Test Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan videos car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Nissan Versa

Nissan’s entry-level car, the Versa, is offered in two bodystyles, a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback. This year, the sedan was completely redesigned including an all-new platform that weighs about 68 kg (150 lbs) less, a revised 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine with an improved fuel injection system and continuously variable valve timing control system, and a next-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT). The four-speed automatic transmission that was also available in the 2011 Versa Sedan is no longer offered.

The Versa hatchback, with its standard 1.8-litre engine, remains the same for 2012.

Equipped with the optional CVT, the 2012 Versa Sedan offers a 13 per cent improvement in average fuel economy (L/100 km), now 6.7/5.2 city/hwy. That’s not the best fuel economy in its class – the Hyundai Accent is marginally better – but it’s still very good. Equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission, the Versa Sedan’s numbers are 7.5/5.8, slightly better than last year. For whatever reason (probably economic), Nissan chose not to upgrade the Sedan’s standard five-speed manual to a six-speed manual like the one available in the Versa hatchback.

Test Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan videos car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan. Click image to enlarge

With its new aerodynamic, rounded contours, the new Versa Sedan looks bigger than the previous sedan, but is actually slightly smaller overall. Still, the 2012 Versa sedan has one of the biggest passenger cabins in its class, and the most rear legroom and the biggest trunk of any sedan in its price range. Only the new Chevrolet Sonic has slightly more passenger space.

Base Versa 1.6 S Sedans start at a penny-pinching $11,798, and as you might expect, it’s pretty basic. The price includes 15-inch tires and steel wheels (up from 14-inchers in 2011), cloth seats, black dash, AM/FM/CD player with auxiliary input and two speakers, mini trip computer with average fuel consumption, tilt steering column, front and rear cupholders, digital clock, 12 volt power outlet. Standard safety features are generous though, including six standard airbags, active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. A notable omission is a centre rear head restraint.

Test Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan videos car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan. Click image to enlarge

Starting at $13,798, the Versa 1.6 SV Sedan is likely to be the more popular choice. To the base model, it adds standard air conditioning, upgraded fabric seats, height adjustable driver’s seat, split folding rear seatbacks, power door locks and keyless entry, power windows with driver’s auto-up/down feature, two more audio speakers, illuminated gauges, silver dash trim, and trunk light. Optional on the SV is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) ($1,300) and a Convenience package ($400) that includes hands-free connectivity, iPod interface system, steering wheel mounted audio, Bluetooth cell phone and cruise control functions. Our test car was so equipped with an as-tested price of $15,498 plus Freight and PDI of $1,467 and a/c tax of $100 for a total of $17,065.

The top Versa 1.6 SL Sedan for $16,298 adds a standard CVT, seven-spoke alloy wheels, fog lights, premium audio system with WMA/MP3 capability, steering wheel-mounted Bluetooth, audio and cruise control, iPod interface, variable intermittent wipers, front map lights, passenger vanity mirrors, and chrome inside door handles. An optional Technology Package ($800), available only on the SL, includes a navigation system with a five-inch colour touch-screen, XM satellite radio (subscription required) and USB connection for iPod and other devices.

Test Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan videos car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 SV sedan. Click image to enlarge

Our mid-level Versa SV test car included the upgraded black and grey cloth seats and some extra silver trim on the vents, dash and steering wheel, but in general the dash plastics look hard and cheap and the controls have a bargain-basement appearance. The radio display is difficult to read, the door armrests are made of hard plastic and there’s no centre armrest between the front seats or the rear seats. On the positive side, the backlit tachometer and speedo are easy to read, the heater and radio controls are easy to reach as is the shift lever, and the standard trip computer display between the gauges shows average fuel economy, current fuel consumption, and distance to empty. The fuel and coolant displays are rather tiny, though.

The driver’s seat includes a manual height adjuster and the steering wheel tilts up and down, but it doesn’t telescope in and out which can make it difficult for drivers with long legs and short arms. We found these seats comfortable enough for drives of an hour or less and the driver’s visibility is good except to the rear because of the high trunklid. Rear parking sensors would be a welcome option on the Versa Sedan.

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