NASHVILLE, Tenn., — This is surreal. We came here to learn about the changes for 2010 that Nissan had made to its sedans: the Altima, the Maxima, the Sentra and the Versa. Normally, these changes are incremental. Some new sheet metal here, more power there, a couple of new colors, etc. Rarely is there any big news. Not this time; I think Nissan dropped a bombshell and really didn’t know it. Or at least the automaker acted like it was nothing special. To the point, Nissan announced that a new navigation package would be available in the compact Sentra and subcompact Versa which is offered in hatchback and sedan configurations. This is an in-dash option for which Nissan said that it will charge about $400. The significance of this is automakers usually charge about $2,000 for a factory installed navigation system. That means that Nissan has developed a system and will charge about $1,500 less for it.
And this is no fly by night system. It was developed and is being supplied to Nissan by Borsch, one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers. What’s more, navigation systems have yet to make their way into many compacts or subcompacts. Normally, buyers of small cars will purchase an aftermarket navigation system for several hundred dollars; the kind that sticks to the windshield like a radar detector. I had to hunt to find more information about this navigation system. The L.A. Times reported that it will be available in January and confirmed the $400 price that I had been told. It will feature a 5-inch touch screen and XM NavTraffic real time updates will be available with a subscription to satellite radio. Implicit in that information is that the Sentra and the Versa will have a satellite radio option. That is a precursor to a new automotive trend. Consumers want more fuel efficient vehicles and that means smaller cars. But they still want all the creature comforts of larger cars. Nissan is obliging them. In press materials, Nissan said its $400 navigation system bundles audio, navigation and communication functions in a compactly designed unit that is integrated into the dashboard. In addition to AM/FM and satellite radio reception, the audio system will play CDs or MP3 music files on the integrated CD drive or via the USB slot or the AUX input. The navigation system is easy to use and also allows the user to choose a route that consumes the least amount of fuel. With CAN connection to the Bluetooth hands-free phone system, the Nissan navigation system also enables in-vehicle telephone use that prevents the driver from having to take his/her hands off the wheel.
Using a color touch screen with controls enabling parallel operation, the Nissan Navigation system visualizes radio stations within reception range clearly displayed with road geometry, route guidance and a permanent map. The system has a functional front design, and a matte-black finish frames the 5-inch color touch screen. In combination with easy-to-use keys and two encoder buttons, it presents an intuitive and conveniently operating concept. The Sentra and Versa will also an available rearview camera.
Nissan is utilizing continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) across its entire product line. They’re more fuel efficient than traditional automatic transmissions. I don’t particularly like CVTs. But I suspect that Nissan is well on its way to acquiring an enormous skill in the technology since it use of CVTs is pretty extensive. What’s more, a CVT laced lineup will boost fuel efficiency across Nissan’s fleet. That certainly will help with the more strident Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that increase beginning in 2011. Prices range from $10,710 for a 2010 Nissan Versa sedan to $33,900 for Nissan’s flagship, the 2010 Maxima.
Frank S. Washington is managing partner/editor of AboutThatCar.com and