2010 Nissan Versa Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
November 28, 2009

The 2010 Nissan Versa is one of the best-value cars available on the market. Just remember that at its cheapest, you won’t be getting too much in the way of features.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Nissan Versa—and even checked out the budget-priced 1.6-liter version—to bring you their expert opinion on the entire lineup. To help you make the best buying decision, TheCarConnection.com also brings you highlights and insights from other road tests.

The Nissan Versa hatchback and sedan were completely new for 2007; for 2010 Nissan adds some important safety features as standard to Versa models fitted with a 1.8-liter engine. Unfortunately, the entry-level 1.6-liter model still lacks a number of safety features, but its price point of $9,990 justifies this by making it one of the cheapest vehicles on the U.S. market. There have also been some minor styling tweaks to the exterior, as well as a new navigation system option.

Two body styles are offered: a five-door hatchback or a four-door sedan. As a hatchback, the Versa looks considerably more elegant and complete as a design, with the gently curved roofline and kicked-up back pillar. Versa sedans look a little tall and homely, and the proportions don't work out as well. Inside, the Versa is no-frills but cleanly designed, with an upright, squared-off instrument panel that's refreshingly simple.

The base-level model is appropriately named the Nissan Versa Base, fitted with a 1.6-liter engine. Sitting above this are the S- and SL-level trims, both of which are more expensive but pack more standard features into the Versa. Those bargain-priced models—the 2010 Nissan Versa and Versa Base—include a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine delivering 107 horsepower, which comes with a five-speed manual, rather than a six-speed, but we like the nice, neat linkage and smooth clutch uptake with either manual gearbox. Oddly, the 1.6-liter is only offered in the sedan body style. For a bit more than the 1.6 Base, there’s a 1.6 model that’s offered with a four-speed automatic, but we’d recommend the stick with the lesser engine, as the 1.8-liter doesn’t deal well with the auto’s wide ratios and can become boomy at higher speeds. The 1.8-liter, 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine that was previously standard is now offered on the rest of the line and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while Nissan's continuously variable Xtronic transmission is available on the top SL Hatchback model. Other models are only offered with an optional four-speed automatic. Overall, the 1.6-liter version does just fine around town, though it does feel a little more winded on the highway. Despite having more power on tap, fuel economy for the 1.8-liter is about the same in the city, at 26 mpg, as the 1.6-liter model, but it does have a lower 31-mpg highway rating.

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Compared to other small cars, the 2010 Nissan Versa rides very comfortably, yet doesn't handle as nimbly as expected thanks to its nearly 2,800-pound weight when ordered in top trims. The power steering can also feel a little too light at times, but considering the Versa’s target market segment, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. More importantly, the Versa has a relatively quiet interior with little road noise when cruising at highway speeds. Smaller 14-inch wheels, although they don’t look as nice, seem to offer a better ride at no detriment to handling.

Compared to other cars in its class, the 2010 Versa is exceptionally roomy in both sedan and hatch guises. The hatchback has a generous 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat up, trunk space is vast for such a small car in the sedan, and Nissan says the amount of interior space approaches that of mid-size cars. We find headroom and legroom to be plentiful, although shoulder room is obviously affected by the Versa’s narrower size when compared to mid-size vehicles. Surprisingly for such a cheap car, the dash, instrument panel, and switchgear feel like they were lifted from some of Nissan's more expensive offerings. Those with long commutes will especially appreciate the seats in the 2010 Nissan Versa, which are among the most comfortable of any small car. Also, the wide-opening doors in back provide for refreshingly easy entry and exit.

For 2010, Nissan adds an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a standard safety feature for the Versa S. The Versa also provides front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain bags. Crash-test results are good but not class-leading; the Versa achieves four-star ratings from the federal government in both frontal and side impact balance, as well as top Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS in frontal, side, and rear impact tests.

Starting at less than $10,000, the base-model Versa doesn’t come with much. Going with the most basic trim level, buyers will be dismayed to find that there is no air conditioning or sound system, and neither is offered as a factory option. Windows and locks are manual, while side mirrors and some of the interior trim are constructed with a downgraded black plastic—and lots of cheap plastic spacers where things like the A/C button would be. The non-base 1.6-liter does come with A/C but not much more. While the entry-level Versa undercuts its competitors, the lack of features hardly puts them in the same category. Happily, though, when opting for a higher-spec Versa, the price is still very competitive with similar offerings from other manufacturers. The 2010 Nissan 1.8-liter Versa S is much better equipped, with plenty of standard features, such as a 120-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers, a rear defroster, and air conditioning with filtration.

In range-topping SL trim, buyers are treated to upgrades such as a 180-watt system with a built-in six-disc changer, six speakers, and an auxiliary input, plus cruise control, new-for-2010 available 16-inch alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a rear center armrest with cup holders, keyless entry, an overhead console, and power locks, windows, and mirrors. On top of this, the SL sedan and hatchback models also get Nissan’s ABS and Vehicle Dynamic Control systems as standard. If opting for the Versa hatchback in SL trim, Nissan offers new front and rear fascias, body side sills, and a rear spoiler, as well as standard fog lights. There have also been some upgrades to the interior of the Versa SL hatchback, with revised fabrics and finishes and a Sport interior as standard. Major options on the Versa include Intelligent Key, Bluetooth compatibility, a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, an MP3 player input jack, and a new Navigation/XM Satellite Radio package.

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2010 Nissan Versa

Styling

From the outside, the Nissan Versa can appear to be bland and uninteresting, especially in sedan form; a simple but well laid-out interior redeems the design.

From most angles, the two body styles of the 2010 Nissan Versa, a five-door hatchback or a four-door sedan, look quite different either from a distance or up close.

Reviews show mixed reactions, but most tend to agree with TheCarConnection.com and Motor Trend's opinion that the hatchback is definitely "the more distinct-looking sibling." Car and Driver says the style is "hardly a recipe to whet the collective American appetite”, while Kelley Blue Book reviewers don't mind the exterior styling, contending that "the tidy Versa succeeds at not being boxy or bland," and the car's proportions make it "exceptionally easy to enter." Edmunds states that "both body styles come in base 1.8 S and more upscale 1.8 SL trim levels," though the only external differences are "alloy wheels" on the 1.8 SL. The exterior of the Nissan Versa certainly isn't exciting, but it is practical and a bit of an optical illusion. Cars.com reviewers comment that "at first glance, you might think the Nissan Versa sedan is a subcompact," but in reality, it's "less than an inch shorter than a Honda Civic and just two inches shorter than a Mazda3." The reason for the subcompact appearance is the "funky front end, tall roofline and squished rear," which Cars.com considers a "look that's common to Japanese subcompacts," although on the 2010 Nissan Versa, those elements "don't flow together well."

Inside, the Versa is no-frills but cleanly designed, with an upright, squared-off instrument panel that's refreshingly simple. On the whole, journalists are impressed by the interior of the 2010 Versa. ConsumerGuide gives the interior high marks for the "logically placed and, for the most part, clearly marked" controls. Cars.com reviewers also approve of the dash inside the Nissan Versa, finding that it "appears more like its big brother, the Sentra," a slightly more expensive vehicle in Nissan's lineup. Interior space is also impressive, and MotherProof reports that the interior is "far bigger" than it appears from the outside, while Cars.com describes it as "cavernous."  The 2010 Nissan Versa is designed to maximize the space afforded by its small dimensions, and Nissan does an incredible job in that regard.

7

2010 Nissan Versa

Performance

The 2010 Nissan Versa performs adequately, but in a leisurely and pedestrian manner, and it doesn’t pay off at the pump as well as it should. Those who expect at least a little excitement will be disappointed.

The common theme of reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is that the 2010 Nissan Versa has adequate power, but the sporty reflexes of other Nissans are absent. In short, it’s not exactly a fun car to drive. While the new 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine provides both the fuel economy and the performance you’d expect from an engine producing 107 horsepower, even the mightier 1.8-liter engine struggles to impress some reviewers.

Regarding the 1.6 Sedan, Automedia.com comments, “When coupled with the five-speed manual and a skilled driver, it provides peppy acceleration. No downshifting was required to easily keep pace with interstate-highway traffic.” Other reviewers aren’t as kind—“the engine is buzzy, the ride at 80 mph is choppy and the car was all over the road on regular commutes,” says AutoWeek, adding that “keeping the car going straight required constant sawing of the steering wheel.” The positive aspect from the same reviewer is that the Versa “is frugal on gas and will help owners feel like they are reducing our country's dependency on foreign oil. And it comes with a factory warranty.”

According to Edmunds, the 1.8-liter engine delivers "122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque," which they assert is good enough for "adequate" acceleration. However, ConsumerGuide says that "manual- and four-speed-automatic transmission versions feel labored and weak at low speed," although "hatchbacks with the CVT" are "livelier from a stop." In ConsumerGuide testing, a Nissan Versa 1.8 S with manual transmission "did 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds."

Reviews of the transmissions read by TheCarConnection.com show mixed impressions, but the CVT scores well across the board. Cars.com reviewers say "the Versa's CVT is seamless; most buyers probably won't even notice they're not driving a regular automatic." However, Edmunds recommends the "six-speed manual," provided "you don't mind shifting your own gears." They also note that the standard "four-speed automatic" is the weakest transmission choice, as the CVT "has an edge over the automatic in both performance and fuel economy." Car and Driver feels that the 1.8-liter engine in the SL trim Versa “wasn’t terribly fun” to drive, thanks to “the miserable droning of the engine that comes courtesy of the pulley tranny”. Automotive.com reports, “When you stomp on the gas pedal the sound of the engine revving instantly before the car accelerates, a phenomenon of the CVT, can be a bit disconcerting at first. We found it not unpleasant, in fact it sounds kind of fun. In regular stop-and-go traffic under slow acceleration there is no sensation other than the car moving forward smoothly with no sound or feel of shifting gears.”

The soft suspension on the 2010 Nissan Versa hurts handling, but it does make the car “surprisingly comfortable and reasonably well damped and sprung, at least for this class," according to Car and Driver; ConsumerGuide adds that "it imparts a comfortable and controlled ride on most surfaces." Car and Driver also finds that "steering is modestly communicative," but the braking on the 2010 Nissan Versa "is well behind the competition, as is pedal feel." Edmunds comments that "the car feels tall and out of its element when going around corners, a quality accentuated by the Versa's considerable body roll and slow steering."

EPA estimates for Nissan's 2010 Versa are somewhat disappointing, and reviewers observe even fewer miles per gallon. For the 2010 Nissan Versa, the EPA estimates that CVT-equipped vehicles will return 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, while automatics should achieve 24/32 mpg, and manuals 26/31 mpg. ConsumerGuide reviewers states that, during testing, "an SL sedan with the CVT averaged 24.5 mpg in mostly city driving," while a "test S hatchback with the 4-speed automatic averaged 24.8 mpg."

8

2010 Nissan Versa

Comfort & Quality

But for the price, the 2010 Nissan Versa has a great deal to offer in terms of comfort, room, and overall quality.

The 2010 Nissan Versa offers very impressive interior space, but engine noise and some unimpressive trim pieces detract from the experience.

Compared to other cars in its class, the 2010 Versa is exceptionally roomy in both sedan and hatch guises, and Nissan says the amount of interior space approaches that of mid-size cars. Edmunds proclaims that "the Nissan Versa's interior is notable for its spaciousness." There is seating for five, but squeezing an adult into the middle rear seat can be a challenge. The "tall roof makes headroom a non-issue, and its expansive legroom lets 6-foot-plus passengers sit comfortably in either the front or rear,” says Edmunds. Cars.com adds that "the backseat actually has a ton of room, more than in a lot of midsize sedans," and "the seats are reclined a bit, which helps with headroom." Also, the wide-opening doors in back provide for refreshingly easy entry and exit. However, despite the admirable overall comfort in the Nissan Versa, some reviewers, such as those at MotherProof, find the rear seats aren't "that comfortable, so longer drives could start to wear on your back." This is an exception to most reviews, as the seats are generally considered comfortable.

Storage inside the cabin is another point where reviewers are impressed with the Versa. ConsumerGuide notes that there is "plenty of interior storage, including front and rear map pockets." At the back of the car, reviewers at The Auto Channel find "excellent trunk room (17.8 cubic feet)" during their drive, even with the rear seats in place, but if they need to, they could have folded those seats "to create the maximum carrying capacity of 50.4 cubic feet." MotherProof reviewers also count "six cupholders."

Reviews of the car’s interior materials are more of a mixed bag; Car and Driver reviewers blast the "budget" interior and the fact that "hard plastics are omnipresent,” while ConsumerGuide feels that the "interior is highlighted by lots of soft-touch materials and classy looking gauges—uncommon at this price point." Cars.com testers also love the "high-quality feel of the controls and dashboard materials" on their Nissan Versa.

A good indicator of build quality is interior noise levels; in this regard, ConsumerGuide finds that in general, the Versa offers a "quiet highway ride,” but this can be “disturbed by modest wind noise from the mirrors and some coarse-surface tire thrum." Edmunds also notes that the CVT "results in a raucous cabin environment" accentuated by "noisy and gruff" engine sounds.

10

2010 Nissan Versa

Safety

With good crash-test results and more standard safety features, the Versa impresses in this area. Just make sure you check the right option boxes.

The 2010 Versa performs well in both insurance industry and federal government crash tests. With the addition of new standard safety features for 2010 on some model lines, including active safety measures such as ABS and stability control, the latest Versa SL and Versa S are safer than last year’s model.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) bestows its highest rating of "good" in both frontal offset and side-impact tests on the 2010 Nissan Versa. Meanwhile, the government's testing agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), subjects the Nissan Versa to its full battery of tests and, in the end, awards four out of a possible five stars to the Versa in every category. Those categories include front impact protection and side impact protection, for both the passenger and driver sides. The ratings from these agencies apply to both the sedan and hatchback versions of Nissan's 2010 Versa.

Edmunds reports that the “Nissan Versa comes standard with front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitor.” Last year’s Nissan Versa garnered significant criticism about its conspicuously absent standard features, but for 2010, Nissan has taken note of these issues and remedied the situation—somewhat. While ABS and Nissan Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system are still not available on the Base Versa, ABS is now standard on the mid-range Versa S, with VDC available as an option. Nissan’s ABS system is available as an option on the base 1.6-liter models for $250. Both ABS and VDC come as standard on the range-topping Versa SL. Fog lights have also been added as standard on the hatchback variant of the of the Versa SL.

Another important aspect of safety is visibility, and in the 2010 Nissan Versa, most reviewers take note in a positive way. ConsumerGuide contends that visibility is "good in all directions." MotherProof adds that perhaps their "favorite feature on the Versa was the small triangular windows up front where the front doors and windshield intersect," as they can "help visibility a lot."

8

2010 Nissan Versa

Features

Although the 2010 Versa is a stripped-down econobox in its most basic form, Nissan offers an extensive list of standard and optional features up the model line. Bluetooth could be more widely available, though.

Depending on what trim you choose, with the right options the 2010 Nissan Versa can be outfitted like a larger, more luxurious car. This said, the 1.6-liter model is a budget vehicle and appropriately accessorized as one.

Standard features include a rear-window defroster, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, intermittent windshield wipers, and full-length side-curtain airbags. To some, the lack of features is nothing to brag about: “driving without a radio definitely makes you easily realize you are slogging around on budget wheels,” says AutoWeek. However, Automedia.com contends that with “a starting price of less than $10,000 the Versa 1.6 Sedan provides everything you need and almost nothing you don’t.” Automedia.com also suggests that “many will enjoy the simplicity of a manual transmission, hand-cranked windows and finger-operated door locks. No reference book is needed to understand the purpose of every feature on the vehicle.”

The 2010 Nissan 1.8-liter Versa S is much better equipped, with plenty of standard features, such as a 120-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers, a rear defroster, and air conditioning with filtration.

In range-topping SL trim, buyers are treated to upgrades such as a 180-watt system with a built-in six-disc changer, six speakers, and an auxiliary input, plus cruise control, new-for-2010 available 16-inch alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a rear center armrest with cup holders, keyless entry, an overhead console, and power locks, windows, and mirrors. On top of this, the SL sedan and hatchback models also get Nissan’s ABS and Vehicle Dynamic Control systems as standard. If opting for the Versa hatchback in SL trim, Nissan offers new front and rear fascias, body side sills, and a rear spoiler, as well as standard fog lights. There have also been some upgrades to the interior of the Versa SL hatchback, with revised fabrics and finishes and a Sport interior as standard. Major options on the Versa include Intelligent Key, Bluetooth compatibility, a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, an MP3 player input jack, and a new Navigation/XM Satellite Radio package.

New options for 2010 are 16-inch alloy wheels for the Versa SL, which should help make it look less like a toy car. MotherProof thinks both S and SL models are "pretty pimped-out" for "such an economical car."

Among other available features on Nissan's 2010 Versa, you'll find a new navigation system coupled with XM Satellite Radio. This new $610 option adds a five-inch color display to the center console, as well as USB connectivity that is iPod-compatible. A moonroof is available on the hatchback, but only in conjunction with both the navigation package and Nissan’s premium package. Bluetooth is only offered in a package and only on the SL.

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April 18, 2015
For 2010 Nissan Versa

A very good car!!

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Very enjoyable. Not so good in fuel economy. Interior spaces are very comfortable, specially rear ones.
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March 13, 2015
For 2010 Nissan Versa

Very happy with squirt 1.8l 6 speed

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I purchased the vehicle with a 6 speed. A lot more responsive, no cvt noise. Also noticed it was clumsy due to ride height so I installed lowering springs. Took care of that issue. Engine noise and road noise... + More »
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