I rolled the rental dice and I lost, big time. This time I was not spared the horror of having a Nissan, no, after 2 years of not having the misfortune of driving a Nissan, I got a Versa. I abhorred the last Nissan I had, a 2017 Sentra, so let’s find out if the 2019 Versa is any better.
When I looked that the paperwork I had been handed by the rental car agent, I was overcome with dread, I would be spending the next four days in my least favorite car. I detest this car so much that I have a Versa badge on my trashcan at work.
Despite this, I tried to approach it with an open mind. Maybe I’m making a big fuss over nothing, maybe it’ll be fine. I spent a few minutes setting up the car, and, of course, informing Oppo that the unthinkable had happened. When I first set off on the drive, I started to worry, I didn’t immediately hate it. Great, I’m about to have to put my foot in my mouth, I’ve trashed this car forever and it’s actually not terrible. However, once I got onto the highway, my feelings immediately started to change.
Once I got above 60 MPH, I found myself having to put constant input into the wheel to keep the car in a straight line. This was a bit tiring for the 15-20 minutes I was on the interstate, I can’t imagine a several hour drive in it, I would be completely and entirely exhausted. In addition to requiring constant input, the steering is also heavy and vague. While, I’m not a fan generally a fan of over-boosted electric power steering, this just felt really heavy. Now, this is normally not a bad attribute as this usually means excellent road feel and feedback; the Versa lacked both of this. Steering input seemed to be both non-linear and imprecise. Really, it’s just horrendous, it requires constant input to keep the car in your lane and forget when you get to a corner, it’s terrible when you get to those, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
In keeping with the theme of non-linear, let’s now addressed the brakes. Now, I don’t know what’s going on with the brakes, but they had absolutely no feel and didn’t react in a linear manner to input. They would stop the car, but it was always very jerky, smooth is not a word that I would associate with the brakes. I believe they have some electrical assist or something, whatever it is, it’s shit. I felt like I had to take my foot off the brake when I was braking because it was applying too much most of the time, and I feel like when I was just about to come to a stop, the brakes completely grabbed and jerked me to a stop.
Both the steering and the brakes lack any feel whatsoever, so it’s no surprise when it comes to handling that the Versa is terrible at it. It rolls through corners; forget about taking turns with any speed, it doesn’t want to do that. I was on a couple roads that meandered a little bit and it could barely handle those curves; I can’t imagine taking this on a mountain road, I would probably be scared for my life. It also felt like it had no grip, but we can attribute that to the cheap economy tires that were on it.
On the other hand, because it had so much body roll, it soaked up bumps pretty well. There were a couple times I had to fight the steering a little to keep the car going straight over a rough section of road, but the suspension seemed to cope with the bumps alright. See, I’m not going to completely hate on the Versa for everything.
It had a touch screen, a USB input, and a cup holder. That’s about it. I didn’t mess around with bluetooth and just plugged my phone into the USB in the center console. That worked fine, I would have liked Apple Carplay or something, but it is a Versa after all. The stereo made some noise, it wasn’t very good quality, but it at least worked fine. Aside from that, it was the usual sea of grey and black plastic. While I wouldn’t call the seat uncomfortable, I don’t think I would go as far to call it comfortable either. A longer drive might have yielded different results.
What Power? When I first got in the car and took off down the road the rental place was on, I thought that it didn’t feel slow. That’s probably because I was the only one on that road and it was certainly faster than walking. My mind on that was soon changed. It did fine until about 20 MPH and then it pretty much ran out of steam. Getting to any speed over that required many seconds of relentless Versa acceleration. To make sure they gave me an engine, I popped the hood and double checked:
In fact there is an engine in there, and according to Nissan, it has 109 horsepower. That’s less than half of what my 328i has. It is slow and merging onto highways needs to be done with a lot more calculation than in my 328i, forget the M3.
Just look at it. It is an atrocious looking car.
Is my trashcan worthy of bestowing this badge? Yes it is, the Versa is as terrible as I thought it was going to be. I just hope I never had to suffer the abject misery of renting a Versa ever again; when can I drive my M3 to get this awful taste out of my mouth?