First Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa sedan reviews nissan first drives auto articles
First Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa sedan reviews nissan first drives auto articles
First Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa sedan reviews nissan first drives auto articles
2012 Nissan Versa. Click image to enlarge

You can lower the SV price to $13,798 with a manual transmission, but the premium Versa SL is CVT-only, comes standard with the Convenience Package and adds alloy wheels (still 15-inch) and fog lights, for $16,298. It can also be specified with a navigation system and satellite radio for an additional $800. Top price for the 2012 Versa, then, is $17,098 all-in.

On the road the Versa Sedan is smooth and quiet in normal driving conditions. The suspension is tuned for comfort and the operation of the CVT transmission seems much less intrusive than earlier versions. Only under hard acceleration does engine noise become noticeable, producing a utilitarian note.

As mentioned above, rear seat legroom is a notable feature of this car, and parents should have no problem accommodating one, two or even three young children back there. Up front, the driver and passenger have plenty of room to stretch out, but shoulder room is somewhat limited. Although the steering wheel tilts up and down, it doesn’t telescope, which is a feature that shorter drivers may miss. The trunk requires a key to unlock from the outside, which used to be normal, but now seems inconvenient.

The rear seatbacks split and fold 60/40, but as noted above, they are not fitted to the base model. The interior is only available in a dark grey (charcoal) colour that Nissan Canada research indicates is the preference for most Canadians. The charcoal is nice enough, but Americans also get a smart beige interior that brightens things up. Overall, though, the interior is nicely executed and doesn’t look or feel cheap.

Driving in the urban traffic of Seattle, Washington, the Versa impressed us as a simple car to operate, easy to enter and exit, and quiet on the road. Its controls are basic and easy to use, with large rotary knobs for heating and ventilation and good outward visibility in all directions. Its bug-eyed vents located at each end of the dashboard seem a little Nissan Juke-like, but they work well enough, directing a good volume of air to your face or to the side windows. They’re probably the only quirky design feature of the whole car.

First Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa sedan reviews nissan first drives auto articles
2012 Nissan Versa; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

Indeed, the Versa eschews the distinctive design of, say, the Hyundai Accent, and the sporty character of the Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta. In contrast, it’s a plain but agreeable car that delivers solid practicality without much personality. Small car, quality feel, lots of room, low price is pretty much the story.

Unfortunately for Canadians, who in general prefer hatchbacks over sedans (only 10 per cent of Versas sold here are sedans), the new Versa hatchback won’t be available for another year-and-a-half. Until then, the first-generation Versa hatchback continues unchanged, and Nissan Canada is hoping that the qualities of the new Versa Sedan will balance the hatchback/sedan mix by the time the new Versa hatchback is released.

The 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan is built in Mexico and arrives in showrooms mid-August, 2011.

Pricing: 2012 Nissan Versa
Base (MT only): $11,798
SV MT: $13,798
SV CVT: $15,098
SL CVT: $16,298
Freight: $1,497

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