New Versa Costs Under $11K
Nissan's 4-door compact offers a lot in a little package.
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.)
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.
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?
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.
Based out of the Boston area, Erik Sofge is frequent contributor to Popular Mechanics and Slate.com. He specializes in everything scientific and technical.
- Become a fan of MSN Autos on Facebook.
- Visit MSN Autos' "Exhaust Notes" blog to keep up on all things automotive.
- In the market for a new car? MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.
Must-See on MSN
I have a 2007 Versa Hatchback. I didn't love it in the beginning, but now I've
come to appreciate it. Inside is comfortable, larger than most smaller cars.
A tall person can sit in back seat with lots of leg space and height space. It
was originally advertised about the size being roomy inside. Hatchback
is good size and back seats go down. I hauled big items by putting down
the back seats. It's 2011 and I still haven't had anything break down. I think
what I didn't LOVE is I feel a a bit insecure on the Freeways as I had always
had a larger car. I had to adjust to that. Good mileage. Style is still current.
I have not seen the 2012 version, but the 2011 is well built, yes no bells or whistles, but all std safety feature with 6 airbags. For the same price as a used 2002 Honda with 100k+ on it. Ill take less bells and whistles and a FULL warranty.
I now have 23k on my 2011 and only oil changes. Great car for the money
might replace those Versa's with Jetta - TDI next time you buy.
2. better MPG (mine gets 36city/43 hwy)
3. biodiesel is very clean which is good for the enviroment.