Early each year, I do a 1000+ mile reconnaissance to lay out the route of the California Mille. We seek scenic driver’s roads throughout Northern California. When it came time to make that run this year, I had three modern cars in my garage—a six-speed Audi A4 Avant, a Porsche Cayman, and a base model Nissan Versa automatic.
I decided to use the Nissan, and I’m here to tell you I was dazzled. It’s a French, Japanese and Mexican masterpiece. I’ve always liked certain qualities about French cars; their big seats, soft-but-controlled suspension and their practical shape. Who doesn’t like Japanese cars, with their quality-build and long, trouble-free life? And who doesn’t like cheap, as in low-cost? This $13,000 Nissan is a homely French-style 5-door hatchback, built to Nissan quality standards in low-cost Mexico. It’s a magical blend of qualities in a totally forgettable appearance package.
But what a drive! A 122 horsepower, smooth and aurally-pleasing 1.8 four-cylinder, paired with an equally smooth and responsive four-speed automatic, and that absorb-all French-style suspension make fast driving on indifferently surfaced country roads a pleasure.
Overtaking on country roads is enhanced by enough power, and gear spacing that gives (indicated) 65 mph in second and 101 mph in third, before changing up to fourth gear! 3500 revs gives 90 mph in fourth, making this a relaxed freeway car, too.
Wind noise is low, suspension is quiet, the engine sounds clean and not very audible even when it’s working hard.
It’s also worth mentioning that the $13,000+ price includes a good quality AM-FM radio, CD, good air conditioning, power windows, central locking, and adjustable steering column. The paint, upholstery and all other finish items appear to be of good quality and tasteful, even if the exterior shape is forgettable/utilitarian.
Get the flash-and-dash in your other car!