn’t be much of an article.
Let’s start with that engine. A 1.6l motor making only 107bhp is not a good start. Coupled with a CVT transmission, this means the entire driving experience feel sluggish. Acceleration is poor, and accompanied by a lot more noise than one would expect is possible. With no gear control, the car spends a lot of time not going anywhere very fast, and in simulating gear shifts, spends a lot of time at high revs and making a very loud noise. This makes driving a really miserable experience. The brakes are spongy and ineffective, which is not what you want out of any car, even one that’s not going very fast. I’m not sure if this was just the particular car I had, but it was not pleasant to need to slow down. Finally, as regards the driving experience, the steering is light and very disconnected – there is very little feedback from the wheels, and occasionally I actually lost their position and couldn’t work out whether they were turned or not, which is very disconcerting when parking. Adding to the steering’s weightless feel is the enormous amount of body roll in corners. The best summation I can come up with is ‘spongy’: the entire car felt like everything was being dampened enormously for some reason, like I was driving a giant sponge.
Next, let’s talk interior. ‘Bare bones’ is an accurate statement. There is A/C and cruise control, but that’s standard on every car I’ve driven in the USA. The closest to modern tech I could find was the fact I could Bluetooth my phone to the radio, but only as a phone. No music streaming facilities at all. Beyond that, there were no features to speak of, and the interior feels incredibly cheap – accurately, since the Versa is one of the cheapest cars on the US market. The car’s interior is very bland, with lots of cheap plastic and hard surfaces. There is a higher trim level that addresses some of these concerns, but that does not help the overall package very much.
Finally, fuel economy around town is not especially great, and I found that I was averaging around 25mpg (30mpg UK, 9.4l/100km) on most of my driving with the car in a combination of city and highway driving.
Ok, so that’s the entire car written off in the bad section, so what’s good?
Price. The Versa is cheap. One of the cheapest cars on the market.
Space. Because the car is so bare bones, there is plenty of space for both passengers and luggage – there is a large boot and four people can fit easily into the car.
– Spongy to drive
– Very little equipment in the cabin
– Cheap feeling interior
– Not great fuel economy
In summary… If you have no interest in driving and want the cheapest possible new car, this is it. Alternatively, if you want to drive a sponge, this is your car. For everyone else on the planet, look elsewhere.