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Nissan Versa

The Car Connection Nissan Versa Overview

The Nissan Versa is the name applied to two different vehicles—a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, the Versa Note. Both are spacious for their subcompact size class, and both are among the most affordable vehicles in their niche.

The current Versa cars offer a value-priced alternative to the latest Honda Fit hatchback as well as the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Mitsubishi Mirage, and Toyota Yaris.

MORE: Read our 2016 Nissan Versa review

The new Nissan Versa

The current Versa four-door debuted as a redesigned model for 2012, trading its predecessor's slab-sided lines for more rounded—some might say bulbous—shapes, and an updated Nissan corporate grille.

An all-new Versa Note five-door hatchback with very different styling was added as a 2014 model early in 2013; the two share a common name and some underpinnings but not a single body panel. (You can read a first drive report on the Nissan Versa Note here.)

All current Versa sedans are powered by a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The 1.6 S gets notably worse fuel efficiency ratings (27 mpg city, 36 highway, 30 combined) than better-equipped models, because it is available only with a 5-speed manual gearbox or an optional 4-speed automatic. The higher-line models can be ordered with a more fuel-efficient version of Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which pushes the Versa sedan's ratings to 31/40/35 mpg.

The Versa continues to emphasize its value over any other attribute, helping the car appeal to folks who aren't necessarily looking for top performance or amazing fuel economy. It's a nice enough car to pilot in commuting, but the suspension is very soft, which hampers handling. 

The Nissan Versa's lower price, however, comes with a tradeoff: a very basic interior and minimal driving feel. The latest Versa seems even more bargain-basement than ever in its features and appointments, with drum brakes across the lineup; short, flat seats; hard-and-hollow-feeling dash and door trim; and rear seatbacks that don't fold forward on the less expensive models. But for many buyers, roominess often trumps both of those qualities.

The Versa sedan and Note have very good interior room for their size class. Two normal-sized adults can even fit into the back seat in comfort, something not easily claimed by most competitors in the segment. The rear doors open wide to a back seat that's very spacious for the class, easily accommodating two adults or three kids. Those who want the most versatility should choose the Note hatchback, although it costs slightly more.

The Versa's safety ratings aren't stellar, either. Both the sedan and Note hatch receive four stars out of five overall from the federal government. The sedan is the only model to have been fully tested by the IIHS, which gives it top "Good" scores in all but the newest frontal crash test, where it receives a "Poor" result. As a result, the four-door Versa does not get the agency's Top Safety Pick nod.

Features are meager at the entry level. Air conditioning is now standard, as is Bluetooth pairing and voice control, though power windows and locks are not. (Power mirrors were made standard for 2016.) The mid-range SV model adds the usual convenience items, including power windows and cruise control, while the top-of-the-range SL models can reach around $18,000 when fully optioned with navigation, XM NavTraffic, and USB/iPod controls.

The Versa continues largely unchanged for 2016. Its sole new specifications are a pair of new paint colors—Cayenne Red and Gun Metallic—along with standard power mirrors in body color.

Nissan Versa history

When the first-generation Versa was introduced back in 2007, it was the only subcompact to have a standard six-speed manual gearbox (something it no longer offers, sadly). Both the four-door sedan and the five-door hatchback were equipped with a 122-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. At first, a conventional four-speed automatic transmission was optional, but it was soon replaced by Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Nissan added Base models of the Versa sedan in 2009, which were powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 107 hp. A 5-speed manual was standard there, as were manual locks and windows, while air conditioning, a stereo, and the automatic transmission were options, all to keep the price down. This lack of features also kept weight down, making the 1.6-liter models a little more fun to drive, if not to be in for long periods of time. The 1.6 was only really adequate if you stuck with the manual transmission, however. Interestingly, the Versa 1.6 got slightly lower fuel economy than 1.8 models, with EPA ratings of 26 mpg city, 31 highway, likely due to gearing that was meant to compensate for the lower engine output.

Versa S models were better equipped, including most of the basics the Base models forewent, while range-topping SL models came with upgraded sound, height-adjustable seats, power windows and locks, keyless entry, and standard electronic stability control. Although the Versa earned reasonably good safety ratings, prior to 2010 the Base and S models didn't come with standard anti-lock brakes or electronic stability control.

For 2010, in addition to the new safety equipment, Nissan added a slightly different grille to the lineup and made large, 16-inch alloy wheels optional, as well as a navigation and a satellite radio. Intelligent Key and Rockford Fosgate sound remained major options.

The Car Connection Consumer Review

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Thursday, April 7, 2016
2016 Nissan Versa 4-Door Sedan Automatic 1.6 S

Do not buy a Nissan -- unless you want trouble

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We bought the Nissan Versa because it was inexpensive and Consumer Reports said the Versa was a good deal. We had trouble with the car from the beginning. It constantly required service. I never felt safe in... + More »
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015
2016 Nissan Versa 4-Door Sedan CVT 1.6 SV

Surprisingly nimble and quick with the best FWD steering yet.

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Surprisingly nimble and quick with the best FWD steering (I've not driven a 2015/16 Acura with 4WS though and the older Preludes with 4WS were exceptional). CVT transmission seems almost perfect, assuming it's... + More »
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Monday, May 2, 2016
2015 Nissan Versa 4-Door Sedan Manual 1.6 S

Cheap to operate.

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With the AC on the car needs more power. The car is fine for everday driving.
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