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2017 Nissan Versa Overview
Though basic even for a subcompact sedan, the 5-passenger Nissan Versa does have its share of redeeming qualities, not the least of which is a starting MSRP that will again have the Scrooges of the world dancing in the streets. Other redeeming qualities in this ultra-affordable 4-door include the roomiest rear seating in the segment, an impressive 14.9 cubic feet of trunk space, and a surprisingly comfortable ride.
Nissan has announced no changes for the upcoming year’s Versa lineup, so expect the 2017 version to again come in 4 trims: the S, S Plus, SV, and the flagship SL. All editions offer front-wheel drive (FWD) only, and lower trims have a distinctly low-end feel both inside and out.
The Versa, which debuted for the 2007 model year, last underwent a refresh for 2015. Upgrades included reworked exterior styling, a more upscale interior look, and upgraded cabin amenities like standard Bluetooth hands-free calling (which came on all trims). Now well into its second generation, the Versa, as well as its Versa Note hatchback sibling, won’t ever be plush, but it remains an almost perfect first new car. The Versa Note, by the way, is covered in a separate overview.
Powering this pint-size 4-door is a 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder engine with three different transmissions. The entry-level S trim is delivered with a standard 5-speed manual transmission, while a 4-speed automatic transmission comes optional. All other trims feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that, though clunky, is the most fuel efficient.
Look for all trims boasting the CVT to get an EPA-estimated 31 mpg city/40 highway/35 combined, while a Versa S toting the 5-speed stick-shift gets 27/36/30, and the S with the 4-speed automatic is estimated at 26/35/30. One track test had the Versa going from 0 to 60 in 10.4 seconds, around a half-second slower than most rivals.
Nissan offers the Versa S with distinctly spartan features, for which there is no apology, since its starting price is lower than many similarly sized and equipped used vehicles. Move up to the higher trims and the bling factor rises exponentially, as does the MSRP. Costlier trims boast such standard features as a rear-view camera, power-adjustable outside mirrors, a rear spoiler, and satellite radio, while NissanConnect destination downloads and phone apps also come standard on the SL. The Versa's touted value means a number of glaring omissions, including a tilt-only steering wheel, little in the way of cabin soundproofing, and, in the S, no split-folding rear seatbacks. But, as a positive, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with an integrated remote garage door opener is optional on all trims, including the base S.
Standard safety features aboard the Versa include the usual array of government-mandated equipment, such as front and front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, and traction and stability control. Look, also, for front disc and rear drum antilock brakes (ABS). Higher Versa trims add standard front fog/driving lights, turn-signal-integrated mirrors, and a remote antitheft alarm to the list, with the SL also tossing in Nissan’s unique Easy-Fill tire-inflation alert system, which interfaces with the tire-pressure monitor when you’re inflating the tires and beeps the horn as an indication that the proper psi has been reached.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the current Versa its second-highest score of 4 stars overall in crashworthiness testing, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awards it a best score of Good on all tests except for the small-overlap frontal offset, in which the Versa scored a worst-possible Poor. The IIHS also gave its second-highest score of Acceptable for the Versa's LATCH child-seat anchoring system’s ease of use.
Challengers to the Versa, all of which offer better performance and features, as well as a higher price tag, include the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Scion iA, Hyundai Accent, and Kia Rio.
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