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.
Hey it's about 10.5 months later, and I just found the review here that I wrote about my Versa 1.6- and there isn't too much that I would want to add. My car has about 30K miles on it now. I had a chance to do some really tough city driving, and the absolute lowest mileage I ever got was 28 MPG. A friend of mine bought another subcompact (2012 Chevy Sonic), and he was only getting 20.5 MPG in the same environment. 42 MPG Hwy is really with perfect driving under ideal conditions at 65-68 MPH with no AC. Maybe I should have made that clearer before. Usually, I have at least a couple of adult passengers, have the AC on, change speeds a lot, drive closer to 75 MPH, mix in a little city driving, and still manage 38 MPG or so. It's been hard to get bad mileage with this car.
Some facts: The 1.6L sedan with the 5 speed manual is the lightest of the Versas at 2550 pounds. Because of that, the 1.8L doesn't seem to hold any acceleration advantage over the 1.6L- in all of the road tests I've read, the two engines are usually within a couple of tenths of a second of each other (despite the horsepower difference), usually just over 9 seconds 0-60- not bad for a roomy car that can get 40 MPG! The 1.6L is just a great motor; it has been completely reliable, and rarely burns any oil. Apparently Nissan agrees with me: for the redesigned 2012 Versa, all sedans will now get the 1.6L.
As for the rest of the car, it's been great too. What a great car for long trips! The seats are very comfortable even after many hours of driving. I have had only one minor problem- sometimes over rough roads, the dash will rattle somewhat now. It isn't annoying or obtrusive, just something I've noticed. It's been solid otherwise, and with almost no bells and whistles, I expect very few problems with this car. I know you aren't supposed to enjoy driving the second cheapest model Nissan has to offer, but I really do enjoy driving the Versa, and would definitely recommend it to others.
Hey it's me again, a couple of years later. The Versa continues to be a great car at about 3.5 years old. I've put a lot of miles on it (72K) and have driven it all over the southwestern US without any problems. The warranty is gone but I worry little about that. Except for the dirty floor mats and the paint missing from rocks hitting the front of the car, it very much looks and feels like a new car. The outstanding seats are still comfortable and supportive. It continues to be fun to drive with the 5 speed and still turns in excellent mileage, despite not ever needing a tune up. I do have one thing I regret though:
I bought this car as a single man mostly for commuting to work, getting around town and occasionally taking long road trips with my friends. The car was great for that sort of thing. In 3.5 years however, a lot has changed. I have a family now, and as the family car, it has one clear issue- you will get tired of the manual locks. It was fine when I was just letting myself in of course, but reaching accoss for the passenger and back for the rear passengers gets old. Other than that, the Versa has been great, and still turns in impressive mileage: family in tow, full of luggage,
but now I'm driving on Arizona's 75 MPH freeways with the AC blasting, 37 MPG. 33-34 around the wide open, 45 MPH streets of Phoenix. My wife's 2.0L 4 cylinder compact only gets like 25 on the same streets, granted with an automatic. It's just not close!
Along those same lines, I've heard/read that the 1.8L Versas get decent, but not the great mileage that the 1.6L does. Nissan has corrected this by putting the 1.6L in all of the newer Versas, but in the 2011 models, you have to choose between excellent mileage and what now seems like a necessity: you can't get power locks with any 1.6 model. There's nothing to them, so I think a 1.6L Versa would make a good used car. Mine sure has been great. Likewise, resale prices for the 1.6L have been quite high considering how little I paid for my car when it was new.