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The 2015 Nissan Versa serves as a great reminder that you can have a new car—and a new-car warranty—as well as a surprisingly good set of features for what's essentially otherwise used-car money. With its extremely low price, if you're willing to forgo some style, technology, and performance, then it's a model to seriously consider.
Especially in sedan form, the lineup continues to appeal to those who like their small cars to emulate something larger—unlike, say, trendsetters like the Fiat 500 or Mini Cooper. Instead, the Versa takes after its larger Sentra and Altima siblings in its styling and design; and for 2015 it gets a sharpening inside and out with a few new details that might make kick it a little more upscale. On the outside, the front end gets a little more chrome and a resculpted fascia, while inside there's a new steering wheel and reshaped center stack, along with new white instrument lighting.
Whether the 2015 Nissan Versa appeals to you or not is definitely a matter of managed expectations. While it appears quite refined, with the curvy roofline and flowing sheetmetal looking almost Infiniti-influenced from some angles, the proportions don't work out as well from the front or the rear, and up close, modest and undeniably basic are more appropriate, especially inside, where the trim and switchgear still have a very simple, part-bin look.
Unfortunately, the Versa isn't very enjoyable to drive—especially with the CVT and its sluggish responses, in addition to 11.5-second 0-60 mph times. The 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine can also be had with a traditional four-speed automatic transmission or five-speed manual, but both of those are only offered in base Versa S versions. While the steering is reasonably well-weighted, it's just too light and requires too many small corrections at speed. Add it all up and you have a car that has no pretensions of being sporty or fun (and isn't).
Space-efficiency and ride comfort are what the Versa Sedan and Versa Note do provide in abundance. Either of these models are very spacious considering the exterior size, but we wouldn't try to make four taller adults try to travel together here. The seats are short and flat and not all that comfortable (although there's a new base seat fabric this year), and in back it's surprising that in base Versa Sedans the rear seatbacks don't fold—not even as a single piece. The trunk is huge, though. Hatchbacks do better with versatility, of course, and they have a new Divide-N-Hide feature that lets you hide items in back while keeping a flat cargo floor. The soft suspension manages to soak up road imperfections without losing its composure—an impressive feat in this class. Few clunks or thunks make their way into the cabin; and with more sound deadening and better aerodynamics, it's reasonably quiet as long as you're not pressing the powertrain.
The 2015 Nissan Versa lineup meets all of a budget-strapped, pragmatic urban commuter's needs -- until you get to safety. Whether looking at the Nissan Versa Sedan or the Versa Note hatchback, you'll find that these models' safety ratings are a bit checkered. Feature-wise, all the typical small-car safety bases are covered. You get roof-mounted side airbags covering all outboard occupants, plus standard electronic stability control and front side-impact torso airbags.
For a vehicle that has a bottom-line price starting well under $13,000, the 2015 Nissan Versa offers an astonishingly complete feature set. Of course it's different than what you'll find in a mid-size sedan, but you get a lot for the money. For 2015, the Versa lineup gets Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free calling even in the base S trim, and the base audio system now has an auxiliary input.
The feature list on base Nissan Versa S models includes air conditioning, but otherwise it's strictly the basics, with manual wind-up windows and no power mirrors. Mid-level Versa SV models are a significant step above that, adding Bluetooth, upgraded cloth seats with six-way adjustability for the driver, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and chrome and silver interior accents. Add the SL package, and you get Intelligent Key, an immobilizer system, sun-visor extensions, and a driver's seat armrest. And you can step up to the SL Package with things like fog lamps, heated seats, and a navigation system with NissanConnect (XM NavTraffic, app capability, and point-of-interest features) and a a rearview monitor and Around View Monitor. And with a Tech Package you can add a 5.8-inch color touch screen, voice recognition, points-of-interest via Google, Bluetooth streaming audio, a hands-free text-messaging assistant, and heated side mirrors.