I bought my Versa yesterday, so cannot speak on its reliability and build yet. I drove both the S and SL versa hatch. The S was a smooth, quiet ride with lots of room, power and comfort. No trouble getting up hills and good acceleration. The SL improved with the CVT and extra options, but the S would have done the job fine.
The CVT is a gas saver and should cut maintenance costs. The seats are plush and the driver's adjusts for height. Bluetooth and intellikey are handy. It does not feel like an entry-level subcompact but a luxury midsize car.
ABS should be standard! The outside mirrors are a little awkward and it gets less mpg than the Yaris. A friend's transmission failed after 600 mi. It's made to be a smooth ride instead of a sporty one. Thrill seekers should consider the Yaris.