2012 Nissan Versa
2012 Nissan Versa. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Nissan Versa

Seattle, Washington – When the Nissan Versa was introduced in 2007, I described it as “the jumbo shrimp of subcompacts.” The metaphor was apt, consumers liked the Versa, and the vehicle turned out to be very successful for Nissan Canada.

But along with its “big on the inside, small on the outside” packaging, the Versa boasted another notable feature; its low price. This also appealed to thrifty Canadian consumers.

For 2012, the second-generation Versa Sedan doesn’t mess with success. It arrives in an even trimmer package — shaving 15 millimetres from its length, 30 mm in height and shedding 68 kilograms — and starts at a segment-leading $11,798 in base trim (plus $1,497 freight), rising to $13,798 for the higher-specification SV model and $16,298 for the top Versa SL.

Inside, the Versa Sedan boasts generous headroom, surprising rear seat legroom (equivalent to that of a full-size Lexus, Nissan says), and an intermediate-car sized 419 litre trunk. It really does offer a compact (and beyond) interior in a subcompact exterior.

2012 Nissan Versa
2012 Nissan Versa
2012 Nissan Versa. Click image to enlarge

Built on a new global “V” (for versatile) platform, the 2012 Versa Sedan is powered by a second-generation 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine with dual fuel injectors that makes 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the base and SV models, with a CVT “automatic” available at extra cost on the SV and standard on the SL.

Owners can expect fuel consumption of 6.7/5.2 L/100 km, city/highway (6.0 L/100 km combined) from the CVT models and 7.5/5.4 L/100 km city/highway (6.6 L/100 km combined) from the manual transmission.

The 2012 Versa Sedan’s exterior design has been massaged and smoothed, looking less boxy than the outgoing model. It is still a rather nondescript car, however, with pleasant but conventional lines that blend into the surrounding traffic. The Versa has a new grille that will debut on other Nissan models as they are released.

Nissan is aiming the Versa Sedan at a category of consumers it calls “social pragmatists,” which I believe kindly translates to “frugal.” However, very few people will purchase the Versa Sedan in base form (the rear seat doesn’t fold, windows are manual, no power locks, no air conditioning, although it does have heated mirrors), and Nissan executives admit that such a model exists mainly as a marketing exercise, enabling the company to bill the Versa as the sedan with the lowest MSRP in Canada.

While that may be true, most buyers will prefer a model with automatic transmission and “air,” which would be the $15,098 Versa SV. It is also equipped with popular features like power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, chrome trim, fine vision gauges and upgraded interior fabrics, riding on 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers. A $400 Convenience Package adds Bluetooth connectivity, remote audio controls, iPod interface and cruise control).

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