I remember the introduction of the Nissan Versa in the North American market around 2006. I had a 1990 Nissan Micra up until 2000. I bought my Micra in the pre-Internet days, when I thought my choices were either a rusty used car or a Yugo, because even a 3 cylinder Suzuki Swift and Geo Metro were still expensive, but then the Micra showed up, bringing back the magic of cheap, reliable, small Japanese cars of the 1970’s in the late 1980’s. Of course, it had been around for a few years, but it was the first time I saw one, and never regretted buying it.
I really wanted the next generation Micra that came after, but was told that they would not be available to the Canadian market and that I should just buy a boring Nissan Sentra. I was so mad, I actually bought a Dodge Neon instead. Then the K12’s came along, and I was like, “WTF? Why should Europe keep getting Micra’s and not us?” It was clear to me that the car was continuing to evolve in interesting ways, and was just not available in our market. Then Nissan said to me, “We are going to bring back a small car to your market, this car will be the Versa.”
At first, the Versa was an insult. It was nothing like the new Micra’s that Europe was enjoying. It looked bland, boring, the engine was too big, the car was too big, it was a misfit that just didn’t belong in the Nissan line-up. Then Nissan brought the Micra back to the Canadian market in 2014 as a 2015 model. A real, genuine Micra, straight from Europe, with a perfect 1.6L engine. Of course, I bought one right away, and since then, I’ve grown to really like the Versa, and so has my wife.
The first thing Nissan did right was to drop the bland sedan. Cars in this class should only be made as hatchbacks. It also shares the engine and other components with the Micra, which means Nissan ditched the 1.8 for the proper 1.6L. It’s still bland compared to the Micra, but that’s perfectly fine.
I now see the Versa as a logical move up from the Micra. Sure, a six footer can sit in the back seat of a Micra with enough headroom and just barely enough legroom, which is a feat for such a small car, but after our trip to Florida, we all agreed that an extended Micra would have been perfect.
The Versa is a perfect compliment to the Micra; it’s like a “Grown-up” responsible version of the fun little go-kart with all the sensibilities inherent with the Micra. Like the Micra, it’s designed from the inside-out. The new CVT promises greater fuel economy on those inevitable family road trips, and allows for a fuel-efficient 1.6L engine to deliver adequate power in the process.
The Micra-Versa lineup of today reminds me of the Civic-Accord cars of the mid to late 1970’s. Of course, back then, Nissan was known as Datsun, and the Micra was then known as the Cherry, with its larger companion known as the Violet and then Stanza, but those cars were unknown to me at the time as Honda captured the headlines. Still, I firmly believe the Micra and Versa Note of today are closer in design and execution to the Civic and Accord Hatchback of the late 70’s than anything Honda makes today. It’s almost as though these two cars are a modern day representation of what was great about Japanese cars in the late 70’s, as though there’s a division of Nissan that wants to keep alive what made them great in the first place.
So we decided to buy a Nissan Versa. This one, specifically. We take delivery of it tomorrow. It’s my wife’s new car, and joins my Micra in our family.