2011 Nissan Versa Hatchback SL Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

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Published on May 11, 2011

Hatchback design is sportier and more convenient for cargo. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Cool black and brown tweed-like fabric and woodgrain trim add an upscale ambiance. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 11, 2011

Interior styling still looks good considering the Versa will soon be completely updated. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Seats are ultra-comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

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Published on May 11, 2011

Nav is a nice touch. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Published on May 11, 2011

Nissan's Versa Hatchback is a car that will surprise you. It's larger inside than it first appears, is nicely finished with soft-touch door panels, ultra-comfortable seats and in the case of my most recent SL tester, cool tweed-like seat fabric in black and trendy browns plus rich-looking woodgrain accent trim, not to mention a navigation system.

An upgrade to the hatchback over the base sedan makes a night and day difference in just about every respect, including powertrain. Performance goes up by 15 horsepower to 122 and torque increases by 16 lb-ft to 127 thanks to a 200-cc larger 1.8-litre engine, making the hatch fun to drive off the line even in upgraded continuously variable transmission trim. That's how Nissan equipped my tester, and while I'm impressed with the CVT's snappy personality, if it was my $1,300 extra on the table I would opt for the 6-speed manual.

The CVT results in a fuel economy advantage however, at an estimated 7.3 L/100km in the city and 5.8 on the highway compared to 7.9 and 6.3 respectively. It's even better than the base 1.6 S sedan, which manually-equipped achieves 7.7 and 5.8, with a slight bump up to 7.8 and 5.9 for the base automatic.

If you've ever spent time in Nissan's new Juke you'd expect the Versa, which shares underpinnings, to handle like a sports car, and not surprisingly it's plenty of fun in the corners. What I've always found surprising about the Versa, mind you, is its ride quality. When I first drove the car a few years back, I found the ride so plush that a little research was required to make sure it wasn't derived from one of parent company Renault's compact models. As it turned out the Versa is all Nissan, although I still believe the French had something to do with the suspension (ride quality has always been a spécialité française).

Another Versa forte is interior roominess. I mentioned this at the beginning, but it must be reiterated because this car won't have you feeling claustrophobic no matter where you're sitting, and cargo space is amongst the best in its class at 504 litres (17.8 cubic feet) behind the 60/40 split-folding seats and 1,427 litres (50.4 cu ft) when those seatbacks are flipped down. That's a lot, incidentally. The only negative is that the seats don't fold completely flat into the floor.

Then again the Versa Hatchback's seats use double-thickness foam for better comfort over most in this class, and they hold backside in place fairly well too. All-round, I'm guessing you'll be impressed with the interior, especially the features list that, among other things, includes the usual power amenities plus heated powered mirrors and an auxiliary jack for the CD-equipped stereo. Those who go for the base S hatch can up content to include keyless entry, air conditioning, ABS brakes, traction control and stability control. Additionally, front side-thorax and front/rear side-curtain airbags are standard across the Versa line.

My tester was an SL loaded up with almost everything Nissan could throw at it, so along with all the items just mentioned it also included 5-spoke alloy rims, really nice cloth upholstery, a 6-way manual driver's seat, a padded front centre armrest with storage, a folding rear centre armrest with cupholders, cruise control, an overhead sunglass storage bin, map lights, an upgraded audio system with an iPod connection, RDS, and speed-sensitive volume control, plus a security system.

On top of that Nissan added the Navigation Package that, along with a new audio system with the nav built in, gives you a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and Bluetooth connectivity, plus XM satellite radio and a USB port. For me, even at $1,100, this is a must-have option due to the integrated Bluetooth, which can't be had any other way unless you look to the aftermarket. And it works great too, hooking up to my hardly smart phone without a hitch.

The only thing Nissan left out was the Sport Package, so no powered moonroof, illuminated vanity mirrors, sport cloth seat trim, fog lights, lower body side sill extensions, rear roof spoiler, or modified front and rear fascias.  

The price was $1,900 lower than it would have otherwise been, which is always good, allowing it to just slip under the $20k threshold at $19,948, until its $1,397 destination fee is tacked on. To put things into perspective the base hatchback starts life at $14,348, which is $1,650 pricier than the aforementioned base 1.6 S sedan that's actually Canada's cheapest new car.

As tested the 2011 Versa Hatchback SL may not be the least expensive in the subcompact B-segment, but it's an extremely good little car that nevertheless represents excellent value when measured against its peers.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Nissan, 2011, Versa, $10,000 - $19,999, Subcompact,

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