Knowing that entry-level vehicles are used as workhorses— for commuting on weekdays, running errands on weekends and transporting family and friends all week long—the designers at Nissan sought to combine five-passenger practicality with a high degree of comfort and refinement for the all-new 2012 Versa Sedan.
The new Versa's interior volume of 90 cubic feet and trunk volume of 14.8 cubic feet (104.8 cubic feet combined) not only looks great on a specifications sheet—but also indicates how the passenger and cargo spaces have been configured for real-world use.
The Versa has, for example, more rear legroom than some midsize sedans—trumping even luxury cars such as the Lexus LS460, BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
And the trunk design focuses on useable space, taking into consideration everything from the size of the hinges to the shape of the sidewalls. Our test vehicle, the SL model, offers a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat for even greater versatility.
Other available interior features include a trip computer, power windows with driver's one-touchdown, speed-sensing, auto door locks, remote trunk release lever and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
MORE UPSCALE LOOK
The Versa's new exterior design is also a departure from most current compact sedans, offering a refreshing design character that is both sophisticated and aerodynamic.
To achieve new Versa's upscale look, Nissan designers gave the exterior shape a strong sense of volume, with a wide shoulder width and a smooth silhouette. In front, the Versa features Nissan's new signature sedan-grille design and jewel-like headlights.
The front end blends smoothly into the cabin, which offers fl owing curves, while design elements such as the "Bangle Butt"-shaped trunk lid helps give the Versa excellent aerodynamics, including a low drag coefficient of just 0.31.
Other exterior features include a fixed roof antenna, body-color front and rear fascias and available chrome-accented grille, blacked-out B-pillar, chrome door handles and front fog lights.
The 2012 Versa Sedan is offered in three well-equipped models: Versa Sedan 1.6 S (offered in 5 speed manual transmission and CVT [continuously variable transmission] versions), Versa Sedan 1.6 SV (CVT only) and Versa Sedan 1.6 SL (CVT only).
Along with the 1.6 S model's many standard features, the 1.6 SV adds cruise control, Fine Vision instrumentation, chrome grille accents, body-color dual power remote-controlled side-view mirrors, upgraded cloth seats, power windows and more.
Versa Sedan 1.6 SL models add 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, fog lights, variable intermittent wipers, chromed inside door handles, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, steering wheel audio controls, USB/iPod connectivity, upgraded audio system, door-linked map lights and more.
ALL-NEW V PLATFORM
One of the biggest challenges in designing a compact sedan, of course, is where to put everything— people, cargo, engine, transmission and other mechanical components.
Often the solution is to gather a fraction of an inch here, a fraction there and hope they add up to a usable benefit. For the new Versa, the approach used by Nissan designers was a little more radical—to create a totally new global platform and drive-train, reducing the size of the engine and transmission, cutting back on component parts and dropping platform weight.
The Versa's all-new front-wheel- drive global "V" platform (designated "V" for versatile) uses nearly 2% fewer platform components and weighs around 150 pounds less than the previous "B" platform.
While retaining the same 102.4-inch wheelbase and 66.7- inch width as its previous generation, the new model is 1.2 inches lower in height (59.6 inches) and 0.6 inches shorter in overall length (175.4 inches).
The biggest dimensional gain, however, is in the visible gain in trunk length—provided by a more compact engine/transmission design that allows for a 2.7-inch increase in rear overhang (the distance from the center of the rear tire to the rear bumper).
The second-generation 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine includes a range of cutting-edge technologies, making it one of the most advanced powerplants in its class.
For example, while the average engine uses only one injector per cylinder to inject fuel, the new Versa engine is equipped with two streamlined injectors mounted near the inlet valve for each cylinder. This helps stabilize combustion.
T he new compact, lighterweight engine also uses a twin continuously variable timing control (CVTC) system mounted on both intake and exhaust ports (versus conventional CVTC systems, which are mounted only on the intake port), similar to the system used on the flagship Nissan Maxima.
The new 1.6-liter engine is rated at 109 horsepower and 107 foot-pounds of torque.
The Versa is available with a five-speed manual transmission (1.6 S model only) and a next-generation Xtronic CVT transmission. The CVT allows continuous change of the transmission gear ratio by connecting the two pulleys with a metallic belt and changing their diameter using hydraulic pressure.
Versa also offers low rolling resistance P185/65R15 all-season tires with available 15- inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Fuel economy for the Versa is estimated at 30 miles per gallon (mpg) city, 38 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined with the CVT transmission, and 27/36/30 mpg with the manual transmission.
All Versas are equipped with an independent MacPherson-strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, with front and rear stabilizer bars. Other standard equipment includes electric power steering and power-assisted front disc/ rear drum brakes.
An antilock braking system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist is also standard on all Versa Sedan models.
In addition, the new Versa is the first Nissan model in the U.S. branded with the Puredrive designation. Puredrive will be used on models using Nissan's most advanced technologies to promote ecofriendly driving and lower CO2 emissions.
Standard safety features found on every 2012 Versa Sedan include the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS), seat-mounted driver and front passenger side-impact supplemental airbags, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection.