2009 Nissan Versa 1.6 Base

The Versa isn’t my kind of car. Don’t get me wrong. It’s cheap, which I can get behind. The sedan we tested was the base model with no options, not even a stereo, which is why it only costs $9,990. Plus tax, of course. But still, ten grand for a car? Nice.

But there’s a cost to getting it cheap. The lack of a stereo is just the tip of the iceberg. The cloth interior is something you’d get out of the recycle bin at Wal-Mart. Durability was the least of the interior’s problems, however, as the lack of stuff made me think “motorcycle with seatbelts.” No ABS. No A/C. The rear seat doesn’t fold down. This is car making at its most basic, most primitive.

But it isn’t all bad. The trunk is good for 2½ bodies, maybe more if they’re small. It rides well, with just a little body roll in the corners. It had some sort of rattle off the line, which I’d attribute to a loose muffler, but as I didn’t get under the car to find out, we’ll just have to assume it wasn’t major. It certainly wasn’t as bad as the rattle coming off the Toyota Yaris we tested a while back.

I had a few gripes about it. The A-pillar is divided into two sections near the door, which, in theory, would give you better visibility between the side mirror and the windshield. Unfortunately it’s a little chunky, and actually made visibility worse. Then there was the transmission. I kept getting third gear instead of first, which I would normally blame myself for, but as it happened five or six times, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. And because it didn’t have a radio, I was forced to listen to the little four-banger howl away at three-thousand RPM while trying to do sixty miles an hour. I never even got it to seventy for fear that I’d be up above four-k, wondering why I’d want to commute to work in a car that is begging for another gear.

The score on this car is lower than I think it deserves, as the price alone should give it a B. Unfortunately, all it gets is a:


“This is…um…” the Generalissimo said.

I knew exactly what he meant. We’d tested some pretty sweet rides together, but this wasn’t going to make the cut. I’d wanted to get the five-door model, but the dealer didn’t have one with a stick. Sure, he had forty others with an automatic, but that’s because most people would rather let the car do everything for them.

“Let’s just go around the block and see what we see,” I suggested.

“Indeed! You are, as always, correct!”

“You told me ten minutes ago that I was a moron.”

“And you are! Sixteen steps!”


He laughed. Even his mustache got into it. “Your memory has placed you sixteen steps ahead of me! You are in the lead! I will catch you!”

And with that, he peeled out of the parking lot, at least, as much as anyone can peel out in a car with 107 horsepower.

“How’s it ride?” I asked after he shot it around a hairpin at a rate of speed the cops would frown upon as they secured the cuffs.

“Like a skittish platypus


“Like a beefsteak tomato, lonely after a hard day at work!”


“Like a wounded caterpillar, angry at the world for it insolence

“I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Neither do I!”

And with that, he stomped on the brakes, slid us through a stop sign, and scared a pack of geese out for a morning graze. He hit the horn.

“I’m not sure our honk is in their language!” He started laughing. Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a joke.

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