Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nissan Versa vs. Renault Scenic

After driving the Renault Scenic in France, I wrote about how "wowed" I was by its design, handling, fuel economy. There are no cars in the U.S. that come close in terms of performance because none (yet) have such a wonderful diesel engine.

But in terms of design, there's no reason there couldn't be a comparable car in the U.S. Unfortunately, we're lacking in that respect too. The closest we come is the Nissan Versa, a cousin of the Scenic since Renault owns Nissan. The Versa is, reputedly, built on the same or a similar platform. Indeed, the two cars have very similar. The Scenic is one inch (27mm) shorter but is both three inches (86mm) longer in its wheelbase and greater in its height. It's definitely wider but unfortunately, I don't have width stats because all I can find is a measurement for the Scenic "avec rétros extérieurs", that is with mirrors.

I sat in a Versa recently and it's amazing the difference that design can make. The small additions in wheelbase, height and width, combined with designers who are in a completely different league, make the Scenic feel like a car that's one whole size class up. You sit more vertical in the Scenic, there's much more legroom front and back, the seatbacks are thinner but more comfortable, the driving position is better, the luggage compartment is flat to the floor instead of featuring a huge lip above the bumper, there are storage pockets galore including four deep covered wells in the floor, one at each outboard seating position, there's greater visibility for front and rear passengers, etc etc. And the fit and finish is also one or more classes up.

Oh well. I do love New England. Its rural character can equal rural France in many respects. And although we don't know how to make croissants, at least our food is starting to be comparable. But we're a decade back in car design, at least for small, efficient cars.

No comments: