2012 Nissan Versa

2012 Nissan Versa Review

We drive one of the least expensive cars in the States.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: April 13th, 2012

Nissan's Versa may have the lowest price of entry for a car sold in the U.S., but the Nissan folks would prefer that you don't consider it to be "cheap." Still, it's hard not to when the car bases at $10,990 before destination.

It's up to Nissan, of course, to make sure the Versa doesn't feel low-rent--to see to it that the buyers are getting value for their dough. And since most buyers want something more from their cars than basic transit, even at this price point, we suspect most will spring for higher trim levels, like the SV sedan that showed up at our door.

SL trims are the highest level on the reworked sedan (the hatch carries over) but SVs aren't light in the equipment department. We'll get to that in a bit.

Buyers in this segment are looking for basic transit that doesn't embarrass. How does the Versa fit the bill?

  • Features & Prices

    Our SV tester came standard with A/C, cruise control, remote keyless entry, upgraded cloth, a CD player, power windows and locks, a chrome grille, body color sideview mirrors, and body color front and rear fascias, to name just a few items. Base price? $14,560. A $350 Convenience Package added Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, an iPod interface, front map lights, and a vanity mirror for the front passenger's visor. Carpeted floor mats ($170) finished off the options list, bringing the as-tested price, including the $760 for destination, to $15,840.

  • Behind The Wheel

    We liked the taut steering feel, and we found acceleration to be adequate, but let's be honest here, no one is buying this car for performance-related reasons. Which is fine, since the Versa is a comfortable commuter, but it won't get much love on weekend runs to the country roads. The biggest annoyance here is the continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT), which feels unrefined. That's very un-Nissan like, since the company has plenty of experience with CVTs, and the CVT trannies are plenty pleasant in other Nissan models.

    Power comes from a 109-horse 1.6-liter four-cylinder, and our tester had 15-inch wheels. Note that the Versa is one of the few cars on the market with rear drum brakes.

  • Cost-Efficient Cabin

    As befits a car of this price point, cabin appointments are spartan. Nissan makes up for that by giving the cabin plenty of space, especially in the rear. We found front-seat space tight, but legroom and headroom in the aft portion of the cabin are plentiful.

    Out back, the trunk is spacious but the opening is small.

  • Exterior Styling

    The Versa's look can best be described as "blandly inoffensive," sorta like the pillows at a luxury hotel. Some will love it, some won't, we just ask why it can't look more like the Leaf.

  • Safety & Fuel Economy

    Fuel efficiency is a hallmark of small cars, and in our hands the Versa--rated at 30 mpg city and 38 mph highway--achieved 29.9 mpg combined. Not bad.

    Safety features include ABS, traction control, an anti-skid system, and the usual complement of airbags.

  • Wrapping Up

    The Versa reminds us of healthy breakfast choices--we know it's good for us, it's inexpensive and inoffensive, we don't dislike it, and yet, we can't fully embrace it. It offers a fair amount of features for the money, but more importantly, it offers a lot of space for the class. It's not annoying to drive, nor is it fun to drive. For commuters who need something under $17K or so that can slide past the gas pump frequently, the Versa is fine. But compared to some of the alternatives in the compact class, it already feels a generation behind.

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• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2012 Nissan Versa, click here: 2012 Nissan Versa.