By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.6
It used to be that a car's low price came at the expense of creature comforts. But that's not the case for the 2017 Nissan Versa. At a starting price of less than $13,000 including destination charges, the basic Versa S still comes with air conditioning and a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. It also offers low cost of ownership, excellent fuel economy, and a surprisingly spacious rear seat. Even when you load it up you'll have trouble breaking the $18,000 mark. Fine, the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit both offer better driving dynamics, and the Chevy Sonic and Kia Rio both look better. But none of those cars can come close to the Versa sedan's low price.
If your priorities include the lowest possible monthly payment, reliability and good fuel economy -- and you don't mind shifting your own gears or manually cranking your windows -- then the 2017 Nissan Versa sedan is just what you're looking for.
The Nissan Versa's fun factor comes from that small monthly payment, not from the time you'll spend behind the wheel. If you're looking for more entertainment, a few thousand dollars more could net you a Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta or Chevy Sonic.
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The only option on the 2017 Nissan Versa is a single package: the SV Special Edition. This $500 package adds 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, chrome accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rearview camera and more. The USB and aux ports are also relocated, and there's an additional 12-volt outlet.
Let's get this out of the way first: If you're looking for a bargain-basement driver's car, the 2017 Nissan Versa is not for you; go look at used Miatas instead....
... However, the 2017 Versa deserves a look if you're a commuter, first-time buyer, college student, empty nester, or just want inexpensive, reliable and fuel-efficient transportation. The base Versa S costs less than any other new car out there, but still comes with air conditioning, Bluetooth for your phone, and the standard 5-speed manual transmission even makes it feel zippy. More expensive models add things like better audio systems and even a leather-wrapped steering wheel, but all Versa sedans boast good steering and a tight turn radius, excellent visibility, comfortable and supportive seats, and good head- and legroom. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) can be noisy, but the fuel economy is worth it.
When talking about the least expensive car in the U.S., you expect compromises. But Nissan didn't sacrifice rear-seat room. While only wide enough to realistically seat two adults at a time, both of them will be pleasantly surprised with the plentiful leg- and headroom.
The CVT can make the little engine in the Versa noisy at times, but Nissan sure has nailed the transmission's true function: fuel economy. The gearless transmission maximizes power and fuel economy, helping the Versa achieve 39 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg in the city.
Nissan pulled a real trick with the 2017 Versa interior. While small on the outside, the interior is surprisingly roomy, especially in the rear, where passengers get 37 inches of legroom, three inches more than in the Chevy Sonic. Even the trunk is big, with its 14.9 cubic feet close to a midsize sedan’s, and even that expands when you fold the rear seatbacks on higher trims. The style isn't fancy, and the controls and materials are all basic. But it's also logically arranged and easy to use, and the tilt/telescope steering wheel and height-adjustable seat make getting comfortable easy.
The 2017 Versa is actually a pretty nice-looking little sedan, thanks to the strong family resemblance it has to the Nissan Sentra and Altima. Okay, some proportions are a little odd -- the tall roof and bulbous ends come to mind -- but you'll appreciate them when seated in 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. You get nicer-looking alloy wheels and chrome accents on higher-end SL and SV models, both of which help dress up this little economy car.
The basic 2017 Nissan Versa is pretty basic, but it does come with air conditioning, power mirrors, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/aux audio system, tilt steering wheel, trip computer, Bluetooth for your phone, front disc/rear drum brakes, 15-inch steel wheels with covers, vanity mirrors and a rear defroster. It also comes with a 5-speed manual transmission and -- get this -- hand-cranked windows. If you want such features as power windows, power door locks, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver's seat, or even a remote trunk release, you'll have to step up to a higher trim level, such as the S Plus or SV trims.
Climbing the model ladder is the best way to get more stuff on the 2017 Versa. Mid-level SV models get a 6-way-adjustable driver's seat, split-folding rear seats, better interior fabric, and an upgraded audio system that includes a USB input. The SV Special Edition is the only option package this year, and it adds streaming audio through Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5.0-inch color display audio, variable-speed windshield wipers, fog lights and SiriusXM satellite radio. SL models get push-button start, NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, and 16-inch alloy wheels. All Versa models above basic S get the CVT automatic transmission.
The only engine for the front-wheel-drive 2017 Nissan Versa sedan is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with 109 horsepower. That's not a lot of power, but the Versa's not a lot of car, either. Besides, with the CVT it gets an impressive 39 mpg on the highway according to the EPA. If you get the basic Versa S you get a 5-speed manual, or you can opt for an ancient 4-speed automatic on the S as well; we suggest skipping it and getting at least the S Plus.
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), 31/39 mpg (CVT automatic)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Nissan Versa S has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $12,825 including the $835 destination charge, making it the least expensive new car available in the U.S. But the price climbs quickly; add the 4-speed automatic and the price jumps to nearly $14,400. However, even if you get the top-line Versa SL, you'll still pay less than $18,000, which is pretty good for a fully loaded new car. By comparison, the Kia Rio has a more powerful engine and a longer warranty, and starts around $15,000; same with the Chevy Sonic, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta. Whatever you decide, 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.