2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL
2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Nissan Versa

When we first drove the Nissan Versa hatchback in mid-2006, we called it the “jumbo shrimp” of the subcompact class. Four years later, the same observation is appropriate: the Versa has the roomiest passenger cabin in the subcompact class (2682 litres/94.7 cu. ft.), mostly because of its extra long (2600 mm/102.4 in.) wheelbase. The Versa’s cargo area behind the rear seats is also very spacious (504 litres/17.8 cu. ft.), but not quite as big as the clever Honda Fit’s trunk (585 litres/20.6 cu. ft.) with its low floor.

The Versa hatchback looks to be almost as big as the compact Toyota Matrix, but it is actually about 70 mm (2.8 in.) narrower. What really defines the Versa hatch as a subcompact is its price, which ranges between $14,198 and $18,698. The Versa’s 2010 suggested retail prices have jumped since last year though, increasing $200 on Versa 1.8 S models and $500 on 1.8 SL models.

Still, the Versa’s 2010 pricing is comparable with other 2010 subcompact hatchbacks, such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio5. They’ll soon be joined by the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 and possibly the Fiat 500, all of which are smaller than the Versa.

2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL
2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL
2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL. Click image to enlarge

Of course, not everyone wants a “large” subcompact. People buy small cars because they’re, well, small! They’re also nimble, economical, easy to park, fun to drive and reasonably priced. But for those who want the most interior room for their dollar, along with decent performance and fuel economy at a subcompact price, it’s hard to beat the Versa.

As in 2009, the 2010 Versa is available in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback bodystyles. The entry-level Versa sedan ($12,698) has a 107-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder motor and a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. The Versa Hatchback in S ($14,198) and SL trim ($17,398) offers a 122-hp 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine (the largest engine in its class) and standard six-speed manual (the only six-speed in its class) or optional four-speed automatic (S) or continuously variable transmission (SL) (the only CVT in its class).

For 2010, the Versa sedan is mostly unchanged, but the hatchback receives some minor styling revisions: a slightly different front grille design, new wheel design, revised body-coloured bumpers, and a new bumper and side sill design on SL models as part of the Sport Package.

Perhaps the most important change for 2010 is the addition of electronic stability control which was not available in 2009. For 2010, it comes packaged with anti-lock brakes and is now standard on the 1.8 SL hatchbacks and optional on base 1.8 S hatchback models (for $800). All Versas continue to offer front disc/rear drum brakes.

2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL
2010 Nissan Versa hatchback 1.8 SL. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the 2010 Versa hatchback has new seat fabric, standard auxiliary jack and iPod connector, and improved interior lighting. The optional Bluetooth hands-free phone system now comes as part of the optional Sport Package. The optional Tech Package has been discontinued.

Standard equipment on the 2010 Versa 1.8 S hatchback includes the six-speed manual transmission, 15-inch tires and steel wheels, double-thickness foam front seats, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input and four speakers, power heated mirrors, tilt steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper and washer, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, rear cargo privacy cover, six airbags, four height adjustable head restraints, and active front head restraints.

The SL hatchback adds alloy wheels, air conditioning, woven cloth upholstery, height adjustable driver’s seat, power windows with driver’s auto up/down, power door locks with keyless entry, premium CD/MP3 stereo with iPod interface, six speakers and speed-sensitive volume control, cruise control, map lights, rear door pockets, driver vanity mirror, front centre armrest with storage, rear centre armrest, and vehicle security system.

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