My Mustang went in to the body shop for a couple of days to have the rear bumper re-finished from its run in at the car wash last month, so I have a Nissan Versa Sedan as a rental for a couple of days.
Enterprise so wanted me to review this car that they picked me up at the body shop and only charged me for an economy car. The car wash guys will be reimbursing me for the rental, but I didn’t want to get into a pissing match over renting something more acceptable.
I had reserved an “economy” car, and got a free upgrade to a compact car, this 2017 Nissan Versa SV.
Engine – 1.6L DOHC Direct Injected 4-cyl with 109hp and 107lb-ft of torque
Transmission – Xtronic CVT, FWD
Suspension – Strut with rear Torsion beam
Wheels/tires – 15” steel wheels with hubcaps and P185/65HR15 all-season low rolling resistance tires
Brakes – vented front/rear drums
MSRP - $15,720
Rated MPG – 31 city / 39 highway
The Driving – 2/10
Right up front I have to say that there was a period of my life that I owned three Nissans at the same time. All of them had more power than this car, even my 1971 Datsun 510. In over 40 years the Nissan 1.6L 4-cyl went from 105hp in a 2000 lb. car to 109hp in a 2500 lb. car. If the Versa were rear wheel drive with a manual transmission it might be an entertaining start to a performance platform. As it is this is an overlooked afterthought of a car. This is almost the definition of the car as an appliance. Basic transportation is boiled down in this car to only the essentials.
Coming to it from the Mustang I found the ride to be barely acceptable. The economy grade tires on it might be good for efficiency, but have terrible grip. Even going in a straight line seems to give them trouble. If anything it rides stiffer than my Mustang, but with a lot more give to the suspension, choosing to roll over in the corners instead of gripping. At no time did I feel safe taking this car over 65mph.
Visually, driving around in this car makes me feel like I’m driving a crossover SUV, not a compact car. It’s tall and narrow.
Transmission – 1/10
The transmission is an abomination. The CVT might be good for fuel efficiency, but is terrible in any measurable performance category. I stood on the gas to take an on-ramp and found the CVT surging uncomfortably with the artificial shift points. At no time does it ever sound like a real transmission, despite Nissan’s efforts to put those shift points into the programming.
Brakes – 2/10
The brakes are acceptable for what they are, but I wouldn’t expect them to hold up to any abuse. I would not recommend any autocross or track time in this car, and would expect the brake fluid to boil if you looked at it wrong.
Interior – 2/10
There are seats and belts for 5 people. The seats are not comfortable. In two days of driving this thing I was unable to achieve an acceptable position with the driver’s seat. I always felt off balance, as if I was going to fall out at any moment. The seating position is tall and upright and uncomfortable. The seats bases are flat with no lateral support, but then so are the seat backs. Have I mentioned that they’re uncomfortable?
Toys – 2/10
There’s a radio, with both USB and Aux inputs. It works for some audio, because honestly you can’t listen to the engine at all. This car has no touch screen, no satellite radio, no real dash features. The instrument cluster is set up in a way that prevents you from having more than one piece of information at a time. You can see the outside temperature, the gas mileage, the trip odometer, or the total miles on the car, but not all at once. It has cruise control, and some radio controls on the steering wheel as well as Bluetooth for your phone, but I didn’t bother with any of that.
Styling – 1/10
I really feel like there was almost no effort made here to design an aesthetically pleasing automobile. This is a basic three box design car, with slab sides and some bits of chromed plastic stuck on for “style”. As previously mentioned, it sits tall, making me feel like I’m driving an off-roader, not a wimpy sedan. It does have a rear spoiler, but since it’s on a FWD car it’s useless. The side window line doesn’t align with the hood, instead choosing a line a few inches lower. Great for visibility, but who really wants to be seen driving this?
Overall – 10/60
I wouldn’t recommend this car to an enemy. The only upside is that I should only have to had in a couple of gallons of gas for three days use before I return it.