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2017 Nissan Versa: What You Need to Know

U.S. News & World Report - Cars logo U.S. News & World Report - Cars 6/19/2017 U.S. News & World Report
2017 Nissan Versa© Nissan North America, Inc. 2017 Nissan Versa

The 2017 Nissan Versa is a no-frills subcompact car designed for those on a tight budget who don't need the amenities found in other vehicles. Though it has one of the most spacious cabins and cargo areas in the class, its technology is behind the times and its engine is underwhelming.

The 2017 Nissan Versa is ranked:

Is the Nissan Versa a Good Car?

With so few standard features, the Nissan Versa is as basic a vehicle as they come. In fact, you'll have to upgrade two trim levels just to get power windows and door locks. You'll have to go even further up the trim levels to get common tech features, like an infotainment system. The Chevrolet Spark and other rivals come with easy-to-use infotainment systems and the added bonus of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Meanwhile, the Versa remains stuck in the past. From a performance perspective, the Versa is one of the least powerful cars in the class. This is also true of its stablemate, the Nissan Sentra. Both use CVT gearboxes, which sap all enjoyment out of the driving experience. While safety and reliability scores are about average for the class, the Versa's reliability falls slightly below the Kia Rio’s. 

Should I Buy the Nissan Versa?

Some may be impressed with the Versa’s low starting price and be fine with its minimal standard features, but for just a few thousand dollars more, you can buy the Chevrolet Spark and get amenities such as a Wi-Fi hot spot, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, none of which are available in even the highest Versa trims. If these features aren't as important, there's still vehicles that offer better value. The Kia Rio offers a more capable four-cylinder engine and a nicer interior. However, if you're just looking for the cheapest wheels out there, that’s the Versa. Just remember: You get what you pay for.

We Did the Research for You: 66 Pieces of Data Analyzed

Shopping for a new car can be tricky. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to research all the most appealing vehicles. That's why we've done the work for you. We've researched 66 pieces of data on the Versa, including automotive reviews, fuel economy estimates, and safety and reliability scores.

The Versa sedan was redesigned for the 2012 model year and saw a minor refresh in 2015. The hatchback Versa Note was introduced for the 2014 model year and has seen minor upgrades since. This overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2012 through 2017 model years, so you can rest assured you’ll be armed with the most complete source of information available.

Why You Can Trust Us

Our team brings 75 years of combined industry experience to the table. Our passion for cars and providing the best advice drives our work. It's worth noting that our team does not take trips or accept gifts from automakers. Also, a third party handles all of the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Nissan Versa Cost?

At an MSRP of $11,990, the Nissan Versa is the cheapest new car money can buy. Next in line is the Chevrolet Spark, which starts at $13,000. Other rivals cost a bit more, like the Kia Rio at $14,165. Brand loyalists will have to shell out an extra $5,000 to upgrade to the Sentra, Nissan's compact car. The Versa sedan comes in five trims: S, S Plus, SV, SV Special Edition, and SL. If you'd rather have a hatchback, the Versa Note is available in four trims: S Plus, SV, SR, and SL.

Building on the base model, the S Plus starts at $14,130 for the sedan and $15,480 for the hatchback. It adds a CVT gearbox and cruise control. Even though this trim is the second lowest, you'll have to upgrade to the next-level Versa SV ($15,720 for the sedan and $16,380 for the hatchback) to get features that many consider basic, even among subcompacts: power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, and a USB port. But that still won’t give you everything rival subcompacts offer. To get satellite radio, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera (which will soon be mandatory), you'll have to spring for the SV Special Edition, which is available only as a sedan at a price of $16,220. For those eyeing the Versa Note hatchback, the SR ($17,980) adds body style exclusives along with faux-suede upholstery. For the best Versa that money can buy, check out the SL trim, which starts at $17,280 for the sedan and $18,710 for the hatchback. With this model, you get NissanConnect with navigation, which uses a suite of apps that connect to your Versa. It's worth noting that at the SL's price, you could get a midlevel Sentra.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Nissan dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Nissan deals page.

Nissan Versa Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Nissan Versa or Nissan Sentra?

While the Nissan Sentra is one of the most spacious compact cars, the amount of extra space you get is not enough to justify the $5,000 difference in MSRP. Front- and rear-seat legroom only increase by about an inch. Even the trunks are roughly the same size. Although the Sentra’s materials are better, its design is boring, like the smaller Versa. Though both have a compliant ride, the Sentra's handling feels secure, while the Versa's sometimes feels imprecise. Power is meager with both Nissans, and droning CVT gearboxes steal the show (but not in a good way). The Sentra returns 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway (with the CVT), which is only a couple of miles per gallon below what you get in the Versa with the automatic transmission. From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Sentra earns the highest score of Good in all five safety test categories. It is named a Top Safety Pick, meaning it’s just as safe as – if not safer than – the Versa. The Sentra's predicted reliabiity is much higher. 

Which Is Better: Nissan Versa or Chevrolet Spark?

The Chevrolet Spark hatchback comes with great smartphone integration and high-tech features, some of which you can't get in the Versa. Chevy's MyLink system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to connect your smartphone to the car's infotainment system. The system is easy to use and responds quickly to familiar smartphone gestures like pinching and swiping. A built-in Wi-Fi hot spot is also standard. Although the Spark produces less horsepower than the Versa, its power-to-weight ratio equates to better acceleration off the line. It can even manage highway passing and merging – but don't expect to win any races in the Spark. The Spark also has impressive available safety features, such as lane departure warning and forward collision alert, that aren't available in the Versa. In addition, the Spark starts at about $2,500 less than the Versa Note. If cargo space is more important to you, opt for the Versa. Otherwise, the Spark's impressive list of standard features makes it a better buy.

Which Is Better: Nissan Versa or Kia Rio?

Likewise, you'd be doing yourself a favor to consider the Kia Rio over the Nissan Versa. It remedies many of the Versa's problems, such as lackluster engine power, cheap interior materials, and inaccurate steering. The Rio's four-cylinder engine is one of the strongest in the subcompact car class, and it easily passes and merges on the highway. On the downside, fuel economy is worse with the Rio, at 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. However, that's only a difference of around $150 per year. On the inside, the Rio uses a higher grade of materials than what you'll find in the Versa. Although front-seat space is more plentiful in the Rio, the Versa takes the cake when it comes to rear-seat space, offering an additional 5.9 inches of legroom. Like the Versa, the Rio comes with little in the way of standard and optional advanced safety features, but it earns slightly better crash test scores. The Rio also fares better in terms of predicted reliability.

Versa Interior

How Many People Does the Versa Seat?

Both the Versa sedan and the Note hatchback seat five. For a subcompact car, the Versa offers plenty of room for front- and rear-seat passengers, though you won't want to carry more than two people in the back unless you’re in a pinch. Still, the Versa has more room in the back than the Kia Rio. If rear-seat space is concern, check out the Nissan Sentra, which has one of the roomiest interiors in the compact car class.

While interior space is plentiful, seating comfort is lacking, meaning you won't want to take the Versa on long trips very often. The Chevrolet Spark's seats are also uncomfortable on long trips, since the cushioning is so firm. In the Versa's base trim, a driver's armrest and a telescoping wheel are optional, which further adds to its comfort woes.

Versa and Car Seats

The Versa sedan and Note hatchback have two sets of lower LATCH anchors in the rear outboard seats. However, they are blocked by the seat belts and difficult to access. The three tether anchors are buried in the seat backs and hard to find. Additionally, the Versa's seat belt buckles are loose and can easily fall behind a booster seat, which can make it difficult for an older child to buckle themselves in.

Versa Interior Quality

As far as interiors go, the Versa's looks are as cheap as its price tag would suggest, with hard plastic dash materials rather than soft-touch ones. If you don't mind that, the Versa's instrument and control layout is otherwise straightforward. Gauges are easy to read, and controls are sensibly arranged.

Like its stablemate, the Nissan Sentra's interior is also dull and drab in design, but its materials are much better than what you'll find in the Versa. If you're looking for a more upscale look and feel, upper trims of the Kia Rio have interiors that are nicer than you may expect for a subcompact car.

Versa Cargo Space

An advantage the Versa sedan has over competitors is its abundant cargo space. The trunk has a generous 14.9 cubic feet of room, which is one of the largest spaces in the class. That's almost as large as the Nissan Sentra's 15.1-cubic-foot trunk. Upper sedan trims have 60/40 split folding rear seats that further increase storage space. By comparison, the Kia Rio sedan has 13.7 cubic feet of trunk space.

The Versa Note has average cargo space for a subcompact hatchback, with 18.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. This is enough for three large pieces of luggage and a couple of carry-on bags. That's more than the Chevy Spark (11.1 cubic feet) and Rio hatchback (15 cubic feet) offer. The Versa Note also has 38.3 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded. However, the Versa Note hatchback's load floor isn't completely flat when the rear seats are folded down, which can make it difficult to pack cargo.

Versa Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The 2017 Nissan Versa has very few standard options. Like the Kia Rio, you'll need to pay more and step up from the base trim in order to get basic amenities such as power windows and power lock doors. This makes the Versa's low starting price less appealing. Upgrades include heated seats and push-button start, though even in its highest trims, the Versa lacks many of the features offered by rivals.

For example, the Chevy Spark has a slightly higher starting price, but it comes standard with a USB port, a rearview camera, and a 7-inch touch-screen display. Even better, every Spark has Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Wi-Fi hot spot, which aren't available in the Versa.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Versa Performance

Versa Engine: Droning Engine and CVT Combo

Powering the 2017 Versa is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 109 horsepower. While a five-speed manual transmission is standard, a four-speed automatic and a CVT are also available. The CVT gearbox causes the Versa to groan noisily when you floor it, which you'll have to do anytime you want to pass or merge onto the highway since power is in short supply. Almost all of the Versa's competitors offer more power, including the Kia Rio, which shows a small vehicle doesn’t have to be slow.

Versa Gas Mileage: Such a Fuel Sipper

The 2017 Nissan Versa may not be the most fun car to drive, but it should serve you well at the pump. Versa models equipped with the available CVT, which operates like an automatic transmission, get some of the best fuel economy estimates in the class: 31 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. These are slightly better numbers than the Chevy Spark's. Versas with the standard five-speed manual transmission get 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway, which is average for the class. Fuel economy with the Versa is better than what you can expect from the Nissan Sentra and Kia Rio.

Versa Ride and Handling: You Can Do Better

In line with its status as a utilitarian vehicle, the 2017 Nissan Versa has an uninteresting ride. While the soft suspension mitigates the impact of bumps in the road, the car's meager engine power doesn't make for a very engaging ride. Critics are mixed on steering; some feel it is adequate, while others say it’s imprecise.

Fortunately, not all subcompact cars are created equal. For example, the Kia Rio has agile handling and quick responses that put the Versa to shame. Additionally, the Chevy Spark is highly maneuverable, with a small turning radius that makes navigating through tight parking lots much easier. The Nissan Sentra’s handling is secure, but its steering wheel requires more effort to turn than most other cars’.

As a subcompact car, the Versa weighs less than most vehicles on the road. On the low end, the Versa S (base) with a manual transmission weighs 2,390 pounds. The heaviest Versa is the Note in the SR trim, which weighs 2,523 pounds.

Versa Reliability

Is the Nissan Versa Reliable?

J.D. Power and Associates gives the 2017 Nissan Versa 2.5 out of five for predicted reliability, which is slightly below average. The 2017 Kia Rio is predicted to be more reliable, with a score of 3.5.

Nissan Versa Warranty

The 2017 Nissan Versa is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, which is standard for the class. One notable exception is the Kia Rio, which comes with some of the longest warranties in the class: a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Versa Safety

Versa Crash Test Results

From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2017 Nissan Versa earns four out of five stars in frontal crash and rollover tests. The Versa Note receives three stars in frontal crash tests and four stars in rollover tests. The Note’s three-star frontal crash rating is below average for the class. The Kia Rio and Nissan Sentra earn slightly better marks in crash tests.

Versa Safety Features

The 2017 Nissan Versa doesn't offer many safety features aside from an optional rearview camera in upper trims. Rearview cameras come standard in many rival vehicles, including the Chevy Spark. Additionally, many competitors can be equipped with features that assist your view of the road, like forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and rear parking sensors, but the Versa doesn't even offer those as options.

Which Nissan Versa Model Is Right for Me?

The 2017 Nissan Versa is available in two body styles: sedan and hatchback (Versa Note). A 109-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission are standard. A four-speed automatic is optional in sedan models, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional in both models. Front-wheel drive is standard.

The Versa S sedan starts at $11,990 and comes standard with Bluetooth, a tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, and a four-speaker sound system. Available features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and the Nissan Vehicle Tracking and Recovery system. The Versa Note hatchback comes with the same standard and available features, plus standard 60/40 split rear seats and an optional Wi-Fi hot spot for $450. The Note starts at $14,230.

While the base model has an appealing price, you'll want to go with one of the better value upper trims  for everyday use. By going with a lower trim, you forego common features like power windows and door locks, a USB port, and cruise control. If you're determined to spend very little on a new vehicle, the Versa SV gives you the features you need without any of the bells and whistles.

However, if you’re looking for a sedan that doesn't scream economy, consider the SV Special Edition. If you prefer the Versa's hatchback body style (the Note), get the SR. In the SV Special Edition, you get a 5-inch color display, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera, among other niceties. The Versa Note SR adds chic faux-suede upholstery, which gussies things up a bit and makes the Nissan feel less cheap.

Nissan Versa S Plus

The Versa S Plus starts at $13,900 and includes cruise control and the CVT. The Note S Plus comes with the same features and starts at $15,480.

Nissan Versa SV

Starting at $15,580, the Versa SV adds remote keyless entry, power door locks, power windows, 60/40 split rear seats, and a USB port. The Note SV starts at $16,380 and comes with the features of the sedan SV, plus a rearview camera and NissanConnect to integrate your phone into the infotainment system.

Nissan Versa SV Special Edition (Sedan Only)

The sedan SV Special Edition trim starts at $16,080 and includes fog lights, a 5-inch color display, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free text messaging, a rearview camera, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Nissan Versa SR (Hatchback Only)

The Note SR starts at $17,980 and adds premium sport synthetic suede upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Available features include NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, and a 5.8-inch touch screen.

Nissan Versa SL

The sedan SL trim starts at $17,140 and adds NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, push-button start, and a 5.8-inch touch screen. The Note SL includes the same features and starts at $18,710.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Nissan dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Nissan deals page.

The Final Call

If you are looking at the Nissan Versa as an alternative to buying a used car, there's no denying the appeal of getting the least expensive new vehicle in the country. The Versa offers a surprising amount of seating and cargo space and great fuel economy. However, there are very few standard features, a low-rent interior, and meager engine power. Rivals like the Kia Rio offer better quality materials and more engine power. Likewise, the Chevrolet Spark has capable engine power and more standard features than the Nissan. Safety and reliability scores for the Versa are about average, but the Rio is more reliable by comparison. All in all, it's worth the extra couple thousand dollars to get a car that offers more features and better performance.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

Read the full 2017 Nissan Versa reviewon U.S. News & World Report for more details, photos, specs and prices.

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