Nissan Versa Forums banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi forum members. Sorry to make my first post here a somewhat negative one. This is a topic I am unable to find much information about otherwise, and I thought a community of enthusiasts - maybe even a few technical people present - might have some insight.

My car is a 2009 Versa S hatchback, 6-spd manual. I consider myself to be a pretty good driver. I used to be an excellent driver: in my youth, I could thread the family Galaxie through a needle in a smoking full throttle drift with perfect control. I was weaned on its 300 hp, 425 lb. ft. of torque and rear wheel drive. I won't claim to have the same feel for FWD - plus, I am simply older and more cautious.

Generally, I love the Versa. It is spacious, comfortable, reliable, the shifter and motor are both very nice. However, traction and handling are not good at all. I took the Continental tires it came with off, and fitted it with a set of Bridgestone Blizzaks last winter, which improved grip somewhat. However, getting stuck on a Seattle hill when the roads are wet is still harrowing. Mind you, I have driven all manner of stick shift over the last 4 decades up and down Seattle hills - it's not that. I had occasion awhile back, when the car was in for service to drive a rental Focus - and I was immediately struck by how much more well-planted the Focus seemed. And this past weekend I loaned the car to my son, who I consider to be an excellent driver and, unlike me, thoroughly acclimated to FWD. I asked him how he found the Versa: "Squirrely as f*ck" was the quick assessment. Here's the deal: it will break the tires - even the Blizzaks - loose at the drop of a hat. I can burn rubber all day in it if I wanted to - just like the old Galaxie. It understeers something fierce. Coming up the hill to my house in the rain there's a sharp curve on a steep slope and under throttle (which you have to be to get up the steep slope) tucking into the left-hand curve, there's nothing the car wants to do more than keep going straight ahead, the tires breaking loose and skittering sideways. I am not talking about spirited driving here, just trying to baby it up the hill. Over the years I have lived here, I have driven the following cars up (and down) the hill: '84 Mazda B2000 pickup (RWD, 5-spd), '83, 88, 95, and 2000 Honda Accord Sedans (all FWD 5-spd manual), '68 VW squareback and '65 Mustang (both 4-on-the-floor), '63 Falcon and 2001 Thunderbird (both RWD automatics). The Versa is the first car that requires very delicate treatment just to keep if from breaking loose on that one curve. Likewise, I have made the mistake of initiating a stop too late once. The brakes lock up with very little provocation.

My overall experience with Nissan over the years ranges from the '72 Datsun 1200 my wife had when she first came here, which did not want to stay straight and upright. It wanted badly to get sideways. I once worked with a guy who had personally flipped 2 Datsun 2000 Roadsters and a 240Z. I was present when he did one of the Roadsters. Then, more recently, there was this article: These 10 Vehicles Have Been Deemed the Deadliest on the Road . Note that Nissan has 4 of the 10 spots, the Versa Sedan being #9 , and the majority of deadly crashes are single-vehicle, suggesting that drivers have a hard time keeping these cars on the road.

So my question to my esteemed fellow Nissan drivers is: Is your experience the same? Are there known deficiencies in the suspension and steering design that would account for this? And, are there known remedies (suspension mods, tires, etc.)? I love the car, and would like to keep it - but the handling and braking leave much to be desired IMO.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
639 Posts
short answer to your question is that when it comes to their road cars, Nissan has always set them up more on the side of comfort than being firm for sporty handling, combine that with the short wheel base on the majority of their cars and you get the understeer effect. i find that my Note understeers even with the handling upgrades i've done, but it is very controllable understeer to where i can just lift off the throttle and the car corrects itself, but this is only when i push the car to it's absolute limit and i feel that with some more upgrades to the handling, can be readily corrected.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
519 Posts
I don't have any experience with a 2009 Versa but as much as I try, I cannot break my tires loose in dry conditions on my Note. This is on both my Kumho PA31s and Michelin X12 snows. The grip of either tire in wet conditions is quite incredible too, but snow and ice obviously is a different story. I have the CVT so that may be a factor as well.

I wonder if you don't have a tire issue more than anything else. On a light car like the Versa, tire characteristics become more pronounced, from my experience.

Understeer is always designed in on all cars (to a certain extent) as it is the safest set up, particularly for not so good drivers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
226 Posts
Hi forum members. Sorry to make my first post here a somewhat negative one. This is a topic I am unable to find much information about otherwise, and I thought a community of enthusiasts - maybe even a few technical people present - might have some insight. ...
...
So my question to my esteemed fellow Nissan drivers is: Is your experience the same? Are there known deficiencies in the suspension and steering design that would account for this? And, are there known remedies (suspension mods, tires, etc.)? I love the car, and would like to keep it - but the handling and braking leave much to be desired IMO.
The biggest fault with uphill in the slippery stuff, with the Versa, is the differential. It's plain terrible. pair that with skinny tires, and this thing becomes a one-wheel spinner in no time flat. The slightest hint of a load shift kills the power to the inside wheel.

I've gotten stuck and slid backwards on dirt, gravel and snow covered hilly roads and driveways. And like you, these are conditions I've never had issues with in ANY other car. An LSD should work wonders to keep both wheels getting power and maintaining traction. It'll increase torque steer, but there isn't enough power in these cars for that to be much of a detriment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
691 Posts
Open diffs are open diffs... lol, but the 6 speed manual in fact has terrible ratios for everyday driving, too short. You can never really find the right gear for the job and accelerating in first is useless, motor runs out of steam before you ever get to any decent speed. Bad for racing, bad for driving. The only thing the close ratio box is good for is in stop and go traffic where you can inch forward without using any gas.

The suspension is nothing to behold, or fault, it's just a regular old MacPherson Slut front suspension, although i will say now that i believe the bracing for the front suspension is lacking even for daily driving. There is a brace that ties the front control arm mounting point to the chassis, and it's got rubber bushings for vibration damping, but clearly this isn't enough to keep dynamic alignment angles from changing too much in heavy cornering. That's why i believe they understeer so much, flex causing change in angles when lateral loads are being put on the front tires and to the steering knuckles. You can try both top and bottom braces/tie ins that aim to keep flex to a minimum.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
126 Posts
Hello Jriehl,

Single-car accidents are most commonly caused by the driver being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This article: "These 10 Vehicles Have Been Deemed the Deadliest on the Road" is far more a demographic study (which cars are drunks most likely to drive) than it is a study on the relative safety of the vehicles in question.

The Versa with the 6 speed is geared low, and I imagine that is why you can burn rubber ad infinitum and lose traction on a steep, wet hill.

Perhaps grippier tires, choosing a higher gear and/or using a lighter foot on the gas while going up the hill will help matters.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,246 Posts
Your talking about light (yet nose heavy) FWD car with shit winter tires. The steering response is pretty quick, with the right set of tires it handles like a go kart in the dry. In the wet/slippery… well it is what it is. It handles like a light, FWD car does. Shouldn't be any surprise there. I have Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2's on and its a lot better, but still… it is what it is. You can't completely transform one thing into something else. If you could, you would be a famous magician.

As for the braking… its designed as a city commuter vehicle and has brakes as would belong on a city commuter vehicle. I upgraded my pads and rotors to carbon ceramic after I quickly wore the stock ones out and they perform quite well. For added stopping you could add braided stainless steel connectors in place of the factory rubber ones. These will flex a slight bit less that you really won't notice aside from the placebo effect. If you drive hard enough on public roads for these to make a difference, then you are a real @$$hole. I'm going to assume that you don't drive like that though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
226 Posts
basically the front end of the versa was engineered like crap. It's good enough for flat or dry city streets, no good for much else.

An open diff can be engineered with preloads to manage thrust loads. Mac Struts can have vastly different geometry, spring rates, and anti-roll/caster properties to manage cornering loads. I'm done with that topic.

stickier tires are probably going to be the best way to manage and influence wheel spin. The stock tires are "low roll resistance", so they just exacerbate the handling issues, even if they do get you 1-2 more mpg.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Hey - thanks very much for additional replies since last I checked. Some of which confirm my driving impressions. Once again this evening, it was raining in Seattle. God help me, I got myself stopped on an uphill on Spring Street, with one wheel on a manhole cover. Fortunately the person behind left enough room for me to get off of it. There was no moving forward. The Blizzaks I put on were stickier than the Continentals the car came with - but with more than a year on them, they too have degraded considerably. rstoltz, you mentioned a limited slip differential. If it is available and not prohibitively expensive, it may be worth looking into. And maybe wider tires..... Anyway, thanks again for your advice and observations.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Just a thought... Have you considered that maybe the problem lies somewhere in the suspension and not caused by the tires? My wife's versa seemed very "Squirrely" as you described yours at first. I remember it feeling nice and tight months ago the time I had driven it before last. It's due for brakes so while I'm down there I'll check out the suspension and see if anything needs replacing or just replace it as part of maintenance. It's also an 09. The squirrely feeling didn't feel safe, I'm just waiting for the weather to clear up around here to take care of it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
519 Posts
Just curious Jriehl, do you have Traction Control on your car? Over the winter on snow covered roads I observed that traction control is quite active on my Note, with TC turned off one tire will just spin at will (even with Michelin xIce tires).

My point, TC is like a poor man's limited slip diff, assuming you have it, I wonder if it's working?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
Ok. I have had several cars that handled much worse than my 2012 versa sedan. Still on original set of continentals but they need to replacement this summer. Current mileage at 55000. Even now in wet roads hills or drys conditions it handles real good!
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
About this Discussion
11 Replies
9 Participants
jhowell
Nissan Versa Forums
We’re a forum community dedicated to Nissan Versa owners & enthusiasts. Come join the discussion on performance, troubleshooting, accessories, purchasing, maintenance and more!
Full Forum Listing
Top