The 2009 Nissan Versa SL Hatchback

versa-hatchback-08Car Talk
By Jonathan Pitman

Usually when you think of inexpensive cars you think of vehicles that are not as well made or rides like a tin can. Well, with the Nissan Versa hatchback my assumption has been modified. Let’s talk about the drive. I test drove the Versa Hatchback SL, which comes equipped with the CVT transmission. From previous Nissan articles you know that I am not very fond of the CVT transmission on some Nissan models because it is shiftless, which takes sway the joy of the whole car. However, the good thing about the CVT on the Versa hatchback is that it produces good fuel economy; 33 MPG’s to be exact.

Another good quality of the Versa is how roomy it is and how much legroom the passengers have, not only in the front, but also in the rear. However, the expanded legroom sacrificed the trunk volume. There is not much of it. The seats do, however, fold flat allowing for more space. Another negative thing about the Versa Hatchback is its lack of cup holders. There are only two cup holders up front, but I could not identify cup holders for the passengers in the rear.

Despite having only 122 horsepower, this 1.8 liter DOHC four cylinder engine accelerated from 0-60 in 10 seconds. You may think that is slow, but for a car this light that is pretty impressive. Looks and performance can sometimes be deceiving. The engine was remarkably smooth for a car that appears small from the outside, but is big on the inside. The interior was simple and appealing, but not fancy. The gauges are sporty and have a readout of 140 MPH, not that you will be traveling that fast.

The Versa has no engine temperature gauge. This might take some getting used to. The only way to tell if the vehicle is overheating is a temperature symbol that is blue when the engine is cold, and another color if it is hot.

Aside from the engine smoothness, the suspension selection also contributed to a smoother ride. The front suspension is equipped with independent struts and a torsion rear suspension with integrated stabilizer bar for improved handling and control. In normal driving conditions, the Versa handled well. Again, I was expecting this car to give me a rough ride but it was extremely quiet with limited road noise. It was not as bumpy as I thought considering this vehicles sticker price.

Safety features on the Versa Hatchback Includes 6 Standard airbags, an Anti-Lock Brakes System (ABS), Brake Force Distribution (EBD), which is a system that adjusts the brakes based on the weight of the passengers and cargo, and Brake Assist, which senses how quickly the brakes are engaged and automatically applies the necessary braking power for improved control and braking capabilities. You will also be pleased to know that the Versa received top honors in most crash test ratings, earning five stars in front, side, and rollover tests. Another useful safety mechanism is the optional tire pressure monitoring system. A light appears on the dash that tells the driver that the tires are under inflated. This is something you would expect to find on higher end models, but Nissan is offering this type of technology on lower end models.

Other options on the Versa Hatchback include 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, and the available intelligent key, an option that allows the consumer to automatically open the doors and rear lift gate without ever taking the key out of their pocket. The Versa I drove came equipped with the convenience package which added extras such as Bluetooth technology, steering wheel audio controls, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. Among the other packages that are only available on the hatchback model are the 1.8 SL audio package and the 1.8 SL sports package. The 1.8 SL audio package offers a Rockford Fosgate premium system with subwoofer. The 1.8 SL sports package, which is equipped with fog lights, and rear roof spoiler. Another package is the moon roof package which speaks for itself. While the added packages increases the price of the vehicle, a well equipped Versa hatchback costs less than $17,000.

Overall, this car is a good example of style, and fuel economy. If that’s your cup of tea, the Versa might be one of the better choices.

(Photo supplied)