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. The 1.6-liter is only offered on the Versa and Versa Base sedans—it's not available with the hatchback—and makes 107 horsepower, 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. 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 CVT transmission is available on the top SL Hatchback model. Meanwhile 1.8-liter S models get either a six-speed manual or 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. We'd recommend either the 1.6-liter manual, or the 1.8-liter with the manual or the CVT, as neither engine deals well with the auto's wide ratios; the CVT has its own drawbacks though, in that it can become boomy when accelerating, even slightly, at highway speeds.
In all, you won't ever mistake the 2011 Versa for a sporty car. The 2011 Versa is very softly sprung, and it weighs significantly more than many of its rivals, which together hurts handling for those looking to hotfoot around corners, but there's enough body control to keep it feeling safe and secure. Steering is rather light, and only somewhat communicative, and brake-pedal feel tends on the mushy side even though stopping distances are good.