Nissan Versa

The Versa is built to be America’s cheapest car, so if you want a cheap new car, here it is; if you like to drive, keep shopping. Reporting here on the sedan (the Versa Note is its hatchback twin), the Versa has insultingly flimsy materials. Its wimpy 109-hp four-cylinder makes for slow acceleration but is quite fuel efficient. Models equipped with the continuously variable automatic transmission are rated for 39 mpg on the highway, but the five-speed manual is a bit more fun to drive.

The last time we strapped our testing equipment to a Nissan Versa sedan was nearly a half-dozen years ago, when Nissan’s subcompact four-door finished last in a six-car comparison test. Since then, the Versa underwent a mid-cycle update for the 2015 model year that brought a fresh front-end design, a reworked center stack, and a new three-spoke steering wheel to the pint-size 175.4-inch-long subcompact. Model-year 2017 Versas see a mildly revised center console that includes a new design for the front cupholders, an additional 12-volt outlet, and the relocation of the car’s standard auxiliary input and available USB port to the area ahead of the shift lever.

These improvements address customer complaints, but, regrettably, none does much to elevate the Versa when compared with alternatives such as the Honda Fit and the Chevrolet Sonic. The Nissan’s homely styling carries over, the interior remains a depressing haven of cheap plastics and parts-bin pieces, and its dynamic abilities are no better than before.

Cheap Trick

The Versa’s sparsely dressed interior reflects the sedan’s $12,875 starting price. Impressively, the least expensive model, the Versa S, includes among its standard equipment Bluetooth phone streaming, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power side mirrors, and anti-lock brakes. Also standard is a five-speed manual gearbox, the sole transmission found in the S, which probably disappoints a lot of young “can’t drive stick” shoppers looking for a bargain. We’d hope it would induce them to learn, but years of evidence now shows that they just spend more for one of the other Versa models—from the $15,015 Versa S Plus to the top-of-the-line $18,165 Versa SL—all of which rely on a standard continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Opting for a CVT model also brings cruise control to the Versa’s features list.

No matter the trim, the same 1.6-liter inline-four drives the front wheels. Armed with a meager 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, it moved our 2474-pound Versa SV test car with reasonable pep for the class, getting it to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds and through the quarter-mile after 17.1 seconds at 81 mph. Both times matched the numbers we clocked in a Scion iA (now Toyota Yaris iA) with an automatic transmission, although the iA did click past the quarter-mile at 82 mph. While more power would be appreciated, Nissan’s subcompact sedan easily outruns the Mitsubishi Mirage G4, which needed 12.8 seconds to reach 60 mph but works with only three cylinders against everyone else’s four.

Regardless, accelerating in the Versa is a noisy affair, with 78 decibels of the inline-four’s gritty song entering the cabin at wide-open throttle, six decibels more than we recorded in the automatic iA. Blame the Versa’s CVT, which—despite its best attempts to simulate gearshifts—tends to hold the engine at high revs when heavy throttle is applied.

Even so, CVT-equipped Versas are able to eke out an EPA-rated 31 mpg in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway, besting the stick-shift Versa S’s 27/36 figures. Self-shifting Versas also benefit from the additions of a rear spoiler and rear-wheel air deflectors that trim the sedan’s coefficient of drag from 0.32 to 0.29. We averaged 34 mpg in our Brilliant Silver Versa SV test car throughout its stay with us, matching the EPA’s combined figure. The Versa couldn’t top 34 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy run, however, which is 5 mpg below the EPA highway rating.

Speaking of the highway, that’s where crosswinds tend to toss around this slab-sided sedan in its lane like a cat batting a dead mouse. We’d recommend staying clear of twisty tarmac, too, as the Versa SV’s narrow, 15-inch Continental ContiProContact E low-rolling-resistance tires squeal at the first hint of lateral acceleration, limited to 0.78 g as measured on our skidpad. Prominent body roll and overboosted, lifeless electrically assisted steering salt the Versa’s dynamic wounds. A set of front disc and rear drum brakes brought the Versa to a halt from 70 mph in a class-competitive 176 feet.

Big in Back

As in Versas past, Nissan’s dynamic dullard relies on the showroom appeal of its sizable 15-cubic-foot trunk and a comfortable rear seat with 37.0 inches of legroom—nearly an inch more than the mid-size Nissan Altima. For consumers seeking to moonlight in the ride-sharing industry, the Versa’s spacious accommodations and low base price certainly make it a compelling option.

Still, those wanting basic comfort and convenience features such as power windows and door locks, an integrated driver’s-seat armrest, a USB port, front map lights, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and a key-fob remote will need to spring for this $16,605 SV trim. At that price the Versa is just $255 cheaper than a similarly equipped and dynamically superior Ford Fiesta SE sedan.

While an ample rear seat and a generous trunk are noteworthy features, this model’s subpar interior and dynamic faults are much too great to let a few hundred dollars in savings convince us to choose the Versa SV over its competitors. Sadly, in this segment the price rules to such a degree that the Versa has been America’s best-selling subcompact for years, giving Nissan little incentive to invest in a better contender.



EPA Fuel Economy Est – Hwy : MPG 34
Cruising Range – City : mi 369.60
EPA Fuel Economy Est – City : MPG 28
Fuel Economy Est-Combined : MPG 30
Cruising Range – Hwy : mi 448.80
EPA MPG Equivalent – City : N/A
EPA MPG Equivalent – Hwy : N/A
EPA MPG Equivalent – Combined : N/A
Battery Range : mi N/A

Fuel Tank

Fuel Tank Capacity, Approx : gal 13.2
Aux Fuel Tank Capacity, Approx : gal N/A

Cargo Area Dimensions

Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Up : ft³ 17.8
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Down : ft³ 50.4
Trunk Volume : ft³ N/A


Brake Type : Pwr
Brake ABS System : 4-Wheel
Brake ABS System (Second Line) : N/A
Disc – Front (Yes or ) : Yes
Disc – Rear (Yes or ) :
Front Brake Rotor Diam x Thickness : in 11.02 x 0.95
Rear Brake Rotor Diam x Thickness : in
Drum – Rear (Yes or ) : Yes
Rear Drum Diam x Width : in 9.0 x -TBD-


Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year : 6.2
EPA Greenhouse Gas Score : N/A


Drivetrain : Front Wheel Drive
Trans Order Code :
Trans Type : 1
Trans Description Cont. : Continuously Variable
Trans Description Cont. Again :
First Gear Ratio (:1) : 2.56-0.43
Reverse Ratio (:1) : 2.69
Clutch Size : in
Final Drive Axle Ratio (:1) : 5.47


EPA Classification : Compact

Interior Dimensions

Passenger Capacity : 5
Passenger Volume : ft³ 94.7
Front Head Room : in 40.6
Front Leg Room : in 41.4
Front Shoulder Room : in 53.5
Front Hip Room : in 48.8
Second Head Room : in 38.3
Second Leg Room : in 38.0
Second Shoulder Room : in 50.7
Second Hip Room : in 47.2

Weight Information

Base Curb Weight : lbs 2758


Dead Weight Hitch – Max Trailer Wt. : lbs
Dead Weight Hitch – Max Tongue Wt. : lbs
Wt Distributing Hitch – Max Trailer Wt. : lbs
Wt Distributing Hitch – Max Tongue Wt. : lbs


Engine Order Code : MR18DE
Engine Type : Gas I4
Displacement : 1.8L/110
Fuel System : SMPI
SAE Net Horsepower @ RPM : 122 @ 5200
SAE Net Torque @ RPM : 127 @ 4800


Cold Cranking Amps @ 0° F (Primary) : 470
Maximum Alternator Capacity (amps) : 110

Cooling System

Total Cooling System Capacity : qts 7.2


Suspension Type – Front : Independent Strut
Suspension Type – Rear : Torsion Beam
Suspension Type – Front (Cont.) : w/Stabilizer Bar
Suspension Type – Rear (Cont.) : w/Stabilizer Bar
Shock Absorber Diameter – Front : mm N/A
Shock Absorber Diameter – Rear : mm N/A
Stabilizer Bar Diameter – Front : in 0.91
Stabilizer Bar Diameter – Rear : in 0.87


Front Tire Order Code :
Rear Tire Order Code :
Spare Tire Order Code :
Front Tire Size : P195/55R16
Rear Tire Size : P195/55R16
Spare Tire Size : T125/70D15


Front Wheel Size : in 16 x 5.5
Rear Wheel Size : in 16 x 5.5
Spare Wheel Size : in 15 x -TBD-
Front Wheel Material : Aluminum
Rear Wheel Material : Aluminum
Spare Wheel Material : Steel


Steering Type : Pwr
Steering Ratio (:1), Overall : 18.3
Lock to Lock Turns (Steering) : 3.25
Turning Diameter – Curb to Curb : ft 34.2
Turning Diameter – Wall to Wall : ft N/A

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase : in 102.4
Length, Overall : in 169.1
Width, Max w/o mirrors : in 66.7
Height, Overall : in 60.4
Track Width, Front : in 58.3
Track Width, Rear : in 58.5
Min Ground Clearance : in 6.3
Liftover Height : in 27.4



1.8L DOHC 16-valve I4 engine -inc: engine cover
Engine mounts -inc: (2) solid, (1) liquid-filled
Xtronic continuously variable transmission
Front wheel drive
Battery saver
Independent strut front suspension w/stabilizer bar
Torsion beam rear suspension w/stabilizer bar
Electric speed-sensitive variable-assist pwr steering
Pwr front vented disc/rear drum brakes


16″ x 5.5″ machined finish alloy wheels
P195/55R16 all-season tires
Compact spare tire
Body color front/rear bumpers
Rear roof spoiler
Sport front/rear fascias
Black grille w/chrome accent
Multi-reflector halogen headlamps
Front fog lights
Body color folding remote-controlled pwr mirrors
Variable intermittent windshield wipers w/mist function
Intermittent rear wiper w/washer
Body color door handles


180-watt AM/FM stereo w/CD/MP3 player -inc: (6) speakers, aux input, iPod input, radio data system (RDS), speed-sensitive volume
Bluetooth hands-free phone system
Roof mounted antenna


Reclining front bucket seats -inc: active head restraints, double-thickness foam in front seats
6-way manual driver seat -inc: height adjustment, center armrest
4-way manual passenger seat -inc: center armrest
60/40 split fold-down rear seat w/outboard adjustable headrests
Woven cloth seat trim
Soft-touch front center armrest
Rear center armrest w/cup holder & cover
Dual front & rear cup holders
Aluminum side kick plates
Tilt steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel -inc: steering wheel mounted audio/cruise/Bluetooth controls
Silver accent IP trim finisher -inc: silver shifter finisher
Fasten seat belt warning light/chime
Speed sensitive pwr door locks
Pwr windows
Cruise control
Intelligent Key keyless entry & ignition system
Remote fuel lid release
Immobilizer system
Vehicle security system
Pwr rear liftgate release
Air conditioning w/in-cabin microfilter
Rear window defroster w/timer
12V pwr outlet
Silver finish interior door handles
Driver & front passenger map pockets
Rear passenger map pockets
(2) front map lights
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors w/covers
Front & rear passenger folding assist grips
Carpeted floor & cargo area
Cargo area lamp
Tonneau cover


Anti-lock brake system (ABS) -inc: electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist
Vehicle dynamic control (VDC)
Traction control system (TCS)
Transmission shift interlock
Energy absorbing front/rear bumpers
Steel side-door impact beams
Zone body construction -inc: front/rear crumple zones, hood deformation point
Dual-stage front airbags w/occupant classification system
Front side-impact airbags
Front & rear side curtain airbags
3-point ELR driver seat belt w/pretensioner & load limiter
3-point ELR/ALR front passenger seat belt w/pretensioner & load limiter
3-point ELR/ALR rear seat belts at all positions
Child safety rear door locks
Passenger window lockout
Rear child seat tether anchors (LATCH)
Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
Energy absorbing steering column

The 2017 Nissan Versa sedan provides comfortable, spacious and inexpensive transportation and comes with a generous choice of available amenities. Just don’t expect much in terms of personality or driver engagement.


The 2017 Nissan Versa is roomy, though we haven’t found it to be particularly comfortable. The combination of the lack of a height-adjustable driver seat on lower trim levels and the tilt-only adjustable steering wheel can make it hard to find a comfortable driving position. The rear seats are the big story here, though, with enough head- and legroom to accommodate 6-footers, something few rival models can claim.

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