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First Look: New Nissan Versa Leads Subcompact Trend

October 5, 2005

Nissan announced last week it will add to its U.S. lineup a small hatchback and sedan named Versa. The Versa five-door hatchback will go on sale next summer as a 2007 model, followed later in the year by a four-door sedan.The Versa is expected to have a base price of about $12,000. A typically equipped model will have a sticker price of around $13,500, according to Nissan.The Versa will be equipped with a new, all-aluminum 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that can be mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine is rated at about 120 hp and 125 pounds-feet of torque. Nissan says the powertrain should deliver a combined city-highway fuel economy rating of 38 mpg.The Versa, smaller than Nissan’s previous entry-level Sentra, will compete in the growing B-car segment in the United States. That segment includes the Scion models, the Chevy Aveo, and the new Toyota Yaris (which replaces the Echo) and Honda Fit.The entry-level and compact segments combined account for about 1.9 million vehicles, or about 11 percent of the market, said Jack Collins, vice president of product planning for Nissan North America at a press event at Nissan’s North American Technical Center.The Aveo's sales were up 48.7 percent in the first eight months of the year, to 47,497. According to the Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates, more consumers switched to compact or subcompact cars in August than in the year before. Nissan plans to produce the new subcompact at its plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico at an annual rate of up to 100,000 vehicles, based on demand.
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