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The Nissan Versa exemplifies the ways in which subcompacts have evolved beyond just being cheap and fuel-efficient. Like other vehicles in this growing segment, the Versa combines excellent fuel economy, solid build quality and space-efficient interior design while remaining very affordable. The four-door Versa also distinguishes itself with two available body styles and many available upmarket features. It's a great choice as an entry-level vehicle, but drivers looking for any degree of excitement or personality are advised to look toward the Versa's competition.
Current Nissan Versa
The Nissan Versa economy car comes in two body styles: a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback known as the Versa Note, which will be available starting for the 2014 model year.
No matter the body style, the Versa has a tall roof line, which allows for a huge amount of interior space. Headroom is extraordinary. There is ample legroom, even in the rear seats where 6-footers can fit comfortably. Cargo space is similarly impressive, with the sedan's trunk bigger than several larger cars. The Note's hatchback is even bigger and more practical. Inside, both offer a wealth of comfort and convenience items. Antilock brakes, stability control, air-conditioning and a stereo are also all standard, while niceties like Bluetooth and a rearview camera are available.
The Versa is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the base S trim level, while a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. The SV and SL trims get the CVT standard.
Regardless of body style, we've found that the Nissan Versa provides simple, spacious and inexpensive transportation. It's a sensible sort of a car. But if you're looking for a little flair or excitement in your subcompact, something like a Chevrolet Sonic or Ford Fiesta, thanks to their more involving handling and distinctive styling, will probably be a better choice.
Used Nissan Versa Models
The Nissan Versa sedan was completely redesigned for 2012, while the hatchback model soldiered on as its previous generation before going on hiatus for 2013. The current, second-generation Versa's dimensions are largely unchanged from its predecessor, but the car is considerably more fuel-efficient. Changes for the new model also include an overhaul of the interior that includes a more interesting design and higher-quality materials.
The first-generation Nissan Versa was produced from 2007-'11 (2012 for the hatchback). Originally, every Versa sedan and hatchback came standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produced 122 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission was standard. A four-speed automatic transmission was optional on the base Versa S trim, while a CVT was optional on the more upscale SL. For 2009, the SL sedan came standard with the four-speed automatic, while the SL hatchback got the CVT standard.
Another, more significant revision occurred for '09 when Nissan added a pair of even cheaper entry-level sedan models: the 1.6 Base and 1.6. As the number suggests, it had a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produced 107 hp and 111 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual was standard and the four-speed automatic was optional. These 1.6 models had even fewer features than the 1.8 (air-conditioning and a radio were options).
It's important to note that antilock brakes were optional on all trims until 2010 when they became standard. ABS was always optional on the 1.6 variants. We highly recommend making sure a used Versa has this important safety feature.
We liked the original-generation Nissan Versa because of its surprisingly spacious, comfortable and well-equipped cabin. We also found the 1.8 Versa to be surprisingly peppy and comfortable to drive. The CVT did a commendable job of getting the Versa up to speed on the highway; however, the six-speed manual made better use of the 1.8-liter engine's power reserves and we recommend it to buyers who don't mind doing their own shifting.
As for the 1.6, it actually wasn't the downgrade you'd think it would be given its lower power. A sprint from zero to 60 mph still was accomplished in less than 10 seconds with the manual, and it rarely felt overwhelmed on the road. It's not the most pleasant-sounding engine in the world, however. Regardless of engine, this Versa's ride quality suffered over rough road surfaces, with the wheels tending to hop over obstructions rather than settling quietly back into place.
Read the most recent 2014 Nissan Versa review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Nissan Versa page.