2017 Versa Note New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Versa is affordably priced and offers excellent value. The Nissan Versa sedan and the Versa Note hatchback deliver no-frills transportation with vast interior space for a subcompact and big seats.
Versa scores well in ride comfort and smooth operation, not as well in performance and crash-test scores. Externally, the Versa models resemble other Nissan sedans but on a smaller scale.
These are good cars for tall drivers. However, the cabin is basic, with all the charm of a bare-bones rental car. Interior trim, controls and switches are basic, and they look and feel as if they were snatched from a spare-parts bin.
After a mild styling update for 2015, the Versa continues largely unchanged for the 2016 model year. Body-colored power mirrors are now standard; the 2016 Versa S model adds a rear speaker; and the 2016 Versa SL gains a leather-wrapped steering wheel. This second-generation Versa was introduced as a 2012 model.
Nissan Versa's 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is underpowered compared to many rival subcompacts. All are front-wheel drive.
Versa is EPA-rated at 31/40 mpg City/Highway with the continuously variable transmission, or 35 mpg Combined. The CVT is efficient but sluggish.
The base Versa S model comes with a 5-speed manual gearbox or optional 4-speed automatic transmission. Pricing with the manual is rock-bottom, but fuel economy sinks to an EPA-estimated 30 mpg Combined, and performance does not improve.
Safety is not a Versa strength, and crash-test ratings are poor. Even as an option, Nissan does not offer any of the advanced electronic active-safety systems that have been turning up in economical cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Versa sedan a meager three-star rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety declared it Poor on their stringent small-overlap test, but Good in other testing. The Versa Note fared better, but still falls short of competitive models.
The 2016 Nissan Versa comes in four trim levels. All come with the 1.6-liter engine. Versa S ($11,990) has a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, power mirrors, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free calling, and 15-inch wheels, but lacks power windows and a folding rear seat. Four-speed automatic ($1,500) is optional. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Versa S Plus ($13,990) gets the CVT, a rear spoiler, steering-wheel controls, and cruise control. Versa SV ($15,530) gets upgraded cloth seats, power windows and locks, 60/40-split folding rear seat, upgraded trim. An SV Technology Package includes a 5.8-inch touchscreen, navigation, voice recognition, real-time traffic, and rearview camera. Versa SL ($17,090) adds Intelligent Key, an immobilizer system, rearview camera, foglamps, and 16-inch wheels.