2007 Nissan Versa First Drive
A shift in expectations of what an entry-level car can be
Times have changed, however. Whereas not so long ago buying cheap and small meant you got cheap and small, today it doesn't necessarily mean either. Former entry-level cars such as the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla have grown in size, and no longer truly represent the compact class. Plus, performance-tuned models of each have also been developed, and, while geared for the small-budgeted enthusiast, these models sacrifice economy for horsepower. These developments have pushed entry-level price tags to all-time highs, leaving few models in the under-$15,000 class to choose from.
Fortunately though, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota aren’t neglecting the demand for entry-level compacts, which currently represents nearly 2 million units, or 11 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales. For 2007, the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris are poised to capture a significant chunk of buyers looking to go small. Among this new crop of compacts, the all-new 2007 Nissan Versa is worth a closer look, and you can check it out for yourself in five-door hatchback form this July, and in four-door sedan configuration in January of 2007. Nissan describes the Versa as a “plus-sized model at the upper end of the subcompact class,” but it clearly has the interior volume that you would expect in a larger vehicle.
Exact pricing has not been announced, although Nissan marketers report the Versa lineup will start at $12,000 excluding destination, likely as a sedan with the base manual transmission. With EPA fuel economy ratings up to 30 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, the attractively-designed Versa delivers solid power with class-leading horsepower and torque ratings, a choice between three transmissions, comfortable accommodations with best-in-class interior space, and high-quality execution in a package that is both affordable and efficient.
The 2007 Nissan Versa arrives amid a flood of new entry-level cars from a wide range of competitors. Although impressive, prices at $12,000 will not leave the new Versa unchallenged in the market: credible alternatives include the Honda Fit, Ford Focus ZX5, Kia Rio5, and Toyota Yaris. Nevertheless, Nissan expects the five-passenger Versa to deliver strong sales as 16 to 20 million Echo Boomers (the off-spring of Baby Boomers) reach driving age between now and 2010, but also forecasts that this segment will broaden its appeal to a wider range of buyers. We expect that the Versa’s size, power, price, fuel economy, quality and long list of standard amenities including side-impact and side curtain airbags will bring a host of customers who will find that buying small can reap big rewards.