Nissan spices up Versa hatch
DETROIT -- Nissan will position its redesigned Versa hatchback to go after what it expects to be continued growth in the compact and subcompact segments.
The company unveiled the hatchback at the Detroit auto show last week. The 2014 model is scheduled to arrive this spring, more than a year after the redesigned sedan.
Nissan's strategy is to pull apart the two Versas to capture different demographics in the growing small-car end of the business.
The plan begins with a new name for the hatchback: the Note, the name used in Japan and Europe.
The hatch will start at $13,990 before shipping, $2,000 above the sedan. Shipping fees haven't been announced.
Nissan has given the hatchback a distinct design, with a more pronounced beltline and curving back side panels and taillights that echo Nissan's sporty Juke crossover.
Nissan has re-engineered both Versa versions to get 40 mpg on the highway for the first time. They get a new continuously variable transmission; a redesigned air intake system and other new technologies.
The Note will offer heated seats and Around View Monitor, a parking aid that originated on Infiniti models, showing a bird's-eye view of the vehicle on the panel display.
Nissan's strategy is to market the sedan as the brand's low-price entry point and the Note as a stylish higher-end option to shoppers shifting out of more expensive segments.
"The market for small cars is completely changed," says Fred DePerez, the car's chief marketing manager at Nissan North America. "Just a few years ago, small cars were just econoboxes. People bought them because it was all they could afford. But you are seeing a growing number of consumers moving to small cars because they are comfortable to drive, roomy and offer good fuel economy and technology.
"We've positioned the Versa Note to attract those customers as they consider the segment."
Other changes to the hatchback include an increase in cargo space and hands-free text messaging, says John Curl, senior manager for product planning on the car.
Says Curl: "We're enhancing the owner experience in roominess, fuel economy and technology that we didn't have before," Curl says. "Some of this technology is innovative even in the luxury segment."
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.