Right now, the least expensive car you can buy in the United States brand new is the Nissan Versa Sedan, which rings in at a very budget friendly $11,900. For that you get such amenities as wheels, seats, mostly translucent glass and an engine. Sounding a bit like a sewing machine with a hangover, the Versa’s 1.6 liter inline-4 struggles to produce 109 horsepower. Inside are cheap plastics, cheaper fabrics, and plenty of toxic new car smell. Okay, I’ll admit it does come with a warranty which, judging by the used Nissan products I see covered in soot and broken down around me, you’ll probably need at some point. You know those commercials for the toy (Flashing Lights! Realistic Siren Sounds!) you always wanted when you were a kid that they made seem so cool, but if you were lucky enough to get one you found out it was pretty much complete crap and broken immediately? Claiming that you’ve achieved something in buying the Versa as a new car is pretty much the same thing. I’d say it was a toaster on wheels, but I wouldn’t want to insult toast.
On the other end of the spectrum is the luxury executive market. Cars in this realm are crafted to be silent but perform like Swiss watches; powerful, smooth and seamless. They are expected to bathe you in luxuries; supple leather, the tactile feel of real wood – an airy feel of a ski chalet in Saint Moritz, but with the computing power of NASA and the convenience features of a Brookstone catalogue. They are made to have presence but not in a showy, pay attention to me way; more often, a regal, stately suit to brush the pedestrian cares of life away as you isolate yourself from traffic. They’re transportation cocoons spun by silk worms, and as such if you’re budget says “Versa”, they’re thoroughly out of your price range. Or, are they?