Perhaps lost in the ballyhoo around the new Nissan Note—introduced recently in Japan and hailed as a preview of the next-gen Nissan Versa hatchback—was some good news on the value front: The 2013 Nissan Versa Sedan will achieve a major symbolic victory thanks to a minor bump in fuel economy, becoming the first gasoline-powered Nissan product sold in this country to reach 40 mpg. And really, that aforementioned bump adds up to non-negligible increases of 1 mpg city/2 mpg highway/2 mpg combined for a new EPA line of 31/40/35.
That’s with the Versa’s 1.6-liter I4 hooked up to a CVT, and while the numbers don’t change for the car’s five-speed manually transmissioned powertrain—which remains at 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined—customers now will be able to enjoy a traditional automatic-transmission option, albeit one with just four forward gears. With that choice, the Versa will be rated at 26/35/30.
“We found that our customers still appreciate the value proposition of having an automatic transmission in the lineup, as it shaves a little off the MSRP from the CVT-equipped model,” said Phil Leinert, a product communications manager for Nissan. “In addition, the 4 speed automatic was already offered in other North American markets, so we felt it made sense to bring it to the U.S. for the 2013 model year.”
2013 Nissan Versa vs. Its Rivals
The real key here, though, is cracking that 40-mpg mark, which is something two of the Versa’s mainstream subcompact rivals, the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, can’t yet accomplish. In fact, the Versa sedan is now the most efficient subcompact in the country if you go by EPA ratings for combined driving. Using that measure, the current players and their best city/highway/combined mpg ratings are:
- Nissan Versa Sedan—31/40/35
- Kia Rio—30/40/34
- Hyundai Accent—30/40/34
- Ford Fiesta SFE—29/40/33
- Chevy Sonic—29/40/33
- Honda Fit—28/35/31
- Toyota Yaris—30/38/33
And keep in mind that the Rio, Accent, Sonic and Yaris are all posting those marks using manual transmissions—unlike the Versa Sedan.
Now, pricing for the 2013 Nissan Versa Sedan has yet to be released, and that will be something to watch when the vehicle goes on sale in August. The current Versa Sedan is the lowest-priced new car in the U.S., showing an MSRP of just $10,990. That’s with air conditioning, too, as well as just enough other content to make the entry-level model a wholly livable transportation solution, a claim backed up by the sales numbers: Combined deliveries of the Versa duo were up 101.3 percent in June, on a segment-leading volume of 8,746 deliveries. The Versa also leads the segment in terms of year-to-date sales, with 60,919 (up 32.8 percent).
2013 Nissan Versa: So, What About That Hatchback?
As mentioned, Nissan recently revealed its new Note five-door in Yokohama, Japan, and that’s going to be the automaker’s small hatchback for global markets. But it also speaks a new design language that will be translated into American for the next Versa Hatchback, due some time in 2013 (the 2012 version will carry on unchanged until the end of the calendar year).
What else can U.S. customers expect from the Note-influenced Versa? According to Andy Palmer, executive vice president of Nissan: “There's always going to be differences per market. It would be an extremely arrogant product planner that could tell you that there could be one car globally. Again, our brand positioning statement includes ‘for everyone.’ So, clearly we are listening to the customers in each of our main markets and we're adapting the vehicle to their needs.
“Now, from a design perspective, the vehicle doesn't change significantly from market to market, but you will see differences.
“For example, in the type of engines that we use and some features of the design which will be a little bit different from market to market—tuned to the customer needs, tuned to the customer taste, but basically execution of the best compact car that Nissan can bring to the market.”
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