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.