For 2014, the Nissan Versa offers a schizophrenic aspect. The sedan version is uninspiring but best-selling older tech, while the 5-door hatchback offers new tech and a wider array of features. The 2014 Versa Sedan claims to be the roomiest car in its class, and it remains the least-expensive new car you can buy with its $12,780 starting price unchanged from last year. Add in fuel economy of up to 40 mpg, and the Versa looks even more sensible. Little is changed this year on the Sedan versions other than chassis tuning and some equipment offerings, but the all-new and very stylish 5-door hatch is a different story, combining fresh looks with similar fuel economy.
You'll Like This Car If...
If your focus is on dollars and cents, the 2014 Versa is among the least expensive new cars to buy. It offers high fuel economy, a surprising amount of passenger room, and a comfortable ride in a car that starts under $13,000. The 5-door Note is also pretty in a way most cars in this segment aren't.
The big news is the all-new Versa Note 5-door that can be had as a no-frills transport car, but also is offered with a wide variety of features...if you're ready to pay for them. All 2014 Nissan Versa Sedans benefit from revised suspension and steering calibrations. Entry-level S models get a tachometer and SV and SL models have improved seat-cushion design. The SV also includes a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and the top-line SL gets a 4.3-inch display audio package and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Driving the Versa
We haven't yet had the opportunity to drive the Versa Sedan and Versa Note 5-door back-to-back, but our very educated guess is the new Note amplifies the virtues of the...
... older-design Sedan. Both are smooth and quiet by economy-car standards, and we were impressed with the refinement of the Note in particular. Though its road-going behavior will never be called exciting, the Versa is an easy car to drive and maneuver. The steering is light, its turning radius is tight, and visibility is very good from the driver's seat. Like other cars with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), Versas so equipped take some getting used to. There are no conventional shift points, so the engine may seem to be working hard at unexpected times, and with just 109 horsepower, the 2014 Versa's acceleration won't tempt you to enter many drag races.
REAR LEGROOM The Versa is commendably roomy, and folding rear seatbacks add versatility. In both Sedan and 5-door forms this is a small car that can comfortably seat two full-size adults in back.
FUEL ECONOMY Sedans with the CVT automatic transmission are rated at 40 mpg for the highway and 35 mpg combined. The new 5-door equals the Sedan's numbers with even better drivability, making both Versas easy on the wallet and on the environment.
2014 Nissan Versa Details
Nissan says the Versa Sedan has best-in-class rear legroom, and the trunk has a surprising amount of space, too. With 14.9 cubic feet of capacity, the Versa's cargo hold is larger than the Nissan Maxima. The Versa Note is equally roomy, and it offers a whopping 21.4 cubic feet of cargo space in a very versatile interior. The Note's interior is also flashier and more appealing than the so-so interior of the sedan version. It offers niceties like a rear-seat armrest with cupholders, available heated cloth seats and a driver's armrest. The Note is also the hot tip if you're a tech fan, offering the Around View Monitor that makes parallel parking a breeze.
Picture an economy car in your mind, and you'll likely visualize something akin to the 2014 Nissan Versa Sedan. It is utterly acceptable and that's it. But the Versa Note kicks it all up a notch with exterior styling that Note product planners cite as a "reason to buy." We agree. The Note's overhangs are six inches shorter than the Sedan's, and the result is a more energetic-looking design. Higher-trim SV and SL models are distinguished by chrome highlights. Wheels are 15- or 16-inch, and steel or aluminum-alloy, depending on the bodystyle, trim and option package.
The Nissan Versa is one of the few new cars that still offers roll-your-own windows and manual-adjust mirrors. But that's in base "S" trim, which is also manual-transmission only. Climbing the food chain, you'll step up to the costlier SV or SL trims that deliver significantly plusher amenities, yet no version of the 2014 Versa Sedan has a telescoping steering wheel, which can make it harder for drivers to obtain an optimum position. The base S trim includes a tachometer, and the low-rolling-resistance tires that used to come only with the CVT are now standard across the line. Happily, even base vehicles have air conditioning and AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input.
Major options for the Versa Sedan are available in higher-trim SV and SL models. The Convenience Package in SV models adds Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls and 15-inch alloy wheels. The Technology Package on SL models adds Nissan Connect with Navigation and a color touch screen, satellite radio, rearview monitor, and a USB input for audio playback. Things are a bit different for the Versa Note. It, too, starts in an S trim manual-only version. An S Plus adds CVT transmission and little else, but the SV brings with it a 4.3-inch audio display, rear-view monitor, and the Divide-N-Hide adjustable rear cargo floor. The SL version is filled with niceties like 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, fog lights and heated seats. Going to the SL Tech package adds Nissan Connect with Navigation, Around View Monitor and heated side mirrors.
Under the Hood
The front-wheel-drive Nissan Versa Sedan and 5-door Note hatchback are equipped with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. With only 109 horsepower, it's not particularly powerful, but does get an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway when connected to a CVT transmission. Other transmission choices are a 5-speed manual (Versa Sedan and Versa Note) and 4-speed automatic (available only on base S models of the Sedan.) All other Versas use the fuel-saving CVT that Nissan is so high on.
With a base price of $12,780 including destination charge (the same as last year), the 2014 Nissan Versa Sedan still claims the title of lowest-priced new car you can buy in this country. The newer Versa Note hatchback has a starting price of $14,780 including destination charge, indicating Nissan's belief that consumers will pay more for its good looks and greater versatility. As you climb the trim levels and add equipment, the prices also climb commensurately. For example, a top-line Versa Note SL model with the Technology Package has a list price of more than $19,000, which could buy well-equipped examples of competitive models like the Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, or Honda Fit. Before buying, be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the various 2014 Nissan Versa models. Over the long-term, the Versa's resale value is expected to be good, and its 5-Year Cost to Own has traditionally been among the best-in-class.
Pros: "Lots of space for a so-called compact car."
Cons: "SV model should probably have alloy wheels."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I was shopping for a car to use for a while and then give to my daughter as a first car. After looking at all the overpriced used Hondas with salvage titles from shady curbsiders I decided to give this car a try and discovered that the reviews from the auto magazines are way too harsh -- this is a great, comfortable car with lots of space that drives really well and has decent power. Buy this if you want to get from point A to point B without a lot of fuss and in comfort. Don't buy this car if you are compensating or otherwise feel the need to show your wealth."
Cons: "Back seats don't fold down completely flat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have had this car for 3 years, up to 50K miles and has not been in the shop for anything...so far. For a little car, it has a lot of interior room. My wife has a Ford Fiesta, and I feel like I'm in a closet in her car. I have the hatchback, so when the seats fold down, there's a lot of room. I do wish they would lay flat like I had in my previous car. Acceleration is good, and gas mileage is decent. It's not a perfect car, but I would definitely recommend."