The Versa sedan has been the top-selling subcompact in recent years due to its combination of strong fuel efficiency, excellent interior space and low pricing - in fact, it's the cheapest car on sale in the U.S. Unfortunately, the latter is reflected in the Versa's poor interior quality and mediocre driving dynamics.
For the most recent model year, Nissan added a handful of standard features to the already-fresh Versa Sedan. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is also now available on SL models.
For those who prefer their subcompacts with a little more cargo versatility, the Versa Note hatchback model is also available.
Tall buyers on a budget will find much to like in the modestly-priced Versa, which offers a cavernous cabin. Space up front is ample, and there's more rear seat legroom than in the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class and short-wheelbase Lexus LS. Cargo capacity is also an area of strength, with the trunk measuring a generous 14.8 cubic feet.
Up front, the dashboard features easy-to-use controls but suffers from decidedly downmarket materials. At least revisions like a new center stack, steering wheel and instrument cluster freshen things up for the latest model year. The Versa SL is now available with NissanConnect, a touchscreen-based connectivity suite that includes Bluetooth with streaming audio, Pandora radio capability, navigation and a Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant setup that reads incoming text messages and allows drivers to reply without taking their hands off of the steering wheel.
All Versas are powered by a 1.6-liter inline-four that produces 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. However, three different transmissions are available. A five-speed manual is standard, returning 27/36 city/highway mpg. Self-shifting choices include an antiquated four-speed automatic that reduces mileage to 26/35 mpg, and a CVT that boosts economy to 30/40 mg.
Nissan recently revised the Versa's steering and suspension for improved responsiveness.
Outside, the Versa wears reshaped sheetmetal that's highlighted by new touches like more fluid headlights, Nissan's latest corporate grille, and a more assertive rear fascia.
Trim Level Breakdowns
The Versa comes in three distinct trim levels: S, SV and SL. All received a small amount of new features for the latest model year.
The value-leader S is equipped with the five-speed manual in addition to an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and an auxiliary audio input jack, air conditioning a trip computer and low rolling-resistance tires. Concessions to the low price include 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, roll-up windows, body-colored side mirrors and manual locks.
The four-speed automatic is optional on the S, while the S Plus sub-trim includes the CVT in addition to a rear spoiler and cruise control.
The mid-level SV adds two speakers to the stereo, power windows and locks, an upgraded trip computer, higher-quality cloth seats, remote keyless entry and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Other interior upgrades include cloth door trim, chrome interior door handles, a driver's seat armrest and a painted shift knob.
The SV Alloy Wheel package brings 15-inch six-spoke alloy wheels.
The best outfitted Versa is the SL, which includes SV features plus steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a radio-data system, Bluetooth phone integration and silver trim accents, an Intelligent Key with a remote trunk release and an immobilizer, sunvisor extensions, a driver's seat armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, a 4.3-inch audio display, a "tri-cot" headliner and SiriusXM capability.
An optional SL Tech Package includes NissanConnect (detailed above) along with Nissan's RearView Monitor for aiding maneuvers in parking lots.
All Versa models come equipped with dual front, side and side-curtain airbags, along with stability and traction control systems, ABS, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The Versa Sedan also received a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
Nissan's Versa Sedan breaks the traditional mold of the compact sedan, opting for more room at the cost of content. As a result, it is larger than competitors like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus or Chevrolet Cruze, but less expensive and not quite as well appointed, either. The Hyundai Elantra and Kia Rio offer similar value equations, albeit with less room and more content.