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Versa: the Newcomer to the Subcompact Class

The increasing prices of gasoline have led car buyers to turn away from larger cars and vehicles and have turned their attention to smaller but more fuel efficient units. In response to this demand, car manufacturers have been focusing their attention to the production of smaller cars such as sedans and hatchbacks.

The number of new compact cars in the market continually increases as the demand for these vehicles also increase. Since the segment is by far the fastest growing class, car manufacturers see to it that they are offering the best in this class. This has led to fierce competition in the said market which means that the consumers are benefited by the increasing quality of small cars while enjoying less fuel cost. The subcompact car segment is currently being dominated by cars such as the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris. Recently though, another Japanese brand has entered the segment with the Nissan Versa.

The Versa is the newest addition to Nissan's lineup in the United States auto market and also the newest addition to the subcompact car segment. Today's subcompacts may look small but the interior is roomy enough to provide a good headroom and leg space for passengers. The Versa is one of those subcompact cars which offer good interior space while providing good fuel economy. These traits are god enough to make the Versa one of the leaders in its class.

The Nissan Versa was introduced in the United States after the company moved the Sentra up in their lineup. To fill the gap in the entry-level of the brand's lineup, the Versa was tapped. But before the Versa was introduced in the United States, it was already popular in Japan, much like the Toyota Prius. In Japan, the Versa is marketed as a premium car and its introduction in the U.S. car market as an entry-level car is a sign that consumers will be treated to an upscale car with a price tag of an entry-level car.

Just like its competitors in its segment, the Versa comes in a sedan body style as well as in a hatchback style. Of the two, the hatchback version was introduced first in the market while the sedan only hit showrooms earlier this year. Pricing for the Versa as announced by Nissan is $12,550 for the hatchback as a starting price and an MSRP of $13,350 for the base model of the sedan. For those who can afford to shell out $14,550, a trim package of the hatchback is available under the badge SL. Bill Bosley, the Vice-President and the General Manager of the Nissan Division, has this to say about the new Versa: "The Versa hatchback and sedan are slotted below Sentra in price, but not execution. They are 'entry-level' in their affordability, but they make no excuses - zero - in terms of quality, design, performance, safety, technology and, especially, roominess."

One of the most notable attributes of the Versa is its roominess. Standing on a 99.8-inch wheelbase and measuring 177.5 inches in length, the Versa is one of the biggest in its class. This relatively large displacement of the Versa is one of its strong selling points. It is known fact that American car buyers like their cars to be spacious. It is only the increasing price of gasoline that has led most consumers to consider smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles. Car manufacturers are aware of this fact and they therefore provide a good interior space even for smaller vehicles.

Nissan also recognizes that very fact and the Versa is the proof that the car manufacturer caters to the needs of its consumers. From the outside, the Versa is undeniably a Nissan. Its headlamp and tail lamp configurations are what one can commonly see in a Nissan vehicle. Its grille is further proof that it is of Nissan lineage. While not too flashy, the Versa is a good looking car so much so that owners will not think twice about flaunting it on their driveway or even when they drive from one destination to another. Apart from the simplistic yet stylish appeal of the Versa, consumers can also use aftermarket parts such as Nissan car bras to increase the car's appeal and also protect the paint surface.

Power-wise, the Versa is not left behind by its class-mates. Both the hatchback and sedan version of the Versa are equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine capable of delivering 122 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Weighing in at 2,720 pounds, the engine's torque is enough to give the Versa a good acceleration when on the road. Transferring the power from the engine to the drive wheel is the task of the four-speed automatic transmission or the six-speed manual gear box. True to Nissan's effort to promote the use of the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Versa is offered with an optional CVT.

The engine provides a good amount of power when needed. The same though cannot be said about the unit's steering. While the car is not sluggish to drive, it possesses none of the handling capabilities that one can find in upscale vehicles. If and when Nissan decides to upscale this car, consumers can expect it to have a better handling and overall performance. All in all, the Versa is one strong contender for leadership in its class, and that is just what Nissan needs right now.

About The Author Ryan Thomas is a native of Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a family of car afficionados. He now resides in Detroit where he owns a service shop and works part time as a consultant for a local automotive magazine.
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