2018 Nissan Versa- The McDaddy of Small Cars

Someone at Nissan must’ve been paying attention to Ray Kroc’s business playbook for McDonald’s; sell ’em in big volume, sell’ em cheap, and- oh, yeah- sell ’em in big portions. For the better part of this decade, the Nissan Versa has tenaciously defended its title as America’s most affordable car. Against a dwindling legion of subcompacts, such as the Chevrolet Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage, the Versa has stubbornly undercut the price of admission by several hundred dollars year-after-year. Compared to the competition, the Versa has always boasted more interior room, a larger engine, and, for American tastes, a more formal sedan instead of a chintzy, poverty-spec hatchback. The tactic worked, and the Versa is handily the best selling subcompact in the country. Since the debut of this second generation in 2012, Nissan has moved over 660,000 Versas. Impressive for a category that is often the butt-of-late night jokes. So I was thrilled to inherit the keys to a Versa sedan and see what makes the country’s cheapest car, about a third of the cost of the average new car, tick.

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2012 Nissan Maxima- Maximum Confusion

DSCI0053Parents have a habit of saying that their kids grow up way too fast.  That it’s only a matter of a short time before the little ones blossom from infancy to downright looming over their folks in size and strength.  Not to quote a famous lion, but it’s all part of the circle of life.  And it’s a harsh reality that the Nissan Maxima must face. Originally introduced in 1981, the Maxima has historically been the grand daddy of the Nissan family- being the largest, most well-appointed, and priciest of all the sedans  from the manufacturer.  But times have changed, and the Maxima is now eclipsed by its own children.

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2011 Nissan Cube- Not The Box It Came In

Japan can be a bizarre place.  So much so that I often refer to it as “Planet Japan.”    If it’s cute, quirky, or just plain weird, odds are that it’ll receive a cult following among the Japanese.  This is a country that has given the world Pokemon, karaoke, Godzilla, diet water, Hello Kitty, and anime.  Another unique oddity that is prevalent in the Land of the Rising Sun is the box vehicle.  Short in length, tall in stature, and square as a…er…box, these cars take advantage of offering maximized interior space while leaving as small of a footprint as possible on Japan’s crowded and narrow streets.  However, will a nation with plenty of open land, such as the US, accept a vehicle that was the answer to nobody’s question?

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2011 Nissan Altima- Filling Some Big Shoes

Americans love the word “big”.  We’re a big country with big mountains, big rivers, big portions of food, and big people.  We invented the Big Gulp, Big Mac, Big Lots, Big And Tall, Big KMart, Bob’s Big Boy, and the Notorious B-I-G. If it’s not ridiculously large then it’s not worth wasting time over.

The original Nissan Altima faced this dilemma when it was introduced in 1993.  Its mission was to compete head-to-head with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Taurus of the time.  But it was more compact than its rivals and had tighter interior quarters.  Although it was a competent car, buyers stayed away in droves.  Nissan, not one to be bullied out of the market, rethought its strategy when it redesigned the Altima for 2002.  The car was not only striking in design, but was much larger in almost every dimension.  Sales skyrocketed and the Altima has consistently been one of the 10 best-selling cars in America since then.  Bigger really is sometimes better.

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