THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Nissan Versa SL hatchback.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2007, the Versa is short for versatility. Set on a unibody construction, the hatchback can carry passengers in comfort and safety while offering abundant cargo space. Boasting 102.4 inches of wheelbase, the agile and graceful Versa takes an instant liking to the road.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The hatchback is equipped with a 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, which offers a decent 122 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 127 pounds-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Mated to an Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission, the Versa acquires an independent MacPerson strut in the front and a torsion beam rear with stabilizer bar. The electric-assisted power steering is precise. A power-assisted 11.02-inch front vented disc and a 9.0-inch rear drum are quite capable of bringing the Versa to a slowdown or a stop.
LOOK & FEEL: The chrome-slathered Nissan grille is flanked by multi-reflector halogen headlights, body-colored front and rear bumpers, door handles and sideview mirrors. Step into the six-way manual driver's seat and you will realize there is enormous head, leg and shoulder room in this small-sized hatchback. Storage space is plentiful, including in the center console, front and rear door pockets, glove box and an in-dash CD compartment. With the second-row 60/40 split seat, the trunk area can gobble up several briefcases if you are taking off for a long trip. Standard amenities include a four-way manual passenger's seat, tilt steering column, power windows, in-dash 6-disc CD player, day/night rearview mirror and overhead sunglass storage.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, front seat active-head restraints, front seatbelts with pretensioners, energy-absorbing steering column and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. Go for the $250 ABS package, which will get you antilock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist.
OUT THE DOOR: $15,650, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The new Sport package of a rear roof spoiler, unique front and rear fascias and fog lights, lower body side sill extensions, is worth the extra $700.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 185/65R15 all season; wheelbase, 102.4 inches; length, 176 inches; weight, 2,745 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; highway, 33 mpg; city, 27 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: V for Versa ... rather versatility. And to top it off, the hatchback is nimble, fuel efficient and ekes out a decent performance. The Nissan brand name enhances the car's durability and reliability.