2007 Nissan Versa

TALL, WELL-EQUIPPED, AND TOTALLY VERSa

by Scott Corlett

2007 Nissan Versa

Unlike many similarly worded personal ads, the above title remains true outside the author’s imagination, at least as it pertains to the 2007 Nissan Versa. As Nissan’s all-new offering for the US subcompact market, the Versa fits a niche auto manufacturers have long approached with trepidation. Unlike foreign consumers, Americans’ interest in small vehicles waxes and wanes with the cost of gasoline. Perhaps this is why Nissan gave the Versa unusual spaciousness and power—in hopes of continued sales if the price of regular again starts with a one. Whatever the reason, the 2007 Nissan Versa is one little hottie that need not rely on wishful labels to make new friends.

2007 Nissan Versa

At the end of March, I returned from Rio to find a 2007 Nissan Versa hatchback waiting at San Francisco’s airport. After a week spent in a country where ethanol fuels small cars and way-hot locals cover wide beaches, I was ready to … go back? Yes, but after seven days of hair-raising cab rides through Copa and Ipanema in micro-scale vehicles, my waiting Versa looked downright spacious. This perception stemmed from the five-door’s quirky, continental exterior styling, which was tall, narrow, and clipped in the rear (a more conventional-appearing sedan will be available later in the year). But as I climbed onto the driver’s seat, I found the juicy fruits of the hatchback’s slightly awkward stance: a good gap remained between my head and the ceiling (I’m 6’1”) and between my seat and the rear bench. And, even with the Versa’s flat ass, our wheelie looked desperately lonely in the large cargo hold.

2007 Nissan Versa

I fiddled with the adult-sized audio controls and crisp music from San Francisco’s gay radio station, Energy 92.7, blasted away the last wisps of twenty-hour-travel fog. I started the Versa’s 1.8-liter, 122-hp four-cylinder engine and shifted the six-speed manual transmission into first. (For the econo-class-leading powertrain, you can switch out the manny for a CVT automatic, which jazzes already good mileage from 30/34 to 30/36 mpg with only a minimal loss of pep.) I skipped the lot and as I merged at speed into thin traffic, the Versa reminded me that I was driving a sub-$13,000 vehicle. Like some old boyfriends, the electric power steering was dull and uncommunicative, and, when forced to work hard, the engine whined. Though not deal breakers, these deficits leave the Versa rubbing shoulders with the more common vehicles in its class.

2007 Nissan Versa

After a twenty-minute drive to the Castro, I pulled into the driveway, set the parking brake and looked around the Versa’s cleanly designed cabin. Above-class synthetics and fabrics both outfitted the cockpit surfaces and concealed a luxury-car array of standard airbags (front, seat-mounted side and curtain). Then, Barry Manilow’s voice sprang from the speakers and just hearing the word “Copacabana” brought flashbacks of Rio’s discos and beaches. After a moment, I looked back at my suitcase and then shook my head at the devil in the rearview mirror. No way was I driving to Rio … was I?

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