2012 Nissan Versa (© Rod Hatfield)

2012 Nissan Versa

Nissan is showing its diversity at the 2011 New York International Auto Show, possibly hoping to remind car buyers that there's more to the company's vision than a certain widely publicized electric vehicle. (Give you a hint: It's the LEAF.)

While Nissan only unveiled one new production vehicle, the 2012 Versa, it did present a sketch of a 3-row crossover from its Infiniti luxury brand, called the JX, and a race-car redesign of the LEAF.

Details about the 2013 JX will be doled out through this year, with a full reveal of the production model at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The LEAF NISMO RC is more fully formed, but don't expect to see it in competition any time soon.

The new Versa, on the other hand, will be in showrooms this summer, for a starting price that drew a collective double-take at the news conference: $10,990. That includes real-world basic features, like air conditioning and a CD player with auxiliary input. Like the LEAF, this overly rounded four door won't win any beauty contests, and its tiny, 1.6-liter engine looks like a transplant from a dying microcar. None of that's relevant, though. Nissan re-energized the electric vehicle market. Who knows what a respectable $11,000 car will do.

More coverage from the New York Auto Show

2012 Nissan Versa

Click to enlarge picture2012 Nissan Versa (© Rod Hatfield)

2012 Nissan Versa

Click to enlarge picture2012 Nissan Versa (© Rod Hatfield)

2012 Nissan Versa

What is it? A dirt-cheap redesign of Nissan's 4-door compact.

What makes it hot? Unless this is an elaborate prank on Nissan's part, and the Versa shows up at dealerships with Flintstones-style cutouts in the floor, there are $10,990 reasons to like this car. If you can live with 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, that 'little engine that could' will manage 37 mpg on the highway — and 33 mpg combined — a boost of 5 mpg over the last Versa.

What concerns us? Just how barebones is that starting price?

How much and when? Again, $10,990, available this summer.

Our verdict? Until the full details about those standard features are released, who knows how the Versa will measure up to the Cruzes and Fiestas of the world?

Bing: 2012 Nissan Versa

Nissan LEAF

Click to enlarge pictureNissan LEAF NISMO RC (© Rod Hatfield)

Nissan LEAF NISMO RC

Click to enlarge pictureNissan LEAF NISMO RC (© Rod Hatfield)

Nissan LEAF NISMO RC

Click to enlarge pictureNissan LEAF NISMO RC (© Rod Hatfield)

Nissan LEAF NISMO RC

What is it? A race-ready version of Nissan's all-electric LEAF.

What makes it hot? It's still undeniably stout, but the wider, low-slung frame (a foot shorter and a half-foot wider than the non-NISMO version) and requisite spoiler (or adjustable rear wing, to be specific) add up to a surprisingly aggressive overhaul of the LEAF's nice-guy looks. The layout is also intriguing — the powertrain has been flipped, driving the rear wheels instead of the front, and the battery pack and motors were shifted to the middle of the car. Nissan also shaved 40 percent off the LEAF's weight, removing the rear doors, seats, trunk and other nonessential components, bringing the weight down to 2,068 pounds. According to Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares, the LEAF NISMO RC is "a rolling laboratory for the accelerated development of EV and aerodynamic systems." It won't be the first electric race car collecting data, but as Nissan cements its position as a major player in the electric vehicle (EV) market, the NISMO could boost the performance of future battery-powered cars.

What concerns us? If the goal is to change American minds about EVs as 98-pound weaklings, a race car that can only race for 20 minutes, at a top speed of 93 mph, might not be the segment's best ambassador.

How much and when? NISMO RC isn't for sale. And though Nissan says the car will be on display at racing events this year, the company won't be entering it into any competitions just yet.

Our verdict? Transforming the Leaf into a slick little speedster is a genuine magic trick. But until this thing hits the track against other EVs, this is more of a desperate PR stunt than proof that electrics can run with the racing pack.

Read:  9 Things You Need to Know Before Buying an Electric Car

Based out of the Boston area, Erik Sofge is frequent contributor to Popular Mechanics and Slate.com. He specializes in everything scientific and technical.