That said, you should always take a long look at safety ratings for any new car, as there's still a wide range of protection—and plenty of room for improvement—represented in the ratings from the two major U.S. agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
The IIHS has announced that the 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan achieves Top Safety Pick status—meaning that it gets top 'good' ratings in all test categories, including front, side, rollover, and rear impact.
But regarding the Versa model line for 2012: It's complicated; at least for 2012, the Versa Hatchback is still the previous-generation car, which hasn't fared nearly as well in safety ratings. The IIHS notes that the top ratings only apply to the Sedan. The 2012 Nissan Versa Hatchback models get only 'acceptable' ratings in IIHS tests for side impact and roof strength.
A completely redesigned 2013 Nissan Versa Hatchback—along the lines of the 2012 Sedan—is expected later this year.
Furthermore, it's worth keeping in mind that neither of these bodystyles is a high achiever in the new federal NCAP tests; both the new Versa Sedan and the 2012 Versa Hatchback achieve just three stars for frontal impact in federal testing, while the new Versa Sedan does achieve a four-star (out of five) side-impact rating and a four-star overall score.
Those frontal scores, particularly, are concerning, as they don't compensate for collisions with vehicles of different weight and size classes—instances where the Versa occupants are likely to be subjected to higher forces. As the federal government points out, you can only compare these scores model-to-model within vehicles of the same weight class (within 250 pounds).
But to the point: Versus that five- or six-year-old small car you might have in the driveway, trading it in on a new Versa Sedan is likely a smart safety move.