2012 Nissan Versa

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
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Key Specs

of the 2012 Nissan Versa. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    28-34 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    109-hp, 1.6-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Rock-solid value
  • Backseat legroom
  • Huge trunk
  • Ride comfort
  • Brake-pedal feel

The Bad

  • Interior quality
  • Highway composure
  • Handling
  • Wind and road noise
  • No center armrest

Notable Features of the 2012 Nissan Versa

  • Redesigned sedan for 2012
  • Hatchback carries over
  • 1.6-liter (sedan) or 1.8-liter four-cylinder (hatchback)
  • Manual or automatic
  • Low base price

2012 Nissan Versa Road Test

Kelsey Mays

The 2012 Nissan Versa sedan is about as compelling as an old dishwasher, but its fuel efficiency, roominess and unrivaled value will get a lot of shoppers to overlook that.

Economy cars boast sharper looks and more features than ever, but they're inching up in price — frustrating anyone who wants cheap wheels above all else. There's still hope: Redesigned for 2012, the Versa sedan starts at $10,990, making it the least-expensive 2012 model year in the U.S. For around $14,500, it's the least expensive car with an automatic transmission, air conditioning and power windows. If a low car payment matters most, mark your calendar. The Versa goes on sale in August.

The sedan comes in S, SV and SL trims. All but the S have an automatic transmission. At a media preview, I tested the SV and SL. The Versa hatchback carries over from the previous generation for 2012, with a redesign on the way. This review covers the sedan, but if you want to learn more about the hatchback, our 2011 Versa overview gives a closer look.

Outside & In
Against a freshman class of stylish sedans — such as the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio — the Versa sinks into the background: anonymous headlights, sagging shoulders, wimpy wheels. Nissan says the 2012 Versa is the first car to take cues from the Ellure concept shown at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, and future Nissan sedans will follow suit. I hope those suits look sharper.

Like many base models, the Nissan Versa S has bla...

The 2012 Nissan Versa sedan is about as compelling as an old dishwasher, but its fuel efficiency, roominess and unrivaled value will get a lot of shoppers to overlook that.

Economy cars boast sharper looks and more features than ever, but they're inching up in price — frustrating anyone who wants cheap wheels above all else. There's still hope: Redesigned for 2012, the Versa sedan starts at $10,990, making it the least-expensive 2012 model year in the U.S. For around $14,500, it's the least expensive car with an automatic transmission, air conditioning and power windows. If a low car payment matters most, mark your calendar. The Versa goes on sale in August.

The sedan comes in S, SV and SL trims. All but the S have an automatic transmission. At a media preview, I tested the SV and SL. The Versa hatchback carries over from the previous generation for 2012, with a redesign on the way. This review covers the sedan, but if you want to learn more about the hatchback, our 2011 Versa overview gives a closer look.

Outside & In
Against a freshman class of stylish sedans — such as the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio — the Versa sinks into the background: anonymous headlights, sagging shoulders, wimpy wheels. Nissan says the 2012 Versa is the first car to take cues from the Ellure concept shown at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, and future Nissan sedans will follow suit. I hope those suits look sharper.

Like many base models, the Nissan Versa S has black side mirrors and door handles. The higher trim levels have body-colored mirrors and chrome handles; the Nissan Versa SL adds fog lights and 15-inch alloy wheels. The car measures slightly shorter than the outgoing Versa sedan, but the trunk hangs an extra 2.7 inches past the rear wheels. That contributes to an ungainly tail but a massive trunk — 14.8 cubic feet, or clear into much larger Honda Accord and Toyota Camry territory.

The same goes for the Nissan Versa's cabin. It can fit four adults comfortably, which is nearly impossible in a Fiesta or Chevrolet Sonic. The front seats have long adjustment range and comfortable cushions, and the driver's seat bottom jacks up and forward independently of the seatback. Raising it adds thigh support without moving you closer to the wheel — an annoyance in many cars — but tall drivers who sit low may find the seat cushion too short. Drivers of all sizes will want a telescoping steering-wheel adjustment, like in the Fiesta and Honda Fit. The Versa's wheel only tilts.

Headroom in back is modest, but legroom is abundant. By the numbers, the Versa beats the Accent sedan by 3.7 inches and beats the Fiesta by nearly 6 inches. Nothing about the backseat feels subcompact — it's a cavern back there.

Most of the controls feel sturdy, and the chrome door handles and backlit gauges in uplevel trims stand out. But those are exceptions in a sea of low-budget blight. The climate dials are crude, and shiny molded plastic covers everything else. Forget armrests — the doors have a hard outcropping for your elbow. It's better than what your inboard elbow gets, which is nothing at all, even in the Versa SL. Basic conveniences such as map lights, a rear center armrest and a sunglasses holder are MIA. The previous Nissan Versa sedan had a lot of these things. Make no mistake: Its successor has moved down-market.

How It Drives
Like most entry-level cars, the 
Nissan Versa has adequate power for most situations, even with the air conditioning on. The continuously variable automatic transmission picks up engine revs quickly enough, but if you need power fast — merging in a pinch, for example — it delays a bit. Not that there's a whole lot there: The Versa's 109-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder howls loudly if you push it, and highway acceleration is modest (the hatchback version comes with a 1.8-liter). More than 160 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the Versa is no dog. But you'll want to plan your passing, especially with the added weight of passengers on board.

The steering wheel has good feedback at low speeds, but on the interstate the Nissan Versa feels out of its element. Wind and road noise are intrusive. At 70 mph, so much noise streamed off the A-pillar that I thought a window was open, and the car needs periodic corrections to stay on course. The steering gets soupier as speeds increase, adding an uncomfortable degree of guesswork to the whole process. The Versa isn't as bad as the Smart ForTwo, but competitors like the Fiesta have highway cruising down pat. Nissan has work to do.

Take it easy on curvy roads. The steering wheel points the nose where you want without too much slop, but our test car's Continental ContiProContact tires skated wide in modest handling maneuvers. Take a turn hard, and the Nissan Versa skitters off-course until the electronic stability system reins you in. Barreling around in a Fit, Fiesta or Mazda2 is fun. The Versa is best driven sensibly.

High Points
Though it has cheaper rear drum brakes — the norm for this class — the 
Nissan Versa stops confidently, with strong, linear pedal feel. Ride comfort is another plus. The last Versa was a soft car, and I'm glad Nissan didn't change the formula. The suspension picks up some highway rhythms, but for an economy car it isolates major bumps well. On broken pavement the Versa stays connected to the road, despite its low-tech semi-independent rear suspension. In a segment characterized by firm-riding cars such as the Fit Sport and Fiat 500, the Versa's comfort stands out.

At 30/38 mpg city/highway with the automatic, the Versa's highway fuel economy falls just short of the vaunted 40 mpg boasted by the Fiesta, Accent, Rio and Sonic. But EPA combined mileage is 33 mpg, which matches the Fiesta and automatic Accent. (As of this writing, combined EPA figures for the Rio and Sonic are still pending.) The EPA rates the stick-shift Versa S at 30 mpg fuel economy overall.

Safety, Features & Pricing
The 2012 Versa sedan has not yet been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Per federal requirements, an electronic stability system is standard this year.

The stick-shift Versa S starts at a bargain-basement $10,990 — not bad, given air conditioning and a CD stereo with an auxiliary MP3 jack are standard — but the CVT automatic adds a staggering $1,770, and power windows and locks requires the automatic-equipped $14,560 Versa SV. That's still affordable: Equipping most sedan competitors with an automatic transmission and basic power accessories costs $600 to $1,600 more.

Other options include a navigation system, full iPod stereo compatibility, steering-wheel audio controls and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Loaded up, the Versa tops out at $16,260.

Versa in the Market
Extreme bargains are scarce these days, and 
Nissan Nissan deserves credit for keeping the Versa wallet-friendly. But the new Accent, Fit and Fiesta are cars you actually want to own — brand emissaries that leave a good enough impression for first-time buyers to stay in the family when it's time to buy the next car. If the new Versa is anyone's first Nissan, it imparts a brand that's big on value and practicality but short on drivability and perceived quality — far from Nissan's reality, but the Versa's flavor all the same.

Among entry-level cars, value is crucial. But, increasingly, so is overall appeal. Nissan hit a bulls-eye with one of those. I just wish it had hit the board at all with the other.

Send Kelsey an email  

 


2012 Versa Video

Cars.com's Kelsey Mays takes a look at the 2012 Nissan Versa. It competes with the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta.

Latest 2012 Versa Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.1)
Performance
(3.7)
Interior Design
(3.9)
Comfort
(4.2)
Reliability
(4.2)
Value For The Money
(4.2)

What Drivers Are Saying

(3.0)

Its a very economical car for the price.

by Greekgirl from Bakersfield, ca on August 24, 2018

Unfortunately, the front seats don't go back very far, so if you are tall, this may not be the car for you.other than that I'm very happy with my little economy car. Read full review

(5.0)

It has really gas mileage

by Mohammad from Chicago on July 29, 2018

Gas mileage better than hybrid cars, 40 mpg And its really maintenance free car. Navigation system need improvement. I love it and recommend it for all. Thanks Nissan for that car. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Nissan Versa currently has 10 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 S

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Nissan
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    6 years/less than 80,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    84 months/100,000 miles from original new-car in-service date

  • Powertrain warranty

    84 months/100,000 miles (includes LEAF electric vehicle system and powertrain)

  • Dealer Certification Required

    167-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Versa received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker