Even with its redesign for the 2012 model year, the Nissan Versa sedan remains a utilitarian subcompact that gets the job done but won't blow away owners with its extras.
Think of the Versa as the flathead screwdriver in your toolbox. This sedan gets from Point A to Point B really well. Like the screwdriver, the Versa is rather bare-bones. There's not a lot to get excited about in terms of features or design cues.
Instead, get excited about its functionality and price. A Versa bragging point is its low starting price. The 2012 sedan has a starting MSRP of $10,990 and is the most affordable new car on the market. My Versa SL sedan cost $15,560. The Versa is also available as a hatchback.
The Versa has a four-cylinder engine that's paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The CVT is loud and likes to hang out at much higher rpms than I'd like. There's a lot of noise from the CVT as well as wind and road noise that creeps into the cabin.
While I test-drove the top-of-the-line Versa SL, the base model was recently put to the test against some of its competitors in the $16,000 Subcompact Shootout. Find out how it compares here.
From the bug-eyed Juke and Leaf to the squared-off Quest minivan, Nissan is known for the stand-out designs in its lineup. The Versa didn't receive any looks as extreme as its sibling in its redesign; it just got a few tweaks for 2012. The upshot is it won't stick out like a sore thumb anywhere.
The Versa's other upshot is it's easy to use; like the screwdriver, there's no mystery. All of my family members, including my school-aged kids, found the doors easy to open and close. The step-in height is low enough for young kids to manage on their own. The trunk can fit a decent grocery run, and the 60/40-split rear seats fold in the event of cargo overflow.
The SL has a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a CVT. It uses regular gas and gets an EPA-estimated 30/38 mpg city/highway. A five-speed manual transmission is also available. My test car didn't have snow tires and the Versa was so lightweight that when my Colorado town got a huge snowfall, I couldn't get the Versa out of my driveway.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
The Versa's interior is as much a showcase for practicality as its exterior. My SL-trim Versa had a few niceties such as Bluetooth connectivity, USB connectivity and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. What it didn't have was a center console or an armrest. I kept trying to park my arm where the armrest should have been, though, much like I tried to put my foot on a clutch only to remember I was driving an automatic.
The front seats are narrow and fit me nicely. My pre-production test car had black upholstery that looked and felt just fine. There were two cupholders in front of the gearshift and two more between the front seats for backseat passengers.
I liked how everything in the Versa was easy to reach and adjust. The stereo and climate controls didn't require any sort of degree in decoding or computer systems to use. Simple, clearly marked buttons and dials control those systems, and I respect that. A navigation system is optional.
The kids had good legroom in the backseat, and even my husband was mostly comfortable when the whole family was loaded in the Versa.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Versa sedan has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A car must receive the top score of Good in IIHS front-, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests to receive the safety award. The 2012 Versa sedan has received a four-star safety rating (out of five) overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received three stars in the frontal crash test and four starts in both side and rollover crash tests.
Thanks to its roomy backseat, the Versa is great for child-safety seats. Rear-facing convertible and infant-safety seats fit well in it. However, the Versa's two sets of Latch anchors in the outboard seats were difficult to use because the seat cushions are tight against them. Find out how the Versa performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
The 2012 Versa comes with standard front-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. The Versa's brakes have front discs and rear drums.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Nissan Versa here.