THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2007 Nissan Versa SL compact sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: Offered in two trims, this all-new car from Nissan slides into a slot right under the Sentra. Based on a unibody structure, the Versa can take you at least 350 miles before the gas warning light comes on. Handling is impressive and the ride is balanced in the front-wheel-drive car.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 1.8-liter DOHC inline-four cylinder engine develops 122 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 127 pounds-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Transmission options vary from a 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic to a gas-saving Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), either of which result in absolutely seamless shifts. The electric-power steering system offers good feedback around tight corners and turns. An independent strut front and a rear torsion bar, both equipped with stabilizer bars, deliver a smooth and well-damped ride. A power-assisted vented front disc and rear drum brakes inspire confidence and reassurance in the driver.
LOOK & FEEL: For a compact, the Versa has large, multi-reflector halogen headlights with the signature Nissan grille sandwiched in between chrome bars. Body-colored sideview mirrors and door handles as well as a chrome decklid finisher further enhance the car's exterior appearance. What impressed me the most about the cabin was the huge amount of space for rear-seat passengers - legroom of 38 inches, headroom of 37.9 inches and shoulder room of 50.7 inches. The rear seats also split and fold 60/40 to allow access to the generous trunk area. A six-way adjustable driver's seat, four-spoke tilt steering wheel, storage areas in the door pockets and a center console with lid are worth a mention. The compact sedan also is outfitted with a standard six-speaker audio system and a 6-indash CD.
SAFETY FIRST: Kudos to Nissan for a job well done with regards to standard safety features such as dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, front-seat active head restraints, front and rear crumple zones, front seatbelts with pretensioners, three-point seatbelts for all positions and a tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $15,550, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. If you are looking for a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, keyless entry and ignition and hands-free phone capabilities, take the $700 Convenience Package.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 185/65R15 all season; wheelbase, 99.8 inches; length, 177.5 inches; weight, 2,720 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; highway, 36 mpg; city, 30 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Price-conscious buyers, this entry-level sedan from Nissan beckons you. Priced at $15,550 with a decent performance, generous interior and numerous standard safety features, it's a steal. And with gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon, I say seal the deal!