The 2015 Nissan Versa gets a new look and some new features yet manages to retain its sub-$13,000 price tag. Maybe that's why it's been the best-selling subcompact for four years running. Nissan understands that the primary buyer for this car is likely to be a first-time buyer, so it wants to impress upon them the Versa's value and economy, as well as its very reasonable sticker price. Such throwbacks as manually operated windows, mirrors and door locks may mystify younger buyers, but these features only show up on the base trim. Those willing to spend just a bit more can have a nicely equipped small sedan with a lot of great features such as navigation, a rearview monitor and mobile-app capability.
Although visually unremarkable, what makes the Versa so attractive is that it doesn't cost much, 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 2015?
The 2015 Versa gets a major exterior makeover, with a newly styled front end more in line with the rest of Nissan's sedans. Bluetooth is made standard on all trims, as is a new center-stack design lifted from the Versa Note.
What We Like
Spacious interior; low base price; inexpensive and easy-to-use navigation radio; excellent fuel economy with continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); standard Bluetooth
What We Don't
S trim is painfully basic; some parts feel flimsy compared to competition; noisy drivetrain; quirky styling
The 2015 Nissan Versa is powered by a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine 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 in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Those numbers each drop by 1 mpg 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, Bluetooth with steering-wheel touch controls, 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. A 4-speed automatic transmission adds $1,500 to the bottom line.
The S Plus ($14,800) adds a CVT automatic transmission, a 4-speaker stereo, a rear spoiler and cruise control.
The SV ($16,340) adds upgraded seat cloth, a 6-way manual driver's seat, a driver's armrest, power windows and locks, remote trunk release with key-fob activation, keyless entry with illuminated entry, map lights, power mirrors, USB/iPod controls and a 60/40-split folding rear seat.
The SL ($17,700) adds Intelligent Key entry and push-button ignition, 16-in aluminum wheels, fog lights, upgraded audio with a 5-in display and NissanConnect with mobile apps, satellite radio, steering-wheel audio controls and variable intermittent wipers.
Options for the SV trim are limited to the Alloy Wheel package that adds 15-in V-spoke alloy wheels. The SL Tech package adds navigation radio with NissanConnect with mobile apps, a rearview monitor, streaming audio, voice recognition for audio and navigation and SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather (subscription required).
Inside, the Versa offers 90.2 cu ft. of passenger volume and a 14.9 cu ft. trunk that, on SV and SL trims, can be expanded using the 60/40-split folding rear seat.
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 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 tests. 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 rather 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 speeds. 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.
Ford Fiesta -- The Fiesta's base price is the highest in this group, but it gets better fuel economy than the Versa, and there is a performance-oriented ST version for an even sportier ride.
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 that most of us have become accustomed to, such as power windows, mirrors and locks.