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2007 Nissan Versa

2007 Nissan Versa Road Test Review

by Bob Plunkett

At Nissan Design America, a new vehicle design studio in a suburb of Detroit, we're inside The Egg, a neutral-colored courtyard rotunda ringed by walls of steel mesh with a turntable in the floor to twirl a car around and display it in ideal light.

2007 Nissan Versa Exterior

The new vehicle spinning around in The Egg at the moment stands on wee wheels but shows a long wheelbase which makes room for a pair of doors on each side and an arching roofline chopped abruptly behind the second door for a hatchback design.

It's a squirt-size car but enhanced with dramatic styling lines featuring a stubby windswept prow and massive headlamp clusters mounted on the forward corners.

Parked next to the little hatchback is a four-door notchback sedan which displays the same sculpted body panels and aerodynamic face. Its high-arched roofline creates space below for a five-seat passenger compartment which seems big despite modest dimen-sions of the structure. A nameplate on the tail of both the hatch-back and sedan contains the same letters: V-e-r-s-a, it reads.

Register both versions of Versa as new entry-level vehicles in the 2007 line of cars from Nissan. What's an entry-level vehicle?

In the case for Versa, it means the vehicle bearing the lowest MSRP in Nissan's fleet — starting around $12,000. To fix the MSRP so low typically dictates economies of scale — a small structure, a pint-size powertrain and a skimpy list of standard equipment.

Yet Nissan breaks this custom with Versa because both hatchback and notchback seem substantial: They pull off a magician's trick by creating surprising cabin room with a lot of nice equipment aboard, and they're even fun to drive.

Built on Nissan's global B platform (also used for the Nissan Micra in Europe along with Renault's Clio and the Tiida sold by Nissan in Mexico, Japan and China), the small-scale Versa hatchback and notchback models aimed at the North American market come out of a Nissan assembly plant located in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Underpinnings are comparable to the Tiida, although body styling and cabin equipment for Versa are unique for North America. The suspension design installs independent MacPherson struts in front with coil springs and stabilizer bar. In back, there's a torsion beam with stabilizer bar.

The steering system adds electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of the small engine. Brakes utilize front ventilated discs and rear drums. The optional equipment list includes an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA).

Versa's front-wheel-drive (FWD) powertrain consists of a thrifty four-cylinder engine linked to one of three different transmissions.

The dual-cam 1.8-liter in-line-four, dubbed MR18 at Nissan, is made from aluminum and comes with the intake manifold mounted in front and the exhaust manifold in back. It musters 122 hp at 5200 rpm plus torque of 127 lb-ft at 4800 rpm.

Standard transmission for the 1.8-liter four is a six-speed manual. Optional transmissions are a four-speed automatic or an advanced new continuously variable transmission (CVT) which Nissan calls Xtronic. It never shifts from one gear to another because the CVT eliminates step-ratio gears of a conventional automatic transmission as well as the resultant shift shock. Instead, two variable diameter pulleys and a strong steel belt work to match the engine's output with the vehicle's speed, ultimately producing seamless acceleration.

With the Xtronic CVT, Versa earns frugal fuel consumption numbers like 30 mpg for in-town driving and 36 mpg at speed on a highway.

Nissan packs a lot of equipment on Versa for safety. First, the structure consists of a safety cell surrounding the passenger compartment with built-in front and rear crumple zones designed to absorb energy from a crash and deflect it from the cabin. Then the cab is stuffed with air bags.

There are dual-stage frontal air bags plus side-impact air bags for the front seats and curtain-style side air bags mounted in the roof above front and rear outboard seats.

Further, Nissan adds active head restraints to the two front seats and the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system to back seats as well as child seat upper tether anchors and child safety rear door locks.

Versa's cabin is a generous space which defies the nature of subcompact-class cars. The cabin extends for six feet in length, thanks to the car's 102.4-inch long wheelbase.

Plan of the cabin consists of two bucket seats on the front row flanking a console and a second row bench with space for three. Cargo space leads the class. For the hatchback with rear seats upright, the stow space amounts to 17.8 cubic feet. For the notchback sedan, trunk volume tallies to 13.8 cubic feet.

2007 Nissan Versa Interior

Versa trims out at two levels — the entry-model 1.8 S and upgraded 1.8 SL. Stock equipment on the 1.8 S ranges from an air conditioning system to an adjustable steering column, rear defroster and an audio package at 120 watts with AM/FM/CD and four speakers. With the 1.8 SL, the standard gear increases to include alloy wheels, power controls for windows and mirrors and door locks, cruise control and a keyless entry device, a center fold-down armrest for the rear seat, overhead console for the front seat, height-adjustable seats up front and a six-speaker 180-watt audio package with six-disc CD changer.

The list of optional gear extends to a power sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free phone kit and a Sport Package for the SL with spoilers all around plus foglamps.

2007 Nisssan Versa
Subcompact 3-door Hatchback
Subcompact 4-door Sedan
Model options:

Versa 1.8 S
Versa 1.8 SL

Engine size:

DOHC 1.8-L I4

I-4: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
V-6: 221 @ 6,250 rpm



102.4 inches

Overall Length:

Hatch: 169.1 inches
Sedan: 175.9 inches

Rear/Front Drive:



Electric power


disc/drum ABS/EBD/BA

Air bags:

2 (front)
2 (side)
4 (side curtain)

Fuel Economy:

CVT: 30/36 mpg


$12,000 to $17,000