Nissan's current North America lineup reflects its place as one of the country's mainstream brands, full of the types of vehicles Americans want: trucks and SUVs. But the company made its name here with small, inexpensive cars that posted excellent fuel economy figures. Soon, names like the Nissan Sentra and Altima became popular all over the US.
For the last 15 years, the Nissan Versa has been the company's entry in the least-expensive segment of the new car market, the subcompact car. Over the years and three generations, it's been available as a hatchback and a sedan, but it's often been named the least-expensive new car in the country, boasting lots of space and efficiency for not much money.
2020 - Present Nissan Versa 3rd Generation)
The Nissan Versa was redesigned for the 2020 model year. Its first significant revision in eight years, the Versa was only offered as a sedan this time. The Kicks subcompact SUV effectively replaced the Versa Note hatchback after 2019.
Following years of criticism over its mundane styling and dull driving dynamics, the Versa received a significant overhaul. Even though it was based on heavily reworked mechanicals from the outgoing car, the new Versa looked substantially different, borrowing liberally from the 2019 Altima and 2020 Sentra sedans, both of which received heavy inspiration from the Nissan Maxima.
The lower and wider look outside was also joined inside by a more modern dashboard design, updated infotainment systems, and more advanced driver assistance technology. That said, the new Versa sedan was smaller inside than its predecessor.
A 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is the only choice of motivation. While a five-speed manual transmission remained standard on the base S model, most Versas continued to be equipped with an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Still, the more potent engine was a considerable improvement over the previous model's.
There were no changes to the Versa for 2021 or 2022.
2012 - 2019 Nissan Versa (2nd Generation)
The Versa entered its second generation for the 2012 model year and was offered in three trim levels: the base S, the SV, and the SL. The Versa hatchback was broken off into a separate submodel, the Versa Note.
Nissan made the already roomy Versa sedan even more cavernous inside, with more headroom and rear-seat space that rivaled the larger Sentra.
Prices also stayed low, with the base Versa S becoming the least-expensive new car in the US, for a base price of less than $12,000. But it came with a tradeoff, as it offered very sparse accommodations. And the Versa had new competitors among very small cars, with new models such as the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, and Honda Fit.
All Versas used a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 13 horsepower less than the previous model. But it was significantly more fuel-efficient, with up to 39 mpg highway. A five-speed manual was standard on S and SV models, while a CVT was standard on the top SL and optional elsewhere.
New features available on the Versa, depending on the model, included keyless start and entry, Bluetooth connectivity, and built-in navigation. For 2013, Nissan added the S Plus trim. This version added to the base S model the CVT, a rear spoiler, four-speaker sound system, and cruise control. And the base S model became available with a four-speed automatic transmission instead of the CVT.
There were few changes until 2015 when all Versas gained slightly revised exterior styling and trim and standard Bluetooth connectivity. There were even fewer changes to the Versa until 2018, when a new infotainment system was phased in, adding a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB connectivity, and a federally-mandated backup camera.
It took until 2019 for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to be phased in on the revived SV Special Edition and SL, but by this point, the Versa sedan was past its sell-by date, and a new version was due.
2007 - 2011 Nissan Versa (1st Generation)
Nissan's entry-level car in its North American lineup had long been the Sentra sedan until this point. However, with unstable gas prices, the Nissan Versa was introduced in 2006. It rivaled the Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Toyota Yaris.
First appearing as a five-door hatchback, the first-generation Versa models were the S and better-equipped SL. Both models used a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder — powerful for this class of car at the time. A six-speed manual was the standard transmission, and a four-speed automatic was optional for the base S. The SL offered a CVT.
S models were very basic with manual windows and locks, but also included six airbags. Power amenities, anti-lock brakes (ABS), and air conditioning were options. SL models received all of these features, along with alloy wheels, but also offered unusual features for the class, like Bluetooth.
A Nissan Versa sedan arrived for 2007, mirroring the hatchback's equipment. For 2009, the Versa sedan came standard with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 107 horsepower and either a manual or automatic transmission. This budget model included a few frills, as air conditioning and an audio system were options, but it became the least-expensive new car in the US at less than $11,000 MSRP to start. Other models continued with the 1.8-liter and either a manual or CVT.
All models received ABS for 2010, with a new Versa arriving for 2012.