When I was told what my car would be this week, my response was “a Nissan What?” I’ll be honest. I hadn’t heard of the Versa, and when asked by my friends what I was driving, they responded the same. It’s a quiet, unassuming car that asks for very little attention. It’s easily overlooked in parking lots, and pretty much forgettable in appearance.
However, I wish I could say the same about it’s driving. I think I’ll remember this car for long after, as a benchmark to judge miserable, long-term driving by. Many have touted it’s low-price and perceived offering of extras; tilt-steering, A/C, CD stereo, and… um. I guess that’s it (I had the base model at $14,105). And around town, this car was great. I can easily see the target market, young, first time buyers, skipping around town on their short commutes loving this car. It’s new, it’s theirs, and it isn’t enslaving them to poverty.
–Nasty Alert! In the following section, I let out a little steam over this car, and address one of the biggest gripes I’ve ever had with a test drive. Please forgive me for being a bit harsh.–
I had the inconvenience of driving it 250 miles to see my wife’s family over Easter, and after about 30 minutes on the freeway, my right leg was already cramping. The gas is unbelievably touchy thanks to 95% of the throttle being in the top inch of the pedal, with the left-over being pretty much useless. While trying to maintain an even speed of 70 mph, my legs were constantly flexed to hold the exact same position. Move your foot 1/4 of a centimeter up, and you quickly drop 8 mph, shift your weight in your shoulders and let your foot slip down a hair, and you speed up past 80. None of this happens immediately, as it’s not a powerful car, but while trying to maintain a nice and steady speed, it was quickly deemed impossible. And I would have quickly given all the other luxuries for cruise control in a second. I’ve heard of this phenomenon before, in Hyundais who purposely adjust the pedal explicitly for the test drive. Driver gets in, pushes down a touch while pulling out of the parking lot, and the car screams off. “Wow, this has a lot of pep…” the driver must think. Well, it doesn’t. It’s just that touching the gas in these cars is the equivalent of flooring it. There is no “soft-touch” on these pedals, and all communication with the throttle is jerky and annoying, never more apparent than at freeway speeds when trying to maintain a constant speed. In my mind, this is absolutely unacceptable, and I wish more people knew about this. That the industry is sacrificing long-term value and driver experience for deceit.
With that said, and that issue behind us, the rest of the car was a decent value. It isn’t the cheapest on the market, but it provides a solid vehicle for first-time owners and well-behaved high-school students alike. it’s simple, it’s not going to get anyone in trouble for drag racing, and it has enough room to hall all your friends about town. If Nissan can address the gas pedal, I’d have no problem giving this to my son when he turns 16 (approx. 19 years from now).