Pro’s: Interior room is on par with mid to full-sized sedans, great brakes, currently lowest priced car sold in United States
Con’s: CVT transmission, handling, odd placement of interior bits.
Final Thought: If you’re in the market for a reliable car that gets decent mileage, has great interior room and also happens to be the lowest priced car out there then look no further!
The 2012 Nissan Versa SV has a base price of $14,560.00 making it one of the lowest priced new cars you can buy. That gets you a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque, Nissan’s “Xtronic” CVT transmission, air conditioning, power windows and door locks as well as cruise control. Our tester was also equipped with the optional $350.00 “Convenience Package” which adds a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, premium audio system with iPod connect, wheel-mounted controls, front map lights and an illuminated passenger side vanity mirror. That brought the total to a scant $15,840.00. So, does that low price really mean that it feels like a low buck car? Well yes it does, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
After spending one week and 500 or so miles with Nissan’s smallest offering I came away a bit perplexed as to how to write this review. You see there are some things about the Versa that Nissan just got so right, and others that well, they missed the mark entirely on which makes me wonder who the hell headed up this project. At its heart the Versa is a good little machine, however at days end it’s still a compromise car.
Let us start with the interior first shall we. The Versa’s interior is bigger than a lot of the so-called mid-sized and large sedans that you see rolling around. At 6’4″ 240 lbs I fit in the Versa just fine. In fact, the interior room was so spacious that even with my seat fully adjusted, a rear passenger (5’10 or so) would still have ample room.
This is where the Versa shines and even though it’s got a bargain basement price, it sure as hell doesn’t sport low price interior room. You can pack in 4 adults without issue and then, thanks to the Versa’s 14.8-cubic inch trunk, give each person the option of packing a fully stuffed duffel bag as well. It’s really quite impressive.
The front seats were also quite good with great bolsters that provided plenty of leg and body support as well as all day comfort.
As for the rest of the interior, it’s really what you’d expect for a car at this price point. Loads of sculpted hard plastics with a bit of design thrown in for good measure. There were some things in here though that simply didn’t jive. For instance, the Versa only has one power outlet that’s located almost at the back of the center console which makes it almost impossible for the driver to plug in any windshield mounted accessories (navigation unit / radar detector).
A lack of a center armrest means there’s no place for which to rest your weary right arm, and then there is the case of the rear cup holders. One of which is so shallow that you’re just asking for a mess if you go over anything larger than a pebble.
Let’s also not forget the OBDII plug-in connector for the dealer diagnostics that’s located right next to the center mounted parking brake. This was just so weird to me. I mean why wouldn’t you place this under the dash instead of where everyone can see it. At first I thought it was an inverter, but unfortunately, no such luck. Strange choice Nissan, strange choice.
The Versa’s exterior styling was nice enough, but the metallic blue paint on our tester was a bit much for my taste. honestly, by day 2 I felt like I was driving around in a giant tic-tac. If it were me, I’d have gone for the Titanium paint which is a brilliant color in my opinion. Otherwise the shape is your basic jelly-bean with oversize head and tail lamps adorning either end. Again, a nice little car, but nothing earth shattering in the way of design.
Now onto performance; how does the Versa drive, handle, stop and go? I’m going to preface this by reminding everyone that a base Nissan Versa sedan has a starting price of $10,990.00, so don’t set your expectations too high. Under the bonnet is the aforementioned 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that makes 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. It’s no stump puller mind you, but it gets the job done. Power is put down through Nissan’s revised CVT transmission (Continuously Variable Timing). This means that from the get-go it feels like your driving a big four-wheeled scooter. Push the go-pedal down and the revs will sustain themselves at high rpms until your desired velocity is reached. It works, but it always sounded like I was over-revving the Nissan’s little mill.
Nissan quotes mileage figures of 30 mpg city and 38 mpg hwy, but in my time with the Versa I was only able to average 28 mpg combined. Granted I was driving mostly on Northern California’s interstates where the average speed is 80 mph, but still, 28 mpg is not to impressive. Drop it down to 65-70 and Nissan’s estimations are probably dead-on. If it were me, I’d scrap the CVT and get the optional 5-speed manual. Also, why the 10.8 gallon tank Nissan? Why not give us at least a 14-gallon unit so we can get an honest 400 mile range from this thing. I filled up at 264 miles and was pissed that I had to do so.
Handling on the Versa was “OK” at best. This is due mainly in part to the skinny 15″ x 5.5″ steel wheels covered in ultra skinny P185/65HR15 all-season tires, so expect plenty of tire squeal if you plan to partake in anything above mild cornering. Ride quality in the Versa was about the same, it was simply “OK”. As for the brakes – I’ll chalk those up to VERY GOOD. Seriously, braking on this little bugger was a pleasant surprise.
All in all the 2012 Nissan Versa SV is a decent little car. It’s well made, cheaply priced (lowest on sale today) and will get you from Point A to Point B in reasonable comfort, while at the same time providing you with great interior room and respectable mileage. That is of course if you stay with the base models. Jump up to the Versa SL though and you’ll rapidly be approaching $17,500.00, a price point at which there are many other small cars that you may want to consider.