By Clint Williams
Green Right Now
Nissan introduced a bare-bones edition of the subcompact Versa last fall to bring to market a new car with a starting sticker price of less than $10,000. To hit that price point, Nissan replaced the 1.8-liter engine with a smaller 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The company also stripped away the gadgets and do-dads many drivers have come to expect.
The cheapest edition has no air-conditioning. While the test vehicle was equipped with A/C (at a base MSRP of $10,990) there are few other comforts.
There is no radio — and no power windows, no power locks, no power mirrors, no center console armrest. Some things are easier to live with than others. The window cranks are quaint – who knew they still made window cranks? – but the manual locks and mirrors generate more hassle that you would expect.
The car, however, does a perfectly adequate job of getting from Point A to Point B. The performance is short of peppy, but the 107-horsepower power plant allows you to merge safely into freeway traffic. The five-speed shifter is sure enough, as is the handling.
The cabin is surprisingly quiet, something you’ll really notice without the distraction of any sort of sound system. The seats are comfortable and the cloth upholstery feels pretty nice. The interior trim is Spartan, but it’s nicer than some Chryslers costing twice as much.
The back seats offer generous legroom and enough headroom to wear a cowboy hat. The trunk seems as spacious as anything you’ll find in the class.
The Versa is frugal, getting an EPA estimated 26 mpg in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway. The car is rated as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle.
Most buyers looking for a get-to-work car will almost certainly add some options – starting with the $250 anti-lock braking system. But $10,000 is a pretty good starting point.
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