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New York show: Nissan sheds light on compact sedan

Sunny outlook: Nissan’s all-new Micra-based light sedan will be sold as the Versa in the US and Sunny in China - and possibly Australia.

North American 2012 Versa sedan points way to Australia’s next light-sized four-door

21 Apr 2011

NISSAN has used the New York auto show to roll out a new-generation light sedan that will be sold alongside the Micra in Australia next year.

Built on the Nissan-Renault front-wheel drive global ‘V’ (Versatile) platform, the all-new sedan was first seen last December at the Guangzhou motor show in China – where it will be called the Sunny – but full details on the vehicle have now emerged from Nissan’s North American subsidiary, which will sell it as the Versa.

Not to be mistaken for the Tiida small car – the current model of which is, confusingly, sold as the Versa in the US – this light sedan is K13 Micra-based but has grown to become similar in size to the current B-platform-based Tiida sold throughout the world, including in Australia.

As we saw with the unveiling of the new-generation Tiida replacement at the Shanghai motor show earlier this week, Nissan’s all-important redesigned global small car – which is expected to carry the Pulsar nameplate when it arrives here during 2012 – has also grown in size with the new generation, leaving this all-new light-size Versa/Sunny four-door sitting in between the Micra hatch and the next ‘Pulsar’.

Nissan Australia confirmed to GoAuto this week that a name other than Micra was still under consideration for the light sedan, which should be produced for our market in Thailand from the same plant as the hatch.

“Yes, we are considering calling it something else other than a Micra sedan when it appears in Australia next year,” Nissan Australia spokesman Jeff Fisher told GoAuto. “We haven’t locked in on a name yet, but that’s under discussion now.

12 center imageLeft: Nissan Versa sedan. Bottom: Nissan Compact Sport Concept.

“It still sits on the V platform, which is the same as the Micra, but it is a somewhat larger car ... We feel we need a point of differentiation as well from Micra – it’s a different concept of a car that’s simply just a ‘booted Micra’ so it would make sense, we think, if we moved along that track (with a new name).” Sunny? “All bets are open at the moment,” Mr Fisher said. “But no one name has been decided upon yet.” While other derivatives of Micra are also believed to be in development, Mr Fisher said the Compact Sport Concept unveiled alongside the redesigned Tiida at this week’s Shanghai show – a lower, wider, shorter, sportier and higher-performance Micra-based hatch, complete with a 140kW 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine – was more of a design exercise than production reality.

“The company hasn’t moved on developing that as a production model at this stage,” he said, adding that Nissan routinely developed higher-performance and racing versions of its light and small cars specifically for the Chinese market.

“There’s a lot more expressions of those small and light car ranges than we really cater to in our market, hence their variation on a theme.” The new Versa light sedan shown in New York is slightly lower and shorter than the current Tiida sedan – the length change being most obvious with the shorter front, though longer rear, overhang – but has a bigger boot space, more rear legroom and a higher level of technology throughout.

Nissan also claims its uses almost 20 per cent fewer platform components than the current B-platform model and is up to 68kg lighter, depending on the model variant. That should see it tip the scales at around 1055kg.

While the car was shown in China last year with a 1.5-litre HR15DE engine, the Versa has turned up in the US with a second-generation HR16DE 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, producing 81kW of power and 145Nm of torque and capable of achieving 33mpg (7.1L/100km) on the combined cycle with a new version of Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission.

The standard five-speed manual gearbox is less economical, returning 7.8L/100km on the US combined standard.

The new 1.6-litre engine is smaller and lighter than the current 1.6 sold in the US and features continuously variable timing control (CVTC) on both intake and exhaust ports.

The new CVT design adds an auxiliary gearbox using planetary gearing, which according to Nissan helps improve efficiency, while its 7.3:1 ratio is broader than before. The gearbox is also 10 per cent smaller and 13 per cent lighter, and reduces friction by about 30 per cent.

Australian specifications are still to be announced. The Tiida sedan’s current 1.8-litre engine delivers 93kW/174Nm and returning 7.6L/100km when paired with a six-speed manual gearbox on the Australian combined standard. The conventional four-speed torque-converter automatic returns 7.8L/100km.

The Micra, on the other hand, offers a 75kW/136Nm 1.5-litre engine that returns 6.5L/100km in manual form or 6.6L/100km with auto.

The 2012 Versa sedan retains the same 2600mm wheelbase and 1695mm overall width as the current Tiida sedan, but is around 30mm lower at 1514mm and some 15mm shorter at 4455mm in overall length. Place the current and this new model together, however, and the most obvious dimensional gain is in the rear overhang/boot length, which is 68.5mm longer than before.

The passenger compartment volume is now 2.55 cubic metres, while boot volume increases to around 420 litres. Nissan claims the rear legroom exceeds that found in luxury cars such as the Lexus LS460, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-class, while the boot is designed to maximise available space, “taking into consideration everything from the size of the hinges to the shape of the sidewalls”.

A 60/40-split folding rear seat also aids versatility.

A conventional front strut/rear torsion beam suspension design with front and rear stabiliser bars carries over, an electric power steering system is employed and disc brakes are still only used at the front end – inferior drum brakes continue at the rear.

In the US, standard features include ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist, plus a full array of airbags - dual-stage front airbags, front side thorax airbags, seat-mounted driver and passenger side-impact airbags and roof-mounted curtain airbags front and rear.

Other safety features available in the US include traction and stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

The cabin has also been overhauled to increase comfort, convenience and connectivity, the latter including Bluetooth mobile phone pre-wiring, satellite-navigation with five-inch touch-screen display and iPod/USB interface.

Other equipment highlights include a trip computer, speed-sensing automatic door locks and steering-mounted audio controls. The standard wheel and tyre combination in North America will be 15-inch alloys with 185/650-section low-rolling-resistance tyres.

With the exterior design, Nissan points to the new-generation four-door’s broad shoulders, smoother silhouette, new signature sedan grille, jewel-like headlights and flowing elements such as the shape of the bootlid, which combined assist to give the Versa sedan a relatively low drag coefficient of 0.31Cd.

Nissan also claims the sweeping roofline is not merely a design feature but a functional innovation that “helps reduce the amplitude of the roof panel vibrations in order to create a quieter cabin interior without the use of reinforcement devices called ‘mass bumpers’”.

Other exterior points of interest include a fixed roof antenna, body-coloured front and rear fascias and, on higher-series models, a chrome-accented grille, blacked-out B-pillar, chrome doorhandles and front foglights.

Nissan North America vice-president and general manager, Al Castignetti, said: “Compact cars are getting a lot of attention lately due to rising fuel costs and concerns about the environment. Yet many buyers are disappointed in what they find – vehicles rife with compromise.

“This new Versa sedan, a ‘clean sheet’ ground-up design, takes small cars in a whole new direction – proving that you don’t have to sacrifice style for affordability, interior roominess for a smaller footprint, or drivability for high mpg.”

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