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.
Nissan Versa comfort, safety, and features
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.