First Drive: Nissan Versa SV

by Michael Satterfield

After driving the Nissan Versa sedan from California to Texas with a few stops along the way I have to say that cheapest car offered by Nissan does serve its purpose, it is affordable, good on gas, and comfortable, there is even a cheaper model, the S, which comes with a manual transmission for just $12,460. But this SV model that I have been driving across the great American Southwest is just over $17,195 with the only optional extra being the floor mats.

The base model Versa S is the cheapest new car sold in the USA, it earns the accolade by ditching basics like a folding rear seat, power windows, and cruise control. Yet it still comes standard with a 7" touchscreen infotainment system with back up camera and air conditioning which are really all you need for what is likely a commuter car. 

With the SV you get a lot more equipment power windows, a folding rear seat, and the fairly terrible "Xtronic CVT®" continuously variable automatic transmission which feels disconnected from the 109hp 1.6-liter engine most of the time. When passing on the highway you have to give yourself extra time for the drivetrain to wake up, the engine will make a massive amount of noise for not a lot of acceleration. Once you do get settled in with the cruise control the car bounds along just fine, but with its slab side styling, any gust of wind makes for an uneasy ride. In fact, the first experience I had with the wind in Arizona I had to pull over because it felt as if I had a low tire or the car was out of alignment. Doing mostly highway driving I was disappointed that I only averaged around 33-mpg on the trip, but I am guessing if I was to set the cruise control to 65 and just cruise, I might get a little more out of it.

That being said the styling was maybe the thing I liked least about the Versa sedan which looked dated when this refreshed body style launched in 2015, but it is still disappointing coming from Nissan who has a history of making really great looking small cars. The Versa's French cousin the Renault Scala is a far better-looking car than the odd proportions of the US spec Nissan. Thankfully this summer a new Versa is set to be released which is said to "take styling cues from the current Altima and Maxima" which should translate into something better looking than the current model. For me, the best part of driving the Versa is not having to look at it.

Moving inside, the interior is sparse but clean and functional. The touch screen system is easy to use and in the special edition package, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. After logging over 1,500 miles in the Versa SV I was impressed with the seats, they were comfortable the driverside armrest makes a difference on the long drives. While many have complained that the interior is too plastic, you have to remember that this is a car that starts for under $13,000. The Versa does also have a massive trunk for a car in this class with nearly 15-cubic-feet of space with the back seat up. Speaking of back seats the Versa also has a large and comfortable back seat which is capable of holding a full-size adult.

The verdict:

The Versa is if anything honest, cheap, reliable, transportation. Which is kind of sad from a company that offered the rest of the world the good looking small cars like the Micra and Dayz. If you are in the market for an inexpensive commuter or first car, with the 2020 model year change coming up in Summer 2019, it might be a great time for a deal on what is already the cheapest car in the USA. If you can't stand the looks hang on for 2020 which will likely look more like the new Nissan Leaf.

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