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2008 Nissan Versa SL sedan

Rafay Ansar

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IN FLEET: Sept. 12-26
AS-TESTED PRICE: $17,290
DRIVETRAIN: 1.8-liter I4; FWD, continuously variable transmission
OUTPUT: 122 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 127 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 2,745 lb
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 27 mpg

SENIOR EDITOR BOB GRITZINGER: What's stunning about the Versa is the level of equipment in a car at this price point (keyless entry and ignition and steering-wheel audio controls), as well as the interior space. What isn't pleasurable is the feeling, possibly because of the seat or its positioning, that the driver is riding on top of the Versa. This is compounded by the rubber-band action of the CVT, which works well to take advantage of available power but seems to numb the connection to the car and cause uncertainty about jumping into a hole in traffic. The suspension also seems skittish and easily unsettled on bumpy corners. Oh, and this must be where all the overstock of plastic controls went after the Altima interior was upgraded. I found myself yearning for a stick shift and some upgraded seats and suspension parts, but then the car might be priced out of this market segment.

COPY/PRODUCTION CHIEF WENDY WARREN KEEBLER: Unlike Bob, I found the Versa's interior surprisingly rich-looking. I was impressed with the multimaterial door panels and the seat materials. The CVT whine is a bit intrusive, particularly if you go for the gusto at stoplights. The engine vibrates and seems to shudder when coming to a halt afterward. The car accelerates well and feels agile, but ride comfort is lacking. The trunk is huge for a small car, with a reasonable lift-over height. But the long reach to the back of the trunk is nearly impossible for short folks with short arms like me. The exterior appearance of the Versa is a bit amusing: such an upright, formal roofline and such a short nose, not to mention the teensy wheels.
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