The 1.6 Base model is only offered with a 5-speed manual transmission, and the top-of-the-line 1.8 SL comes only with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), Most of the other models come with the choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or conventional 4-speed automatic.
A MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, with stabilizer bars front and back, is tuned for a comfortable ride while also maintaining maneuverability. All Versas have a front disc, rear drum brake arrangement; anti-lock brakes are included with 1.8 models but optional on the 1.6. Hatchback models are a little more versatile, with seats that fold forward easily to expand cargo space; the back seats don’t fold in most Versas, but top SL sedans get a split-folding back seat and trunk pass-through.
With either engine, the Versa performs reasonably well; 1.6 models are considerably lighter, so they don’t feel any slower. The manual transmissions shift easily and smoothly, and as for automatics, shoppers should take both versions-the CVT along with the conventional 4-speed-out for a spin and decide which one they like best; the CVT allows faster acceleration and offers the best EPA ratings, at 28 mpg city, 34 highway, but invites more engine noise.
The 1.6 Base model is about as simple as new cars come today, with no power windows or locks, no air conditioning and no radio either. The upgraded standard 1.6 model adds air conditioning. Meanwhile 1.8 S models include a 4-speaker sound system, cargo area lamp and adjustable rear headrests. On 1.8 SL models, there’s a 180-watt sound system with iPod interface, cruise control, keyless entry, power locks and windows, larger alloy wheels and electronic stability control. All Versas get front side-impact airbags and full-length side-curtain bags. The Versa 1.8 can be equipped with a Bluetooth hands-free interface, XM Satellite Radio and the Intelligent Key entry and ignition system and a Navigation/Satellite package will add an in-dash navigation system with 5-inch screen, to arrive late in the model year.