Green Update: The Nissan Versa Comes on Strong

2012 Nissan Versa, front

Does driving a cheap car equate to being green? Well, not if you’re driving a smoking old Mercury Monterey. But some of the new smaller cars are getting incredible mileage and doing it on the cheap.

The Nissan Versa used to be the butt of many jokes, but the new Versa sedan is a “serious upgrade” of a car that is bigger inside than the Fiesta, has a new dual-injector engine and a good continuously variable transmission (CVT), and can boast 30 mpg city and 38 highway in the sedan version.

Basic transportation never had it so good. The 2012 hatchback is the same car as last year’s, but Nissan dropped the base price $240 to $15,140, including a transportation charge of $760. The sedan, going on sale next month, starts at $11,750 (at $10,990, this is the lowest MSRP in the U.S.).

2012 Nissan VersaThe new Versa sedan lost 150 pounds in weight and got a bigger trunk and a nice redesign. The engine is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, putting out 109 hp (and 107 lb-ft of torque). There are three trim levels, the top being the SL, with the usual convenience goodies and the CVT: $16,320. For the base S version, air conditioning, 6-way adjustable seats, and an AM/FM/CD/Aux audio system are standard equipment.

Car and Driver says the interior “suffers from granite-hard surfaces and flagrant cost cutting. …But a Nissan Versa probably will keep you on your commuting schedule for just pennies per mile, the whole idea behind driving a cheap new car instead of rolling the dice with a used ride.”

Besides that, it’s better-looking and bigger inside than most of its competition in the compact class. The idea of offering something more than a stripped-down base model is smart—as the Cruze testifies. And the fact that Nissan has made a decent-performing CVT (standard in all but the base trim) is to its credit.

Another instance of green being in the eye of the beholder.

Do you think the new Nissan Versa sedan will catch on? Nissan sales increased 17 percent in June.

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Mercury Monterey
Used Nissan Versa
Used Ford Fiesta
Used Chevrolet Cruze

4 Comments

  1. I’m with panayoti on this one. A reliable, roomy, practical car that starts for under $11K is going to be a success no matter what it looks like.

  2. Don’t know if this little guy will “catch on” as it is not a styling or performance stud. What it is however is a very competent, reliable, efficient, economical and practical vehicle. Those are pretty good traits for those in this economic environment. This is also a very roomy small car that does what it was designed to do and it does it pretty well. I’ve driven them in all guises but prefer the top trim line because you can get an armrest. I’m 6’3″, 220 and fit in there better than most midsize and full sized vehicles. No, I’m not exaggerating. The room is incredible especially for your legs, shoulders, knees, and head.

    I wouldn’t want to drive this guy to Florida, but for the urban commuter who has to get back and forth from work and for jaunts to the store or grocery, this one is hard to beat. Are you a golfer?? The new one will allow you to get your 3 buddies and all four golf bags in the trunk. Try that with your Prius. Yes, this little guy isn’t fast, good looking, really comfortable, or powerful. But it is cheap and saves you about $9000 over a Prius driven 15,000 miles in upfront cost. That will buy 2600 gallons of gas @$3.50. So if you are economically challenged in this current environment, its hard to do better than this. In essence you are driving for free for about 4.5 years compared to the Prius. Not too shabby.

  3. Why are the Koreans so good at making interesting-looking small cars and all the Japanese seem to be able to make are these dull, boring rental boxes? Even the Cruze is a better looking car. I guess the statement Nissan is trying to make is that if you want to look like you have some sense of style and taste, you need to spend more money. (Although you might not be able to find well-styled cars at ANY price from Nissan.)

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