We bought the Versa in 2009 in the cash for clunkers program in exchange for an AWD Toyota Previa (which had served us very well for 18 years and 225,000 miles) and have done about 48,000 varied miles in the Nissan. It has been reliable , pretty economical, easy to park in little spaces, a good load carrier and enjoyable to drive. Interior space is generous and the seats are very comfortable but the stowage space around the driver is a bit limited and there is not really anywhere to rest your elbows. Overall build quality is high but the plastic around the heater controls has started to rot. I also find the blue "cold engine" warning light unnecessary and at night easy to confuse with high beam.
After a coast to coast cross country trip later, still happy with the vehicle though I read some worrying reviews of the safety of the sedan version (mine is a hatchback). It still has the original tires and battery. However, at around 43000 miles a big piece of the air conditioning system tucked away behind the dash needed a $600 repair, and from reading online forums it seems to have been quite a common problem.
If the fuel pump has not already been replaced, it may have to be. It's an expensive job. This is a known vice in this model yet Nissan has not issued a TSB.
That aside, this is a great small car: well designed with plenty of interior space, comfortable back seat, good brakes and steering, smooth shifting 4-speed automatic trans, adequate power and pickup though the smooth idling engine gets noisy under hard acceleration.
The ride is about average for a shortish wheelbase car. Unfortunately there are only warning lights for engine temperature and amps. The sharply sloping hood is hard to see the end of which at the start can complicate parking. The model I purchased has power windows and door locks and a keyless entry though to start the car the coded key is needed.
I'm not sure where car magazines got it into their head that the premiere concern of most drivers is 'fun'. Fun driving in a stop-and-go city you probably mean gunning it to the next light and cutting people off. Whee! You want fun, Mazda 3 makes more sense. For those of us who have commute on a city grid and not pick of a stable of autos, the Versa does great and is probably a better fit than the Fit. Edmunds admits in their Fit review: "However, more comfort-minded consumers may better appreciate the Nissan's quieter cabin, cushier seats and higher available feature content." I saved myself $3000 over Fit prices, have more horsepower and more torque, and a 7 yr ext. warranty.
I was recently in a terrible wreck in my Versa. The car was totaled and all I suffered was a broken nail from the air bag. This car is incredibly safe and comfortable! As soon as I found it was totaled I told my mom that I needed help looking for another one, possibly a newer one. I absolutely love my Versa!
For 50,000 km (about 30,000 miles) my Versa was perfect. Then one day the problems started....
1) Car started to make diesel-like noise every time I accelerated. I took it to the dealer and they informed me there was a crack in the pistons. Result=a new engine at 50,000 km
2) Air conditioning pump failed about 5,000 km later. Dealer repaired under warranty
3) The final draw was this week, when the car wouldn't start and left me stranded in a parking lot at night. I had the car towed to the dealer where I learned that the fuel pump was finished. As the car is out of warranty, repairs were $700
I signed for a Toyota Corolla yesterday, and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.