How It Drives

Like most entry-level cars, the Versa has adequate power for most situations, even with the air conditioning on. The continuously variable automatic transmission picks up engine revs quickly enough, but if you need power fast — merging in a pinch, for example — it delays a bit. Not that there's a whole lot there: The Versa's 109-horsepower four-cylinder howls loudly if you push it, and highway acceleration is modest. More than 160 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the Versa is no dog. But you'll want to plan your passing, especially with the added weight of passengers on board.

The steering wheel has good feedback at low speeds, but on the interstate the Versa feels out of its element. Wind and road noise are intrusive. At 70 mph, so much noise streamed off the A-pillar that I thought a window was open, and the car needs periodic corrections to stay on course. The steering gets soupier as speeds increase, adding an uncomfortable degree of guesswork to the whole process. The Versa isn't as bad as the Smart ForTwo, but competitors like the Fiesta have highway cruising down pat. Nissan has work to do.

Take it easy on curvy roads. The steering wheel points the nose where you want without too much slop, but our test car's Continental ContiProContact tires skated wide in modest handling maneuvers. Take a turn hard, and the Versa skitters off-course until the electronic stability system reins you in. Barreling around in a Fit, Fiesta or Mazda2 is fun. The Versa is best driven sensibly.

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