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ZEN AND THE ART OF INCONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 18, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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We review the cheapest new car in America By Roy Nakano A radio. Remote adjustable mirrors. Power windows. Power door locks. Trunk light. Anti-lock braking system. Sporty handling. Sporty styling. Air conditioning. A key to open the passenger door. These are a few of items that the base Nissan Versa doesn’t have. What it does have: A great bottom line. At $9,990, the Nissan Versa is the cheapest new car you can buy in this country. That’s cheaper than any of the Korean cars, cheaper than the cheapest domestic, and cheaper than a lot of used cars. And that’s the list price. Your actual transaction price may be lower.

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Driving the Versa is an exercise in motor vehicle cleansing. It’s zen and the art of the automotive cheap. It’s a lesson on what you really don’t need in your car. And carmakers have us all convinced about needing everything from motorized windows to motorized door locks. Yes, they are missed, but it’s surprising how quickly one adjusts. It’s like adjusting from always drinking sugared soda to going strictly diet cola. After you do it, it’s not that big a deal. Of course, you don't expect perfection for $9,990—and with this car, you don't get it. Cornering in the Versa reminds me of some of the old domestic cars—comfortable, but tipsy. The Versa is no sports sedan. And it certainly won’t win any beauty contests.

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On the other hand, this car is roomier than a Civic or Corolla, it’s solidly constructed (no rattles detected on our test car), comes with a tilt steering column, has a rear window defroster, ample storage bins, speed-sensitive power-assisted steering, meets all the government’s safety standards, carries a full, new car warranty, and is EPA rated at 34 miles per gallon on the highway. And if you really must live with an automatic transmission and air-conditioning, there’s the $11,990 non-base Versa 1.6 sedan, which comes with a four-speed automatic, air-conditioning with cabin microfilter, and still gets a commendable 33 miles per gallon on the EPA chart. Carmakers should fear this vehicle. If everyone caught wind of what one can live without in a car, there would be far fewer people spending the extra ten or twenty-thousand dollars on an automobile purchase. Fortunate for the carmakers, the base Versa appears to be the best-kept secret on the market.

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SUMMARY JUDGMENT It’s the closest thing to zen wrapped up in a car body. It’s not nirvana, but it does come with a full factory warranty. For more information about Nissan products, go to nissanusa.com

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SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Nissan Versa 1.6 Sedan Price: $9,990 (base) $13,115 (as tested) EPA fuel economy ratings (city/highway miles per gallon): 26 city/34 highway (manual) 26 city/33 highway (auto) Engine: Ultra-Law Emissions Vehicle(ULEV)-rated 1.6 liter DOHC four-cylinder engine Horsepower: 107 at 6000 rpm Torque: 111 pound-feet at 4600 rpm Transmission: Five-speed manual Four-speed automatic (optional) Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Electric power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Independent strut front and torsion beam rear with integrated stabilizer bars and ripple control shock absorbers Brakes: Power-assisted vented front disc and rear drum, anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution brake assist (BA) Wheels and tires: 14-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers 185/65R14 all-season tires Dimensions Length: 176 inches Width: 66.7 inches Height: 60.4 inches Curb weight: 2516 pounds

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