KBB Logo Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.

Editor's Overview

Like the bulk-food isle at the grocery store, buying a Nissan Versa is a great way to get a lot of car for not much money. Roomy, comfortable and cheap, the new-for-2012 Versa sedan's charms taper off from there, leaving buyers who cherish style and fun to look elsewhere. The 2012 Versa hatchback carries over from 2011.

You'll Like The 2012 Nissan Versa If...

The 2012 Nissan Versa is about as roomy and comfortable as it gets in the subcompact, sub-$15,000 category.

You May Not Like The 2012 Nissan Versa If...

If you like your economy cars with a pinch of driving excitement, you’ll have to go to another dealership.

What's New

More sophisticated sheet metal and improved fuel economy are the most important improvements on the all-new 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan. The Nissan Versa Hatchback continues mostly unchanged for 2012.

Interior Features

Nissan is quick to point out that the 2012 Nissan Versa has best-in-class rear legroom – more, even, than the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus LS 460. The Versa also boasts the subcompact category’s roomiest trunk – roomier, in fact, that it’s Versa Hatchback sibling (14.8 cubic feet vs. 13.8). The front seats are acceptable – about as good as it gets in the category – and the interior is otherwise clean and simple. We prefer the look of the Sandstone interior, which feels richer than the Charcoal option.

Exterior Features

It’s still among the category’s most conservative designs, but the next-gen Nissan Versa Sedan looks much better than the awkwardly proportioned outgoing model. Making its debut on the 2012 Nissan Versa is a new signature grille for Nissan sedans. The base-model Versa S can be identified by its black trim, and if you want alloy wheels instead of covered steel wheels, you have to go all the way to the top-line SL trim. The same can be said for the Versa Hatchback, which offer 15-inch steel wheels with full covers on the base model and 16-inch alloys and a rear roof spoiler and side sills on the higher SL trim.

Driving Impressions

Subcompact cars are neither smooth nor quiet. But some are smoother and quieter than others, and the 2012 Nissan Versa is tuned to be just that. If the category has a cruiser, the new Versa is it. But it’s also easy around town and in parking lots, with light steering, a tight turning radius and good visibility. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) remains a polarizing proposition in the automotive world, but Nissan has made great strides in recent years and, especially in when used in conjunction with a car like the Versa, we’re fans. If you’re looking for a lively dance partner, check out something like the pricier Ford Fiesta. If you’re more intrigued by the idea of a condensed version of a comfortable mid-size sedan, you’ll like the Versa.

Pricing Notes

With a sticker-price range of $11,570 to $17,020, the 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan has both the lowest starting and ending prices in the category. A competitor like the Ford Fiesta, for instance, ranges from $13,995 to more than $20,000. But a features-based comparison reveals mostly similar pricing across the category on an apples-to-apples basis. If a larger 5-door better suits your needs, the Versa Hatchback carries a starting price tag around $14,500 and goes up to around $18,500 for the top SL trim. Check our Fair Purchase Price for current real-world pricing. For someone seeking maximum room and comfort at a minimum price, the 2012 Nissan Versa definitely qualifies as a great value.

Notable Equipment

The 2012 Nissan Versa S starts at $11,750 (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price plus destination) with a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, 2-speaker AM/FM/CD/Aux stereo system and not much more. Missing in action are power windows, power door locks and a folding rear seat back. For about $3,500 more, the mid-grade Versa SV remedies the manual windows and locks situation, and adds cruise control, nicer seat cloth and a variety of visual upgrades inside and out.

Notable Options

A 2012 Nissan Versa SL with Tech Package has an MSRP of $17,020. For that you get Bluetooth phone and USB/iPod audio connectivity, and the Tech Package adds navigation with a 5-inch screen plus traffic info and satellite radio.

Favorite Features

Rear Legroom

It isn’t fast, it isn’t flashy, but it sure is roomy. If you plan on taking long road trips with more than one passenger, the Nissan Versa is the most humane choice in the category.


Continuously variable transmissions take some getting used to, but you grow to appreciate the smoothness. Nissan committed to the CVT several years ago and is now doing them better than any other automaker.

Under the Hood

The all-new 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan pairs a brand new 1.6-liter engine with a brand-new, second-generation version of Nissan’s small-car CVT. Fuel economy is up significantly compared to the outgoing Versa and now competitive with category leaders, but the 2012 Hyundai Accent manages similar fuel economy while delivering 26 percent more horsepower. The 2012 Versa Sedan is the first Nissan to wear a “PUREDRIVE” badge, which the automaker says will denote cars with unspecified fuel-saving technologies. So, when people ask you what “PUREDRIVE” means, “nothing, really” is an appropriate answer. The Versa Hatchback retains the 1.8-liter engine that it always had, which can be mated to a selection of three transmissions including a 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic and a CVT.

Nissan Versa Sedan

1.6-liter inline-4

109 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

107 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/36 mpg (manual), 30/38 mpg (automatic)

Nissan Versa Hatchback

1.8-liter inline-4

122 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm

127 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/31 mpg (manual), 24/32 mpg (automatic), 28/34 (CVT)

Editors' Notes

The Nissan Versa is the Toyota Camry of the subcompact segment: Boring but a best seller. Of course, boring cars are only boring to those looking to make a fashion statement or generate an adrenalin rush with their transportation – a minority group. To its many happy buyers, the Versa is the roomiest, most comfortable new car available in the neighborhood of $15,000. And even though Nissan’s designers have blessed the all-new 2012 Versa Sedan with considerably handsomer sheet metal, the basic recipe remains the same. The Versa Hatchback remains essentially unchanged for 2012.

Road Test Video Reviews

2012 Nissan Versa Owner Reviews

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Used Nissan Versa 2012 Review

2012 Nissan Versa

I bought my car used two years ago and it runs great. I have never had a problem with it breaking down or leaving me stranded anywhere due to any type of defect. It has over 90,000 miles on it and still runs great. It gets good gas mileage, at least 30 miles to the gallon. This makes it more economically friendly for you as the customer. I personally think that it has a good stereo system, with options for radio, cd, and aux already set into it, so I can play music from my phone. There are only two real downsides that I have noticed with this car. First, there isn't much sound proofing for the car, and therefore you can hear a lot of road noise. Second, the car is close to the ground, so in the winter with snow, there isn't much clearance, making it impossible to drive if the snow is too deep. Neither of these two problems have impacted me too much, I just wait for plowed roads and shovel snow in my own driveway, and turn my music up a little more than I normally would. Had I known about these when I bought the car, I definitely would have still bought the car, because it runs very well overall.

- Kayla M

It has a ton of recalls. 2 on the airbags alone, one on a knob on the shift handle and one on the gas pedal . Plus I truly believe that this car is only made to last 5 years and after that you're on borrowed time.

2012 Nissan Versa

Well for starters it's starting to fall apart. I love the gas mileage on it as I get 34.8 miles per gallon but in the past 2 weeks replaced a fan, thermostat, and battery. Now my car won't start and we don't know what's wrong. Very disconcerting that this car is only 5 yrs old and is starting to fall apart. Guess I'm going to have to get rid of it and go back to either a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. The biggest complaint I have since I've owned this car is 4 recalls in less then a year and now the car is falling apart. I took great care and do routine maintenance on my car and this shouldn't be happening. I think b/c this was a promo sale it was calculated to only last a few years compared to other models. Very sorry I every bought this car. My son in law who helps us maintain it keeps asking when I'm going to get rid of this piece of work. I know what I have but now seeing the need to get a new vehicle.

- Marlene C

Great first car purchase - reliable and efficient for a great price.

2012 Nissan Versa

All in all, this car was a great option for my first vehicle! It has gotten me where I need to go, is comfortable enough to have passengers in, and is small without feeling too cramped. The gas mileage on the freeway is outstanding, which is definitely my favorite part of the car. I like the small SUV design. One drawback that I have noticed is that the manufacturer has had to do several recalls, and it can be inconvenient to find time in my weeks to go to the dealership which is about half an hour from my house. Aside from that, I regularly get it serviced and I haven't encountered other service issues. It does feel small when driving with a full car; it can be hard to take five people and their belongings somewhere, so I would recommend only having four people total in the car. Otherwise, it has been reliably taking me to college and work for five years now. Truly a great first car.

- Robyn M

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