When The Garage reviewed the 2011 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL hatchback last year, we were impressed with the level of comfort it delivered, the roomy cabin and copious cargo capacity. While we had no serious complaints, the soft ride, CVT transmission, and handsome, if bland looks didn’t exactly set us on fire. Waiting with The Garage’s Founding Editor, Gary Grant at the 2011 New York Auto Show for the Nissan press conference to begin, and staring at an empty stage, I’m asked: “What do you think they’re going to show?” I pause, and answer “It’s got to be a new Versa.”
Cue the darkening stage lights, pounding electronic music, and…out rolls a dark grey 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan. As the sound of clicking cameras go off around me, I say outloud “What, no hatchback?” Ã‚Â No matter. Out walks the impeccable Chairman of Nissan Americas, Carlos Tavares, and he is beaming next to his new car. Standing before this still bland looking car, with a few hundred auto journos and TV crews from around the world, at first you might think “What is this guy so happy about?” Read on, you’ll see…
Myself, and anyone else assembled before that stage knows that Mr. Tavares reads what we write about the cars he sells. And he knows we praise the Versa’s competitors like the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta for their funkier designs and sportier driving dynamics. He didn’t, but as if to say “I know you car-obsessed gearheads sitting in front of me are bored already. But let me tell you something.” While he never said that, Mr. Tavares was very quick to point out that in 2010 the Versa handily outsold its competitors we so lovingly write about. And you had better believe the Honda and Ford execs standing shoulder to shoulder with us must have felt like they were getting schooled from the guy for standing at the top of the class.
This was a text-book reminder that the mission here is to sell as many cars as you can. And the message with the segment-topping Versa was, despite our ho-hum reception, what we print on paper or online is secondary. The Versa’s sales position holds the ultimate distinction: The Market has spoken. Nissan recognized its obvious success, and was not about to upset the masses with any deviance from the course.
Anyhow, what is we get with the 2012 Nissan Versa? There was concern with a new model the old sub-$10,000USD base price would go, and it has. Base Versas now start at $10,990. All Versas will be powered by a 1.6L four rated at 109hp. A five-speed manual is available in base trim only, while the aforementioned CVT is an option on the base car, and standard on the rest of the line. The Versa rides on an all-new global platform that is close in size to the outgoing car but weighs less. Fuel economy, a critical factor in this class is improved, delivering EPA ratings of 30/37MPG city/highway when equipped with the CVT.
Pricing is not available at this time, but according to Nissan, sales of the 2012 Versa Sedan will begin sometime this summer. No word if a hatchback will be joining the sedan.