"No frills transportation still exists in the Nissan Versa, but it might be just the ticket for those on a budget looking for an urban runabout. For buyers on a budget who want the comfort of a warranty and that unmistakable new car smell, the 2017 Nissan Versa remains one of the least expensive new vehicles you can buy."
No frills transportation still exists in the Nissan Versa, but it might be just the ticket for those on a budget looking for an urban runabout.
For buyers on a budget who want the comfort of a warranty and that unmistakable new car smell, the 2017 Nissan Versa remains one of the least expensive new vehicles you can buy.
While it's pretty sparse in base S configuration, the S Plus, SV, and SL configurations add more features—and more to the bottom line. The Versa is available as either a sedan or a hatchback, the latter referred to as the Versa Note. It follows roughly the same trim as the sedan, but eschews the bargain-basement S model for a top-end version. The hatchback is offered in S Plus, SV, SL, and SR trims.
We give the Versa a 5.0 out of 10, a figure that's buoyed by the small car's good fuel economy. Though the Versa is not quite as thrifty as its small engine and light weight might suggest, it is definitely still a fuel sipper. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Nissan Versa styling and performance
The Versa sedan takes after its larger siblings, the Sentra and Altima sedans, with a strong family resemblance that was underscored by a mild refresh for the 2015 model year. The Nissan cues are obvious, with swept-back headlights and a front grille, but in S configuration it's a pretty basic looking vehicle.
That simplicity is carried over to the interior, which is functional but devoid of the styling flair seen in some rivals like the Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, and Chevrolet Spark.
The 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter inline-4 under the Versa's hood is its sole powerplant. It's underpowered against many competitors, and to get the 34 mpg combined fuel economy, you have to specify the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), which exacerbates the car's sluggish feel. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes 11.5 seconds, and there is no shortage of underhood rumble when you're underway.
The base Versa S model comes standard with a 5-speed manual, which saves some costs upfront but uses more fuel. Its 30-mpg combined figure is the same as, for example, the much larger automatic transmission Honda Accord. The days of saving fuel while rowing through the gears yourself are gone.
While the Versa's steering is reasonably well-weighted, it's light and requires too many small corrections to stay on track at highway speeds thanks to the narrow tires. Add it all up and you have a car that is far from fun or sporty to drive. But that's not the goal here; instead, credit is due to the Versa for its comfortable ride quality over rough terrain.
The Versa, especially in Note form, is larger inside than it looks. Nissan paid close attention to rear seat space, and two reasonably-sized adults can sit back there, but only higher trim levels receive a folding seatback to allow for larger items in the trunk. Up front, there's good bolstering mated to short, flat, and unsupportive bottom cushions.
With a focus on noise suppression and seemingly good build quality—no thunks or clunks—the Versa pair are reasonably quiet as long as you're not pressing the engine. Drive in a relaxed fashion and they're as quiet as a mid-size sedan was a decade and a half ago.
Base Versas are sparse, lacking power windows and locks, although there's an AM/FM/CD player on board. The Versa S is the only sedan offered with a stick shift. The S Plus adds cruise control and the CVT. From there, the SV adds some power features—windows, locks, and mirrors—as well as keyless entry. But if you're looking at the SV, it's worth spending the extra $500 for for the new-for-2017 SV Special Edition, with its leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lights, alloy wheels, rearview camera, 5.0-inch color audio system, and Bluetooth streaming audio. The SL tops the line with its own appearance upgrades and standard navigation, but it makes for a pricey subcompact.
The 2017 Nissan Versa sedan gets good fuel economy ratings if it's equipped with the CVT, at 31 mpg city, 39 highway, 34 combined. The cheapest model, with a 5-speed manual gearbox comes 27/36/30 mpg.
The Nissan Versa is about as dowdy as a car gets, inside and out.
Attempting to emulate its bigger Sentra and Altima siblings, the 2017 Nissan Versa comes up looking decidedly plain jane unless you pop for one of the higher trim levels.
Things don't get much better inside, which is why we've rated the basic Versa a 3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.) We know that other automakers can do stylish subcompacts. The Kia Rio and Chevrolet Spark, for instance, have a lot more flair.
The Versa tries to emulate its big brothers, but with fewer and less expressive swoops and flourishes—not surprising given its size. The large headlights, front-end sculpting, and full-chrome grille are cribbed from the larger Nissans, but less gracefully. The Versa sits on small wheels and has fewer highlights in the side panels, giving it a slightly dumpy look against its crisper siblings.
The Versa Note hatchback is more interesting, with proportions that aren't as homely. Curiously, it doesn't share any sheet metal with its sedan namesake, and its swoosh tail lamps evoke the brand's Juke and 370Z. Its proportions mostly avoid the low-rent appearance of the sedan, but it's the one with the trunk that sells the best.
A new Special Edition package for the SV sedan, which adds only $500 to the bottom line, brings alloy wheels to the picture, which helps. The SL has its own alloys as well, but its nearly $18,000 cost puts it in line with some compact sedans that offer more refinement.
Inside, there's more in common between the high-volume sedan and the Versa Note hatchback, both sharing a dual-cockpit theme. While hard plastic is typical in this class, the Versa has an abundance of it. A 2015 model year update made the sedan's center stack more like that of the Note, added a new and "more substantial" steering-wheel design, and switched instrument-panel lighting to white.
The effect remains undeniably basic, and it follows small-car tradition in offering a collection of cues and buttons that will be similar to those who've spent time in other smaller Nissan models. In either model, the climate controls are three simple, easy-to-use knobs. We like the dual glove boxes, but question why Nissan chose round air vents on either side of the dashboard but rectangular ones for the center stack.
Although it rides fairly well, the Versa's skinny tires and weak engine don't do it any favors. To be fair, Nissan doesn't market the 2017 Versa as a sporty offering, and that's accurate since it's neither particularly quick nor especially responsive.
It handles well, but it's among the slowest new cars and its engine and transmission deliver as close to a "penalty box" experience as you're likely to find today, which is why we rate it just a 3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Driving excitement is largely absent from the Versa, so "adequate" is probably the best adjective for what it's like to drive. It's competent, but unremarkable, with steering that is nicely weighted but too finicky, demanding many small adjustments to maintain a straight line at speed. That lightness does make the Versa easy to place in an urban environment, however. Anti-lock brakes with front discs and rear drums do a good job of slowing the Versa down.
Its 1.6-liter inline-4 is rated at just 109 horsepower, one of the lowest outputs in the class. With the continuously variable transmission (CVT), it can achieve 35 mpg combined and 40 mpg on the highway. Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph, however, takes 11.5 seconds, and the CVT is sluggish when you need to pass. Leisurely drivers will be content, but if you equate small with perky—think Mini Cooper—you should look elsewhere.
You can also get the base-model Versa S with a 5-speed manual, but there's a fuel economy penalty and that model is clearly more aimed at a rock bottom sticker price than any sporting pretensions.