Nissan Versa 1.8 SL Review

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I test drove a base model Versa last year, and wasn’t very complementary about its design.
Nothing has changed since…
I still consider the Versa sedan to be one of the ugliest car available in the US.
It still reminds me of some generic eastern European design from the 80’s.

It is too tall, too narrow and the wheels are small. Not a good combo. At all.

But that is just my opinion.

I have to say, the interior is quite a bit better than in the base version, which didn’t even have a radio.
The SL comes with a 6 speaker system with iPod integration and the whole thing sounds very good.

It is still very roomy, front and back. And still rides a bit to high from me. And with the whole thing feeling narrow, it gave me the impression of driving a clown car. Which might be fun for some people… Not me.

The wood trim is positively ghastly. It reminds me of some horrible cheap furniture from the 70’s.
And really, wood trim has no place in a car like this. Especially when it looks so cheap. Why even bother…
A really strange choice, and a weird idea of what might look upscale.

The seats are covered in a nice looking cloth. But their controls feel really cheap. Like something that would break too soon.


The Versa has a very comfortable and solid ride. But being too high, it really leans in the corners.
Another lower design based on this chassis could do much better.

Steering is just OK. Very light and pretty numb, with that annoying Nintendo video game feeling.
But that’s not worse than most inexpensive cars out there….

The engine is very quiet and refined under any circumstances.
With just enough power. It is rated at 24 City and 32 HWY.
I was able to get over 28 in the City and around 40 on the HWY.

Pretty good numbers.

Nissan’s CVTs are mostly great. Especially when paired with a V6.
Not here. It just is pretty slow to respond and just forces you to relax. At all times.

Which may be a good thing for some people…


The Versa sedan is an OK car. It feels very solid, is quiet and very roomy.
But the SL version I drove costs $18 700.
Which, I think, is very expensive for what it is.

This amount of money will get you into a very nicely equipped Fiesta or Honda Fit. And many others.
Cars that at least look like they were designed in this century.

The Versa sedan is not a bad car. I just think about anything else, for the same money, is and looks better…

But an all new Versa is on its way, so things will get better. Soon.

Conversation 15 comments

  1. This is over 19k after tax & title. That's getting into Jeep Patriot territory. The new Jetta starts at $15k. Need I say more?

  2. I had one as a rental about a year ago. Not too bad…a good alternative from the usual Kias that I get in this category.

    Kias are always a good rental since they have iPod integration!

  3. In it's current iteration, Nissan's Versa outsells Toyota's Yaris and Honda's Fit by a large margin, even though the Fit is new. When the next one comes out, see sketch below, it will own the segment by a landslide!

  4. Although I can't disagree that the sedan has a distinctly Eastern European look to it, the hatch is a very practical and an acceptable looking vehicle. Clearly the new Fiesta, et al, are all better looking, but new Versa should be out soon and we'll have to see how it compares.

    Most people forget that the Versa is an old design that was only recently brought to the States. Vince, you hit the nail on the head with "very solid, quiet and very roomy". That's why people buy Versas over the Yaris and Fit.

  5. The sedan looks like the first Prius from 2000, maybe even worse. The hatch is weird but in a French sort of way. Like a modern Renault 4. Anyway they are solid cars and can be had a reasonable price. Jetta for $15K? HAHAHAHAHA Before or after the 5K in repairs you will have in the first 4 years? I love the Fiesta… until I sat in one and felt like a giant in a clown car. The Versa looks tall but having been in one, it's HUGE on the inside.

  6. Great review, Vince. I think a car like this only makes sense as a hatch or station wagon. It's already kind of awkward/homely – might as well make it practical. On a similar vein, I like cars that are honest about what they are. There's no reason to have (fake) wood trim in an economy car, nor do you need pseudo sporty instruments – a nice, clear, large speedometer, fuel guage and temp guage makes more sense.

  7. Clearly I want this car so people will know that I am clearly interesting.
    I think a drunk blind man from Belerus could do better than this.

  8. Aside from some of the really cheap Kias, this is about as bad as cars can get. Just buy a used decent car.

  9. Vince, the Versa is a TERRIBLE vehicle.

    Three years ago my best friends girlfriend was in the market for a subcompact. We were test driving the Versa and got onto 66 in Fairfax, VA and the HOOD OPENED on the highway.

    It opened with such force that it broke the windshied, bent the hood all up and the supporting brackets, and damaged the roof.

    There was NO way that she could have touched the hood release with her foot, and the safety catch didn't work anyway.

    Needless to say she didn't get a Versa which wasn't impressive anyway. She ended up with a Fit Sport for less money and liked the car much more.

    "Nissfan said…
    In it's current iteration, Nissan's Versa outsells Toyota's Yaris and Honda's Fit by a large margin, even though the Fit is new. When the next one comes out, see sketch below, it will own the segment by a landslide!

    October 13, 2010 6:54 AM"

    Hey Nissfan, you MIIIGGHHHTTT want to check what percentage of those sales are to fleets, IE- Hertz, Enterprise, National, ETC.

    Over a quarter of those Versas are going to fleet sales.

    That is hardly impressive given they are not going to private individuals. The Versa will never truly own this segment, especially with their abysmal reliability. Check CR if you don't believe me.

  10. Interesting. Why doesn't LaHood terrorize Nissan for bad hood latches which happen in every 1 out of 2 versas I hear.

  11. Why waste money blacking-out the B pillars? You're not fooling anyone. It's obviously a dirt-cheap econo car. Nobody's going to confuse it with a "true" hardtop.

  12. I have a B-pillar pyschosis as well…Isnt that clearly interesting? The front end of this was designed by a drunken feeb from lifeless eastern block.

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