2015 Nissan Versa

Starting MSRP: $11,990 - $17,960

Estimated MPG: 27 city / 36 hwy

2015 Nissan Versa Review

The 2015 Nissan Versa gains interior and exterior updates to keep it on top in U.S. sales.

By William Maley
Last Updated 05/03/2016

Whenever an automaker introduces a new subcompact in the U.S. marketplace, they always have a gimmick - whether it’s best-in-class fuel economy, excellent driving dynamics or a clever storage system. The claim to fame for the 2015 Nissan Versa is its impressive amount interior space. Nissan hopes to build on that with the 2015 Versa, which has seen some changes inside and out to keep it in the running in the subcompact race.

Exterior

Exterior
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Previously, subcompact vehicles were a penalty box when it came to design. They had no flash or spunk to them, and many were just boring looking cars. But in recent years, subcompact models have gotten more attractive. Nissan didn’t get that message fully with the Versa.

The Versa sedan’s styling is basically a shrunk-down version of the Nissan Sentra compact. For 2015, Nissan gives the Versa sedan a new front-end treatment with a larger grille and headlights, as well as additional chrome trim. Other changes include new wheels and a rear spoiler.

While these changes do move the Versa sedan up somewhat on the design scale, it still looks kind of boring when compared to other subcompact sedans.

Those looking for a little bit more flair should look at the Versa Note. This subcompact hatchback looks more like a really small van with a high roofline and vertical tailgate. New for this year (and what I drove for the week) is the Versa Note SR. This new trim offers up some sporty elements such as a mesh grille, a side sill treatment, new bumpers and a rear spoiler. This gives Versa Note some aggression and makes it quite interesting to look at.

Interior

Interior
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The big selling point on the Versa lineup has been its space. Sit in the back of either Versa model and you’ll be amazed by how much space there is. My 5-foot-8-inch frame was able to stretch out in the back, something I cannot do in other subcompacts.

Cargo space is impressive for a subcompact car – the Versa sedan boasts a trunk with 14.9 cubic feet of space, while the Versa Note has 18.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 38.3 cubic feet of space with the seats down.

Nissan has also made some improvements inside the Versa. There is now better quality of plastics used throughout and a revised center stack. The Versa Note SR boasts a new instrument cluster and a piano black finish for the center stack.

Performance

Performance
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No matter which Versa model you go with, you’ll find the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. Now the transmission selection gets slightly confusing. The base Versa and Versa Note S models get a five-speed manual as standard. The Versa S has the option of a four-speed automatic, but the Versa Note doesn’t get that option. Above the S trim, all models get a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The engine does ok when it comes to driving around the city, delivering enough oomph to keep up with traffic.

When it comes to highway or country driving, the engine struggles to get up to those higher speeds. Not helping matters is the amount of noise coming from the engine and CVT.

The Versa rides like a big car, with most bumps not making it into the cabin. Steering is somewhat rubbery-feeling, but the steering weight is just right for maneuvering into tight spots. There is also a decent amount of road and wind noise inside the cabin.

Fuel economy is one of the Versa’s strong suits. The EPA rates the Versa at 27/36 mpg city/highway, or 30 mpg combined with the five-speed manual; 26/35 mpg city/highway, or 30 mpg combined with the four-speed automatic; and 31/40 mpg city/highway, or 35 mpg combined with the CVT. I saw an average of 34 mpg in my week with the Versa Note.

Technology

Technology
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Nissan has gone above and beyond when it comes to adding tech features to the Versa lineup. All models get Bluetooth and an auxiliary jack as standard, while SV and SL models get a USB port as well. Go for SL model and you’ll get a 5.8-inch touch screen with NissanConnect and navigation as standard. This system boasts hands-free texting that allows you listen and respond to a message through the vehicle’s infotainment system. This allows you to keep your attention on the road. Navigation is optional on the SV and SR trims.

Safety

Safety
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The Versa is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to safety. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, the Versa earned 4 out of 5 stars overall, with 3 stars in the front impact test and 4 stars in side impact and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Versa a rating of Good in the moderate overlap front, side, rear, and roof crush tests. However in the IIHS’ new small overlap front test, the Versa earned a Poor rating, which is the lowest score in IIHS testing.

All Versa models get a full suite of air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control. Higher trims get a backup camera as standard, while the Versa Note SL gets Nissan’s Around View system, which provides a 360-degree view around the vehicle via four cameras.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The Nissan Versa is the cheapest car in America with a starting price of $11,990 for the base S sedan. The Note hatchback starts out at $14,180. Well-equipped models should set you back around $18,000 for the sedan and $19,000 for the Note hatchback.

Overall

Overall
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While the Versa lineup may not offer the sleek look or fun-to-drive aspects many of its contemporaries are known for, it does offer impressive space and fuel economy that not many models can match. Add in a low price tag, and the 2015 Versa becomes a very interesting proposition in the subcompact marketplace.