By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.7
As the least expensive car in America, Nissan’s compact Versa sedan for 2016 might seem a gimmick designed to lure customers to showrooms. But in truth, the base Versa S is pretty nicely equipped with features like air conditioning, a 4-speaker stereo and Bluetooth connectivity. In addition to being inexpensive to own and operate, the Versa sedan offers excellent fuel economy and a truly spacious back seat. Higher-trim versions build off the $12,815 base price, but even fully equipped a Versa barely breaks the $18,000 mark. The Ford Fiesta and Chevy Sonic offer more spirited driving dynamics, while the Kia Rio has a better warranty and a sleeker appearance, but none can come close to the Versa sedan’s base price.
If you’re looking for a fuel-efficient and highly reliable new car at a bargain-basement price, the 2016 Nissan Versa sedan is about as good as it gets. Sure, you’ll have to drive stick and manually crank your windows, but you’ll be rewarded with a really small monthly payment.
A few thousand dollars more will put you into any number of fuel-efficient compact sedans that are more fun to drive and offer more features and better styling. The Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta are particularly attractive, while the Chevrolet Sonic offers a turbocharged engine.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Versa sedan from Nissan gains a few new features while holding the line on its affordable base price. S trims now have body-colored power mirrors and rear speakers, while the SL gains a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Nissan’s 2016 Versa compact sedan isn’t going to win much praise from those who think compact cars should be quick and fun to drive. But, for commuters,...
... college kids and first-time buyers, the Versa’s comfortable ride, peppy engine and slick-shifting 5-speed manual transmission will probably win two big thumbs up. We found the Versa’s steering properly assisted and its turning radius nice and tight. Visibility is excellent and the seats are firm with good head- and legroom both front and rear. The Versa’s available CVT automatic transmission, on the other hand, takes some getting used to. It doesn’t use conventional shift points and causes the engine to rev high more often than one might expect. Of course, with only 109 horsepower on tap, getting the Versa to move quickly often requires nailing the gas pedal to the floor, but once underway the little Nissan scoots along just fine.
Most compact cars are big on economy and small on passenger space, but not the 2016 Nissan Versa sedan. Not only can the Versa’s rear seat fit two adults comfortably, it can be folded down to increase the trunk’s cargo capacity.
Nissan has perfected the CVT automatic and it works flawlessly in the 2016 Versa sedan. The gearless transmission maximizes power and fuel economy, helping the Versa achieve 40 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg in the city.
Despite the 2016 Nissan Versa sedan’s small exterior, there is a lot to talk about inside. Rear-seat passengers get 37 inches of legroom, three inches more than in the Chevy Sonic. As a grocery-getter, the sedan holds much in its 14.9-cubic-foot trunk, and swallows even more with the rear seats folded down. On higher trims, the sedan’s rear seats fold in a 60/40 split. Up front, controls and cabin materials are basic, but logical and easy to use. Features like a standard tilt steering wheel and available height-adjustable driver’s seat go a long way to helping one find a comfortable driving position.
Thanks to a fresh face similar to that of its larger siblings the Sentra and Altima, the 2016 Nissan Versa has more visual pizazz than most economy cars. The Versa’s tall roof and bulbous ends are not exactly sporty or sleek, but they are necessary to attain the car’s spacious cabin. The Versa’s tall doors make entry and exit easier, and the long rear doors simplify tasks such as installing a child safety seat. Higher SL and SV trims get nicer wheels and more chrome accents, which go a long way to making the Versa look less like a boring rental car.
A base 2016 Versa sedan has a tempting price for sure, but you will have to sacrifice some creature comforts for it. It does come with air conditioning, power mirrors, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/Aux audio system, tilt wheel, trip computer, Bluetooth, front disc/rear drum brakes, 15-inch steel wheels with covers, vanity mirrors and a rear defroster. You won’t find power windows, power door locks, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver's seat, or even a remote trunk release. For those kind of features, you'll have to step up to the S Plus or SV trims, which cost thousands more.
As with other Nissans, most of the extras come by climbing trims. Mid-tier SV models gain a 6-way-adjustable driver's seat, split-folding rear seats, better fabric material and an upgraded audio system that includes a USB input. The SV Tech package includes the NissanConnect system that integrates mobile apps such as those for Facebook and Pandora, push-button ignition, and a premium audio system with 5.8-inch navigation display, rearview monitor and Bluetooth audio streaming. The SV Appearance package adds 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and chrome trim. The SL includes the Tech and Appearance package as standard.
Nissan Versa sedan for 2016 is 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 and 4-speed automatic (S trim). All other Versas use the fuel-saving CVT.
109 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
107 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/36 mpg (5-speed manual), 26/35 mpg (4-speed automatic), 31/40 mpg (CVT automatic)
The 2016 Nissan Versa sedan has the lowest Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of any new car, with the base models starting at $12,815. However, adding even simple options like a 4-speed automatic transmission lifts that cost to over $14,000. Moving up trims and adding features can push a Versa's price to around $18,000 in top form. A Kia Rio, by comparison, has a more powerful engine and a longer warranty, and starts around $15,000, the neighborhood where base models of the Chevy Sonic, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta reside. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their Versa. Strong resale value is another characteristic of the Versa, where it's a best-in-class leader.