2010 Nissan Versa SL – Click above for high-res image gallery Small, affordable cars are like mushrooms. They quietly go about their business in the soggy bottom of the market, tolerated more than celebrated. Occasionally, the fungi mutates into a truffle, and so it is with this less-respected branch of autodom. The Nissan Versa is no market newcomer. Introduced in 2007, it's trudged along unloved in the U.S. while faring better in markets outside the States as the Tiida. As with cuisine, some regional flavors are an acquired taste. The Versa hatchback has a decidedly "big in Europe" thing going on, with its distinctive shape and tall-hatch proportions. Taking into consideration Nissan's close relationship with Renault, the styling even seems Gallically influenced. We nabbed a pair of Versas, an S with six-speed manual and an SL with CVT, to see if Nissan's efforts are fetid or delicious. Make the jump to find out. %Gallery-91072% Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. Styling is one of the main weapons automakers have when prices are low. The Versa five-door comes off a little bubble-ish with its high-arching roof, but it's a boon to occupants. There's a squared-off C-pillar in back that doesn't consume visibility, and its reverse-cut suggests some Renault influence, as does the nose. New up front for 2010 is a redesigned grille, set between lamps that continue the European-influenced theme. There will inevitably be detractors, but the Versa isn't styled for shock value. It's not so much pretty as it avoids the overt weirdness that can creep in when prices are low and hardware is pedestrian. Even in the flashy Metallic Blue that our SL tester wore, the Versa is relatively nondescript; the latest in a line of inoffensively styled Japanese hatchy things. Blending in isn't necessarily bad, and if you want more expressiveness, Nissan offers the Cube on the same underpinnings. The interior follows the same design ethos of not rocking the boat. No element is overwrought on the cleanly-styled dashboard. The expanse of nothing that faces the front seat passenger cries out for a little something, though. At least it makes it easy to peg the quality of interior plastics and fit and finish, which is pleasing to the eye, if not the touch. All cars in this price range carry similar looks-decent-feels-nasty interior materials, and knocking the Versa for such would be unfair. While it's not an Infiniti-grade interior, the colors and materials come off as well-chosen. The dashboard and door pulls give an anti-style message, but they don't feel unfinished. The charcoal cloth upholstery and tan tweed headliner feel more luxurious than you would expect, and the whole interior milieu somehow evokes Golfs of the past. The Versa's upwardly-bowed roof keeps the headliner off hairdos and also adds to an airy atmosphere inside. There's storage cubbies aplenty, and the ergonomics are a delight. The radio sits high in the dashboard, right at hand. Nissan offers a bargain-priced navigation unit in the Versa, …
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|MPG||26 City / 34 Hwy|
|Transmission||5-spd man w/OD|
|Power||107 @ 6000 rpm|
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