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2016 Nissan Versa

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Nissan Versa Note - tin shed 2 - AOA1200px

Overview (Final Score: B)
The 2016 Nissan Versa and Versa Note have been best-sellers in the subcompact entry-level market for quite a while. With sales split more or less evenly between the sedan and hatchback models (Sedan and Note respectively), this little car seems to grab a lot of eyes.

The Versa isn't known for having an award-winning exterior style or engaging drive quality. It has neither of those. What it does have is a big, roomy interior compared to the competition and a high level of fuel efficiency and A to B functionality. Where others might have pizzazz, the Versa has practicality. In the end, that's winning more buyers than not.

The base level Versa is an extremely basic vehicle with little in the way of frills. Yet its beginning suggested retail price is well below most others in the segment. That seems to attract a lot of buyers, but most of them are not buying that base level offer. They instead move up to a mid-level trim where the Versa has less in the way of cost comparative shine. Given the high level of competition in this market, Nissan's plan of offering the lowest base price possible by stripping the car of nearly all non-essentials appears to be paying off.

The 2016 Versa sees little change from the 2015 model year, but we do note some highlights such as improved crash test results and realistic EPA estimates for fuel economy.

What We Loved About the 2016 Nissan Versa

  • Very roomy interior for the segment.

  • Extremely versatile use options.

  • Low-cost efficiency.

What We Didn't Love About the 2016 Nissan Versa

  • Noisy on the highway.

  • Sub-par seating and comfort.

  • Pricing not as compelling at mid-level and higher trims.

Nissan Versa Note - park 2 - AOA1200px

Exterior View (8/10 relative to market)
The Versa is a basic vehicle with a sedan and hatchback ("Note") body option. As an entry-level car, it's a bit plain, but not bereft of style. The 2016 Nissan Versa sedan has a simplified version of Nissan's "V-motion" front grille set in an hourglass with the lower intake on the fascia and flanked by large headlights. The hood is short and quick, pushing into the windscreen which in turn begins the flow of the roofline in a semi-teardrop shape for the sedan. For the Versa Note hatchback models, the teardrop is replaced with a light taper to the roofline that ends in a clipped rear hatch design that is sportier than might be expected of an entry-level hatch.

The general design of the Versa may be modest, as is its starting price, but carries a contemporary, less "in your face" appeal that some others in this segment do not have. The entry-level compact segment is full of offerings that range from very plain to very edgy and the Nissan Versa manages to fit somewhere in the middle in terms of exterior styling. For many buyers, that's a good thing and it's the reason that this has been the best-selling entry-level model for quite a while now.

Nissan Versa Note - interior 3 - AOA1200px

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)
The 2016 Versa's interior is a mixed bag of pros and cons. On the pro side, the Versa and Versa Note sport some of the roomiest back seating you'll find anywhere in the segment. Add in large trunk space (14.8 cubic feet) and well-sized cargo (hatch, 18.8 cubic feet with rear seats up) and you have a lot of space for those passengers' things. We note that in the sedan model, folding rear seats is, again, an option only in upper trims.

Front seating is roomy, but not exactly comfortable. Unless you plan to spring for a mid-trim Versa or Versa Note model, you'll be unable to give the driver or front passenger seat much adjustment and the steering wheel will be fixed in place as tilt-only. There is plenty of legroom, shoulder room, and headroom for most, however, with even someone at over six feet being accommodated - unusual for the subcompact segment.

Road comfort and noise levels in the 2016 Nissan Versa are sub-par for the class as well. Many rivals have much quieter interiors, despite the low price of entry into the subcompact market, and feature quieter powertrains to boot. Nissan did little to shield noise levels in the Versa and this is particularly obvious in the Note models with their larger, more resonant body style.

On the plus side, the instrumentation and controls are easy to master and visibility for the driver is excellent in the Versa.

Technology (7/10)
The Versa doesn't have much technology to speak of. Infotainment and navigation are only found in upper trim levels and is still pretty basic by comparison to the rest of the market. Most of the expected connectivity via Bluetooth is found in even the lower trims, but a backup camera and voice control for the infotainment is only available as an expensive add-on or as part of upper trim packaging. Even at that, the tiny infotainment touchscreen is not aided by sharp graphics or any other saving grace.

Technophiles will need to look elsewhere for their needs.

Nissan Versa Note - bchill 2 - AOA1200px

Fuel Economy (9/10)
The subcompact segment now has a 40 mpg highway expectation and the Versa meets that handily with its continuously variable transmission option. The manual and geared automated, however, fall short of that number. At least on paper. A manual transmission Versa can likely achieve very close to 40 mpg on the highway if driven with economy in mind.

The EPA rates the Versa sedan at 35 mpg combined, with 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway when the CVT is equipped. The four-speed automatic found in the lower trims as an option is rated at 30 mpg combined (26 city, 35 highway) and the five-speed manual transmission rates 30 mpg combined (27/36).

In our testing of a sedan model equipped with the five-speed manual, we averaged 32 mpg in a heavy highway mix and saw better than the EPA's estimates on the highway. In a CVT-equipped Versa Note model, we saw numbers slightly lower than the 40 mpg highway expectation, but nearly matched the combined rating of 35 mpg with a 34.3 mpg average. So we feel that the Versa's EPA estimates are very close to reality.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (7/10)
The 2016 Versa and Versa Note are rated as about average for initial quality by J.D. Power and Associates. There have been no recalls associated with the Versa, which is now in its third year in this generation. Nissan's warranty on the car is average at 3 years, 36,000 miles.

Nissan Versa Note - park 1 - AOA1200px

Safety (7/10)
So far, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not rated the 2016 Nissan Versa, but the virtually identical 2015 model received top scores of "Good" on all but the small overlap front crash test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the Versa an overall four-star rating (out of five) on all testing. That's up from the 2015 model year's lower scores, we should mention.

Safety equipment included with Versa models is modest, but on par with the segment's entry-level norms.

Performance (7/10)
The Versa is an economy-focused subcompact and as such emphasizes versatility and efficiency over performance. It is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that outputs 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. The base model is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission as standard and has an option to upgrade to a four-speed automatic. Neither of these can be guaranteed to be efficient, though the manual transmission does add a bit of fun to the mix for those who like the hands-on approach.

Other Versa and Versa Note models are equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as standard. This is the most boring, in terms of drive quality, of the choices, but is by far the most efficient. Unlike many CVTs on the market, Nissan's is generally well-mannered and unobtrusive.

On the road, the Versa is compliant and well-mannered, but not sporty or fun by any measure. It's an A to B car, not a luxury or spor item, and that's inherent in its build. The small wheels and tires do little to absorb the road and noise levels, as mentioned, are fairly high in all Versa models.

Pricing and Value (8/10)
The Versa's top draw is its very low initial pricing. The base model has a very low MSRP, but most buyers tend towards the mid-level trims. In those trim levels, at $15,000 and more, the Versa and Versa Note are competitive, but not as compelling as much of the subcompact competition. Regardless, the Versa is often a great value with plenty of versatility for the price being paid. In that regard, there are few other options as persuasive as is the Nissan Versa.

Nissan Versa Note - tin shed 1 - AOA1200px

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (61/80, 76%)
There are many strong competitors to the 2016 Nissan Versa Note. Most notable are the Chevrolet Sonic and the Ford Fiesta, both of which are sportier to drive and generally more fun to look at. They do not have the same interior space, however, and are priced a bit higher at the base level. The Hyundai Accent is compelling at its base level and very close to the Versa in terms of value, but has the same lack of personality without the roomy back seat.

All told, the Nissan Versa hits a broad market of entry-level buyers and those looking for a low-cost daily driver to get from A to B. With roominess, versatility, and economy as its primary attributes, the Versa and Versa Note seems to have hit a mark with buyers in the subcompact segment.

Trim Engine Drive Train MSRP
1.6 S 4dr Sedan 5M 4 Cylinder FWD 11990
1.6 S 4dr Sedan 4A 4 Cylinder FWD 13540
1.6 S Plus 4dr Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 14040
1.6 SV 4dr Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 15580
1.6 SL 4dr Sedan 4 Cylinder FWD 17140

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