About the 1.6L engine- Here in the U.S it is positioned as the less attractive engine for the lowest trim levels. But the truth is, the 1.6L is the largest engine in a family of engines that excel in fuel economy, and most Versas around the world (called Tiida elsewhere) get the thrifty 1.6L(including all Canadian sedans). The 1.8L isn't related; it's a de-stroked Sentra 2.0L. The EPA ratings for the 1.6 seem artificially low. I consistently get 36 MPG combined. A light foot brings 40-42 MPG hwy @ <70 MPH.
Ideally I'd want more top end HP, but the torque curve is better than I expected. 5sp gearing gets you to 45 MPH quickly. Smooth little engine with nice exhaust note makes this car fun
When it's time for my friends and I to go on a road trip, the Versa is the only car we consider with its freakishly good rear seat room, high MPGs, and quiet interior. The ride is never choppy or jittery. I don't get a lot of feedback through the steering wheel, but this car handles curvy mountain roads very well. The trunk isn't huge, but definitely big enough for the luggage of 4 people on a weekend trip. It's probably above average for the class (I have to remind myself that this is a sub compact!) Nice dash layout, quality materials, nice interior overall.
There are a lot of great incentives for the better optioned 1.8L S these days, but if you like the 1.6L, know this- no interior trunk release, no passenger side key hole (bad for dates), and no folding rear seat. On the other hand, that makes the trunk a very safe place to store valuables. Not even offering a factory radio seems extreme, but aftermarket AM/FM/CD/DVD players fit nicely, and are fun on long trips. The speakers that come with the car are actually pretty good. I like the hot/cold engine warning lights, but I miss an engine temperature gauge. If you live in a warm climate, you'll want to tint the windows. The interior seems to really trap the heat- a tough load for the A/C.
My wife and I actually bought two 2011 Versas. I got a 1.6 manual and she got a 1.6 automatic. We both love them! The 1.6 has power nothing, which is fine with me. It's a great starter car or for someone who wants a great car but doesn't care about all the frills. The interior room is amazing for such a small car. My legs have a 36" inseam, but I have plenty of room sitting in the back seat even when the front seat is back as far as it can go.
Enough A/C vents to blow you away, incredible turning, nice pep, more room than I can believe inside!
My only real complaint is that I can't see the hood at all while driving. It takes a bit to get used to that.