The 2014 Nissan Versa is one of the most basic cars offered today; it's also one of the lowest priced new cars in the U.S. In its most basic trim, the Versa includes such throwbacks as hand-crank windows, manual mirrors and door locks and a 2-speaker radio. Although amenities are few and far between in the base model, the Versa can actually be nicely equipped if you're willing to spend a bit more. Amenities aside, the reason people continue to snap up the Versa faster than Nissan can build it is summed up in a single word: value.
The Versa doesn't cost much. It holds its value fairly well, delivers excellent fuel economy and has an abundance of space for both passengers and cargo. In fact, the Versa features 90 cu ft of interior volume. Impressively, there is more rear legroom than in a BMW 5 Series or a Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
What's New for 2014?
New standard features for 2014 include 16-inch alloy wheels, a 4.3-inch audio display and SiriusXM satellite radio for the SL trim, with the SV gaining a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and key fob trunk release. The base S trim receives a tachometer and low-rolling resistance tires, and all trims see improvements in their suspension tuning and steering calibration.
What We Like
Spacious interior; low base price; inexpensive and easy-to-use navigation radio; excellent fuel economy with CVT automatic
What We Don't
S trim is painfully basic; some parts feel flimsy compared to competition; noisy drivetrain; quirky styling
The 2014 Nissan Versa is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder producing 109 horsepower. Customers can choose one of three transmissions: a 5-speed manual transmission, a 4-speed automatic or a CVT. With the 5-speed manual, the Versa is rated at 27 miles per gallon city/36 mpg highway. Those numbers each drop by 1 mpg respectively when equipped with the 4-speed automatic. Cars equipped with the CVT attain the best fuel economy, rated at an impressive 31 mpg city/40 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The Versa is offered in four trim levels: S, S Plus, SV and SL. Each trim uses the same 1.6-liter engine but offers different transmission choices and fuel economy figures.
The base S ($12,800) includes air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels with covers, a 2-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input, a tachometer and manual windows, mirrors and door locks.
The S Plus CVT ($14,600) adds a CVT automatic transmission, 4-speaker stereo and cruise control.
The SV ($16,050) adds upgraded seat cloth, a 6-way manual driver's seat, driver's armrest, power windows and locks, remote trunk release with key fob activation, keyless entry, power mirrors, upgraded instrument cluster and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
The SL ($17,700) adds Intelligent Key entry and start, 16-in aluminum wheels, fog lights, iPod integration, satellite radio, Bluetooth, front map lights, steering wheel audio controls and variable wipers.
Options for the S trim are limited to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The SV Convenience Package brings Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, upgraded radio with MP3 and RDS capability, map lights, a front passenger vanity mirror and 15-in alloy wheels. The SL Tech Package adds navigation radio with NissanConnect, a rearview monitor, streaming audio, voice recognition for audio and navigation and SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather (subscription required).
The Versa has front-seat-mounted side-impact supplemental airbags and roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental airbags. In addition, the Versa is designed with Zone Body construction with front and rear crumple zones, an energy-absorbing steering column, hood buckle creases and safety stops and pipe-style side-door guard beams. Nissan also includes vehicle dynamic control and traction control on all Versa models.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2014 Nissan Versa an overall good score, with three out of five stars in the front crash test and four stars in the side-impact and roof-strength test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Versa as a Top Safety Pick, awarding it top marks in the offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Behind the Wheel
Driving the Versa feels fairly average. The CVT allows power to flow to the front wheels fairly smoothly. The engine is short on horsepower but tries its best to keep the little vehicle gliding along at highway speed. We can't really complain about the driving characteristics of the Versa given its affordability. But, driven back-to-back with the competition, the Versa's drawbacks are revealed.
The Versa feels light and flimsy in a market of surprisingly substantial subcompacts. As basic transportation, the Versa is fine. Alongside the newest offerings from its competitors, however, it pales in comparison. Aside from interior volume, the Versa doesn't offer many features that help it stand out.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Sonic -- The Sonic might be one of the best-driving vehicles in the subcompact market. An optional turbocharger, not available on the base model, adds to driving pleasure but also to the cost.
Kia Rio -- The Kia Rio is spacious, good-looking and energetic. Plus, it comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Mazda2 -- The Mazda2's base price is the highest in this group. But for that price, you get all the positive attributes of a subcompact without sacrificing confidence and poise.
While we admire the base model's low price, it's too Spartan for most tastes. We would go with the SV, which offers features most of us have become accustomed to (such as power windows and locks), plus an available audio upgrade that brings Bluetooth to the Versa's cabin.