by Roger Biermann
Initially introduced into the market in 2012, the aging Nissan Versa is an extremely affordable subcompact sedan with a starting price of $12,460. However, the low cost is also very evident in the quality of the vehicle. It's 1.6-liter four-cylinder squeezes out a measly 106 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most underpowered small sedans on the market. The Versa does offer a spacious interior and above-average trunk capacity, but it is lacking in just about every other area. Even in the top SV trim, the Versa fares extremely poorly with sparse in-house features compared to rivals like the Honda Fit and even the aging Ford Fiesta. With the Versa expecting a redesign for 2020, now might be a good time to get this sedan for an even better deal, but only if the price is your sole concern.
The Nissan Versa, yet again, receives only token changes for the new year. The Special Edition Package for the SV trim offers a few new features, but the basic trims remain unchanged. This lack of any extensive changes could be because the Versa is receiving a comprehensive redesign for 2020.
The Versa's design is as bland as its performance. It doesn't look bad, with smooth lines, a chrome-plated grille, and large halogen headlights; but the subcompact sedan certainly doesn't stand out at all. A rear spoiler with integrated LED brake lights is available on all but the base S trim, but it's as conservative as the rest of the sedan. With small 15-inch wheels and a bulbous, nondescript body, the Versa lacks any real personality.
At 175.4 inches long, 66.7 inches wide, and 59.6 inches tall, the Versa is slightly longer than most subcompact sedans, though not quite as long as the Nissan Sentra. Unsurprisingly, this means it also has a slightly longer wheelbase of 102.4 inches. The S trim weighs in at a diminutive 2,395 lbs, while the heavier SV trim maxes out at just 2,494 lbs, making the Versa one of the lightest subcompacts around.
Only six paint colors are available on the Nissan Versa, including Super Black, Fresh Powder, Gun Metallic, and Brilliant Silver Metallic, which are standard options on every trim. Cayenne Red Metallic is added with the S Plus variant while Deep Blue Pearl is reserved for the SV. None of the paints truly make the sedan pop, but choosing a color that is limited to your trim may give some feeling of exclusivity.
When it comes to performance, you get what you pay for with the Versa. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is one of the weakest in the segment, delivering just 106 hp and 107 lb-ft. This lackluster drivetrain struggles to move even this lightweight sedan, with a disappointing 0 to 60 mph time of 9.8 seconds. This is more than a full second slower than the segment-leading Honda Fit. The Versa's top speed of 110 mph is on par with rivals.
The Versa S comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, while a CVT automatic is available with the S Plus and SV. Only front-wheel-drive is offered, which is not uncommon in the segment.
The Versa offers a single engine option: a 16-valve four-cylinder engine that displaces 1.6 liters to produce 109 hp and 107 lb-ft, directed to the front wheels only. This engine can be paired to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, or an Xtronic CVT on upper trim levels. Both weak and unrefined, this drivetrain produces an unpleasant amount of noise when pushed.
While this setup offers enough performance for the bare minimum of day-to-day driving, passing on the highway will be a feat in itself. The Versa just doesn't have the power to get you anywhere quickly; but, as is its purpose, it will get you there cheaply.
The Versa offers a ride that is as unremarkable as everything else about this sedan. Well, that's not entirely true – the suspension is very forgiving of road imperfections, so at least the ride won't be actively unpleasant. However, don't expect any level of engagement. Despite its tight turning radius and adequate handling, the steering is uncommunicative and the brakes are weak, with a 60-0 mph stopping distance in excess of 140 ft.
While the suspension soaks up most road-caused discomfort, the poorly designed cabin fails to dampen noise, especially from the underpowered engine. Additionally, the Versa lacks any sense of agility or athleticism – but it is determined. Its high-reliability rating isn't unwarranted, and it will get you where you need to go; just don't expect the ride to thrill you.
The Versa burns unleaded gasoline to achieve an estimated city/highway/combined EPA of 27/36/30 mpg when equipped with the manual transmission. The CVT gearbox offers an improved EPA of 31/39/34, and with a 10.8-gallon fuel tank, it can traverse approximately 367 miles before a refuel is required. Compared to rivals, the Versa seemingly dominates, with only the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 capable of topping it.
Following on its rather bland exterior, the interior is much of the same, with the only difference being that at least the exterior is well-built. Hard plastics are evident throughout the cabin and the upholstery is cheap; sound-dampening is almost non-existent. This is unfortunate, given the amount of noise produced by the sedan's labored engine. With no real on-board features to speak of on the base model, what there is, is laid out well-enough and is easy to access and operate. On the plus side, the interior is quite spacious and there is ample room for five passengers – if the rear occupants are smaller in stature; only four taller, larger adults would fit comfortably. While infotainment is extremely limited on the base S trim, it does include a seven-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth.
There is enough space for five within the Versa's cabin, but preferably only four in total if larger adults need to occupy the back seats. Headroom up front is an ample 39.8 inches, while the rear offers 36.6 inches. Legroom is equally as generous, with 41.8 inches for the front seats and 37.0 inches for the rear. While the seats are spacious, they lack in comfort and have limited adjustability, meaning long rides can quickly become unpleasant. Add to this the fact that the steering wheel features no telescoping adjustment, and it can be difficult for a driver to achieve perfect positioning. Entering and exiting the sedan is a simple task thanks to the spacious cabin and wide-opening doors.
The dash and panels throughout the interior are uniformly comprised of low-quality hard plastics, while the seats on the S and S Plus are upholstered in cloth, which, to be honest, feels quite cheap. The SV upgrades this material slightly, but it's still far from luxurious. The only color scheme available is a rather uninspired charcoal, although the Special Edition Package adds a Piano Black trim. The combination of cheap materials and bland design makes the Versa feel extremely low-grade and, simply put, quite boring.
One glimmer of light for the Versa is the substantial cargo area. Following the Versa's trend for spaciousness, the trunk offers above-average capacity for a subcompact sedan. With 14.9 cubic feet of trunk space standard, you could easily fit a full-size suitcase or two, the kids' sports bags, and the daily shopping without squashing your groceries. If that still isn't enough, the SV lets you fold down the rear seats in a 60/40 split to almost double this. The opening is also extremely wide, making packing that much easier.
Small-item storage is average, though. The glove compartment is quite large and could hold a purse, but the front door pockets and front and rear cupholders are smaller in size. The SV adds passenger seatback pockets, which are practical but do little to keep this vehicle out of the lower echelons of the segment overall.
The Nissan Versa is almost bereft of features. The standard S trim comes equipped with no more than a rearview camera, a trip computer, a 12-volt power outlet, and air conditioning. There are no advanced safety features or driver aids, although vehicle dynamic control with traction control systems are fitted at the very least, as well as anti-lock braking with electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist. This offering receives minor improvements when you upgrade trims, with the S Plus adding cruise control, and the SV adding keyless entry and ignition, two 12-volt power outlets, and power accessories.
Infotainment in the Versa is equally limited. Standard features include a four-speaker sound system supplemented by MP3 and CD playback, an auxiliary audio jack, and Bluetooth audio streaming. This all runs through a seven-inch touchscreen display that supports Siri Eyes Free. One USB port is also standard. The NissanConnect system is equipped, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but is only available on the upper-most trim. SiriusXM is also available on the Special Edition upgrade.
J.D. Power gives the Nissan Versa an overall dependability rating of 72 out of 100. There have been a number of minor complaints made about the Versa since 2012, aimed at the transmission, suspension, brakes, steering, and interior. The Versa was subject to a moderately severe recall in 2015 regarding hindered access to the pedals, and a similarly crucial recall in 2018 regarding ignition failure. Warranties on the Versa include a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty, three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance plan, and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage.
The Nissan Versa received four stars out of five from the NHTSA. Similarly, the IIHS has given the sedan an overall rating of good, with the exception being a rating of poor on the driver-side small front overlap test.
The Versa lacks many of the advanced safety features that are equipped on rivals such as the Honda Fit. Standard equipment on the Versa includes stability control and traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, three-point seat belts with pretensioners and six airbags: front, front side, and side curtain. Two full sets of LATCH systems are present on the back seats, although they are not easy to operate. A Tire Pressure monitoring system with easy-fill tire alert is available with the addition of the Special Edition package.
If all you need from a vehicle is a cheap way to get from point A to point B and no real desire to spend long hours in the vehicle, then yes, the Nissan Versa is a good car. If you want anything more than that, then skip this one over and scope out the rivals on offer instead.
This sedan's engine is one of the weakest in the market and it struggles to move the car, squealing in defiance if you push it even slightly. On the plus side, the Versa handles relatively well but driving it offers no real pleasure. The chassis and suspension absorb bumps really well, but this is countered by an interior that lacks any real comfort or convenience. The infotainment is as basic as it could be and safety features are limited to ABS brakes, traction control, and a rearview camera. There are no real driver assistance features to speak of.
The Versa does offer a pretty spacious interior and excellent cargo capacity, but some rivals like the Honda Fit offer even more, as well as outperforming in almost every other regard. Overall, the Versa gives you precisely what you pay for at its dirt-cheap price. But, for just a tiny bit more, you can actually get a decent vehicle.
The Versa has a reputation for being the most affordable new car in the market. Even for a subcompact sedan, it has an extremely low price tag. The base S starts at $12,460, with the S Plus costing $14,600. The top-tier SV is still relatively cheap at $16,090, even though it doesn't offer many improvements. These prices are MSRP and exclude tax, licensing, registrations, and Nissan's $895 destination charge.
Three models comprise the Versa range, the S, S Plus, and SV. Standard on all trims is the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 109 hp and 107 lb-ft. The five-speed manual gearbox is fitted on the S, with an upgrade to the Xtronic CVT on the upper trims. Front-wheel-drive is the only drivetrain configuration available across the range.
The base S features 15-inch steel wheels, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, power outside mirrors, basic air conditioning and six standard airbags. In terms of infotainment, the entry-spec sedan offers Bluetooth connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, MP3, and CD playback capability, as well as a four-speaker sound system, a seven-inch touchscreen display, one USB port, and an auxiliary audio jack.
The mid-range S Plus adds cruise control, a rear spoiler with integrated LED brake lights, and the Xtronic CVT.
As the top-tier trim, the SV adds to the S Plus by upgrading the cloth upholstery to the premium fabric while the rear seat gains 60/40 split-folding capability. A remote trunk-release feature, power doors and windows, six-way adjustment for the driver's seat and silver dash accents are also added.
1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
|1.6 S Plus||
1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
The only package available on the Nissan Versa is the Special Edition package at the top-end of the range. This package upgrades the wheels to 15-inch alloys, while fog lights, keyless entry and ignition, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are included. The infotainment system is replaced with a NissanConnect system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, still retaining the available seven-inch touchscreen. The interior receives a Piano Black trim.
Standalone features that can be added include Nissan Wi-Fi, Nissan VTRS (vehicle tracking and recovery system), and interior accent lighting.
The Nissan Versa is an extremely affordable car, even at its top trim level. Since the lower trims are almost bare of features, it makes sense to opt for the SV trim. As this particular version of the Versa is reaching the end of its life, with the model due for a redesign in 2020, it might be possible to get an even better deal from dealerships wanting to move stock, so aiming for the top trim might be cheaper than you think.
When it comes to choosing between the Versa and Sentra, it really comes down to which vehicle makes it to the average benchmark in most departments. Interior space is mostly the same, but sadly so is quality, with neither car matching up to segment standards. The Sentra does look a bit better on the outside, at least. The larger Sentra also offers a stronger 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine producing 124 hp and 125 lb-ft, but don't expect it to wow you much more than the Versa's. In terms of features, the Sentra has the upper hand here, offering better safety and infotainment without needing to choose the top trim levels. With a price difference of only around $5,000, the Sentra is still considered a pretty affordable buy. While it may not be the best buy on the market, the Sentra is better than the Versa in just about every regard.
Comparing the Honda Fit to the Nissan Versa is like comparing a BMW X3 to a Ford EcoSport… it's a no-brainer. The Honda Fit leads the subcompact segment while the Nissan Versa is just happy to be in the mix. The Fit handles very well, and it's 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is much more efficient, even though it offers only slightly better output at 130 hp and 114 lb-ft. With a much higher-quality interior that handles noise and road imperfections expertly, the Honda Fit is a pleasure to drive around town. You will struggle to find a subcompact that offers more pep than this. It's only real shortcoming is its slightly disappointing infotainment offering. Still, with a starting price tag of $16,190, the Honda Fit is the go-to car for an affordable and enjoyable subcompact – although it is a hatchback, not a sedan.