Nissan Versa Vies for Title of ‘America’s Least Expensive Car’
What would a technician expect when servicing America’s least expensive car, the Nissan Versa? The Versa comes with air conditioning and a CD stereo as standard equipment. Gotta stay cool and listen to your favorite music or why bother going anywhere? You can get options such as power windows and locks, an automatic transmission, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and navigation, but if you are cheap, bring a map and roll down the glass. Sort of retro that way. How cheap is it? $12,780, including destination charge. I must be old, but that still seems like a lot of money to me as I remember buying a new Honda Civic for $2,289 awhile back, a long while back. Guess what year that was?
The Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent have been battling it out for the title of “America’s Least Expensive Car” for awhile. Hyundai retired from that race for 2012, leaving Nissan as the low-cost champion. But is the Nissan Versa a car you would actually want to fix or is it too cheap to bother with?
2007 Nissan Versa
The Versa is known as the Tiida elsewhere in the world and arrived in the United States first as a hatchback in model year (M/Y) 2007, assembled in the same Mexican plant that built the Sentra. A Versa sedan followed later that year. The engine they fitted to this small car was a DOHC 16-valve inline four-cylinder, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection displacing 110 cubic inches (1798cc) and producing 122 bhp at 5200 rpm, and 127 lb.-ft. at 4800 rpm. Pretty good power for a small car and it also came with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Versa was sold with a four-speed automatic transmission (A/T) as the standard shift was not popular and the optional constantly variable transmission (CVT) seemed pricey so we will compare the most popular Versa – a four-door sedan with the four-speed A/T. It is still the best-selling Versa today.
The Versa has had two recalls, – one for seatbelt electrical connection and a label misprinted on the brake fluid reservoir. Not bad. Identifix (an ASA associate member and sponsored benefit provider) has more than 30 great tips on common problems that include electrical problems, fuel and air delivery issues, plus numerous small items. Overall, it looks like a car you can service and repair on a regular basis if the customer wants to keep it in top shape.
The positive crankcase valve (PCV) still exists, but is buried to keep do-it-yourselfers away. Make sure it is replaced if you are replacing the spark plugs, which require removing the plastic intake plenum on both the old and new Versa. This car has a timing chain that will stretch and rattle if oil changes are spaced out too far, so make sure your customers are educated on the proper care and feeding of this little econ-box. You can’t save money on gasoline just to put it back into a poorly neglected car. Nissan has a reputation for poor electrical connectors so keep Stabilant 22a on hand and use it as this car ages.
2013 Nissan Versa
For the 2013 model year, the Nissan Versa sedan gets improved gas mileage, a new transmission option and more standard features. The 2013 Versa sedan is also available in three trim levels: 1.6 S, 1.6 SV and 1.6 SL.
Fuel economy has improved on the sedan with a continuously variable automatic transmission; it’s now rated at 31/40 mpg city/ highway. The CVT is standard on SV and SL trims, and is available on the base S trim. CVT-equipped models now come with a standard rear spoiler. For 2013, the S trim is available with a choice of three transmissions: a five-speed manual transmission, the CVT and an old-fashioned four-speed automatic transmission (A/T). The four-speed automatic gets the worst gas mileage of the three: 26/35 mpg or 30 mpg combined. The four-speed A/T was added to bring down cost. The 2013 Versa has not changed much from the 2007 although it has a newer CVT and a smaller displacement internal combustion engine of similar design.
The redesigned Versa uses a 1.6 liter motor with “Intake Valve Timing (IVT) Control Performance.” It uses oil pressure to help control valve timing. Code P0011 will set if there is a gap between the target angle and phase-control angle degree. This means that when intake timing control is used (above 2,000 rpm or so), the ECM cannot get the intake camshaft timing to meet its target. It could be advanced too much or not advanced enough during operation, but what you need to know and tell your customers is to check the engine oil level and viscosity as low oil can set this code.
Scan tool makes electrical testing a lot faster
The factory scan tool is a laptop-based unit called the Consult III Plus. It is used in 2010 and newer Nissan cars. A Consult III (non-plus) will do most, but not all, of the work required on the newer cars. Nissan uses an intelligent power distribution module (IPDM) on the Versa. The IPDM is the name for the under-hood fuse and relay box. It has a central processing unit (CPU) built inside of it. The CPU inside the IPDM controls most of the relays of the IPDM. The ECM and the body control module (BCM) communicate with the IPDM CPU via the controller area network (CAN), and can command the CPU to activate any given relay(s) based on the inputs they receive. The IPDM receives signals for headlights, parking lights, taillights, fog lights, windshield wipers and a rear window defogger from the BCM. The A/C compressor and cooling fan are controlled via CAN communication from the ECM. Because the communication with the IPDM is through the CAN communication, a scan tool is the best way to test if switch inputs are present and if the relays are being commanded ON or OFF when a given system is activated. To help diagnose some of the systems controlled by the IPDM without a scan tool, Nissan incorporated an “auto active test mode.” If you do not have a capable scan tool, look up the procedure for “auto active test mode” in your information system.
If you step up to the CVT transmission from the four-speed A/T when you buy a Versa it is an additional $800 in M/Y 2013. If you calculate the EPA mileage for both, it’s a combined 30 mpg vs. 35 mpg for the CVT. At $4 per gallon, and more than 100,000 miles of driving (the average new car owner will keep their car that long), you will consume 3,333 gallons of gas vs. 2,857. For $800 more you save over $1,100 just in fuel, not to mention the other benefits of less C02, imported oil and air pollution. Just remember, car owners do not always see the big picture, so keep educating the masses to help them avoid making poor buying decisions. They will listen to you, really. In the 25 years of running Van Batenburg’s Garage, we made a lot of converts.
One more thing – Nissan announced at the New York Auto Show in March that many new CVTs will include a high-voltage motor internally mounted so a hybrid version of every Nissan model would be easy to produce.
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