The Car Connection Nissan Versa Overview
The Nissan Versa is a four-door sedan, or a five-door hatchback when it's called the Versa Note. The Versa is consistently among the most affordable new cars sold in America and as such, it's not very luxurious.
Regardless of price or body style, both Versa variants are spacious for their subcompact size class.
With the Versa, Nissan has a rival for other small cars on sale in the U.S. including the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. The Versa was completely restyled for 2020. It's unchanged for 2021.
MORE: Read our 2021 Nissan Versa review
The new Nissan Versa
The Nissan Versa was substantially changed in 2020, with a new platform, engine, and options. The Versa sedan is related to the Kicks crossover and shares with it powertrains and features.
The Versa is Nissan's most affordable vehicle and for 2020 cost just over $15,500 in base configuration.
All sedans are powered by a modest 122-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4, and most versions will be teamed to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that manages 35 mpg combined, according to the EPA. It's front-wheel drive only, although efficiency and price far outweigh performance or capability in the Versa.
The interior is shod in cloth upholstery, and all Versas get a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment. Every Versa is equipped with automatic emergency braking, too.
Although the interior dimensions are slightly smaller than the car that preceded it, the 2020 Versa was more upscale and refined than its predecessor. The additions in standard features and outward style meant the Nissan Versa sedan, at least at its launch, wasn't the cheapest new car in America.
Nissan Versa history
When the first-generation Versa was introduced back in 2007, it was the only subcompact to have a standard 6-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 4-cylinder engine. At first, a conventional 4-speed automatic transmission was optional, but it was soon replaced by Nissan's CVT.
Nissan added base models of the Versa sedan in 2009, which were powered by a 1.6-liter 4-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.
A new Versa four-door made its debut in 2012, trading its predecessor's slab-sided lines for more rounded—some might say bulbous—shapes, and an updated Nissan corporate grille.
A 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.
Those Versa sedans were powered by a 109-hp, 1.6-liter 4-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 was available only with a 5-speed manual gearbox or an optional 4-speed automatic. The higher-line models offered a more fuel-efficient version of Nissan's CVT, which pushed the Versa sedan's ratings to 31/40/35 mpg.
The Versa's lower price, however, came with a tradeoff: a very basic interior and minimal driving feel.
The Versa Note was substantially revised in 2017 with a new face and headlights, updated wheels, and new paint colors. The sedan carried until 2019 and was replaced.