2012 Nissan Versa SV Sedan road test: A practical appliance for the frugal car buyer

Okay, so let’s take a ride.

First thing a driver will notice is that there will be absolutely no fear of whiplash. A mere 109 horsepower makes sure of that. Think of 0-60 mph in “I knew I could! I knew I could!”

You won’t want to go careening around corners, either. With  MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, the suspension is acceptably competent, but  body lean is noticeable in sharp turns and the 15-inch tires do not provide tenacious grip.

None of that should matter to the intended buyer. Acceleration, electric power steering and front disc/rear-drum brakes will accomplish the Versa’s primary mission; i.e., commuting, grocery getting and all of the chores normally assigned to a second car.

Those who want to venture out on longer journeys will find the Versa to be reasonably comfortable and satisfactorily quiet at speed-limit speeds. It’s not completely out of its element on the interstate, but you might find yourself wishing for a little more oomph when accelerating from the on-ramp.

The base Nissan Versa S sedan starts at an appealingly low $11,750 including  delivery charge. At that price it comes with a five-speed manual transmission and a couple of desirable features, including air conditioning, trip computer and a two-speaker stereo system.

But it’s not the one Nissan expects most people to buy.

They see buyers opting for the mid-range Nissan Versa SV I tested, which had a to-be-expected inexpensive interior, but  also came with some some unexpected comfort and convenience add-ons.

Part with the suggested $15,490 and you will get a car with automatic transmission, air conditioning, four-speaker stereo system with auxiliary audio capability, cruise control, trip computer,  power windows and $170 worth of carpeted floor and trunk mats.

The price also includes a comprehensive list of safety equipment, including side-curtain airbags, traction control, stability control, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist.

The Nissan Versa plays in an ever-more competitive league that includes such entries as the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent.

With the new sedan, Nissan can only hope to retain what has been a 30-percent market share.