With prices at the pump on the rise again, Nissan is better positioning itself to take advantage of the small-car movement that is sure to follow with the new 2012 Versa sedan.
Carrying over from the previous Versa sedan, value will remain a key draw for the new model with a base price of just $10,990.
However, Nissan plans to break some of the "entry-level" stereotypes by offering a range of technology features such as Bluetooth, navigation with a five-inch touch screen, satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface.
Additionally, Nissan worked extensively on the Versa sedan's packaging to make it more efficient, beginning with the move onto a new front-wheel-drive global "V" platform.
The new chassis has the same 102.4-inch wheelbase as the outgoing car yet weighs 150 pounds less than the previous "B" platform, thanks to a 20 percent cut in components used.
Even with the same wheelbase dimension, designers revamped the interior to increase rear legroom to exceed even that of some luxury entries such as the Lexus LS 460, the BMW 5-series and the Mercedes-Benz E-class.
In the trunk, hinge size and the shape of the sidewalls were even scrutinized to provide the maximum usable space, Nissan says.
In the powertrain department, the 1.6-liter I4 was heavily revamped with two streamlined injectors per cylinder and twin continuously variable valve timing to increase efficiency.
Power is rated at 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. Fuel economy ratings for the manual are estimated at 27/36 mpg city/highway and 30/37 mpg city/highway for the CVT.
All 2012 Nissan Versa sedans will come standard with antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist when the car goes on sale this summer.
It will be offered in three trim levels: 1.6 S (available with the manual and the CVT), 1.6 SV and 1.6 SL (both CVT only).
The SV adds cruise control, chrome grille accents, upgraded cloth seats and power windows, while the SL goes a step further with 15-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, variable intermittent wipers, Bluetooth, an upgraded audio system with steering-wheel audio controls and a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat.