2010 Nissan Versa Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 1, 2011

Pros

  • Rides like a big car, handles like a small one
  • Terrific passenger room
  • Fuel economy

Cons

  • Not a lot of acceleration
  • Antiskid system is unavailable on least-expensive models
  • No sedan deserves a body like this

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2010 Nissan Versa Buying Advice

The 2010 Nissan Versa is the best car for you if you find beauty not in how it looks, but in  how it carries people and their stuff for so little money.

The 2010 Nissan Versa’s small-outside/big-inside trick is best performed by the four-door hatchback version, not the four-door sedan. The Versa hatchback is in effect a high-roof wagon that gives a quartet of six-footers plenty room for knees and noggins, or, with the rear seat folded, ingests your girlfriend’s dinette set. The Versa sedan paces it for passenger space, though of course not for cargo volume. And unlike the geek-chic Versa hatchback, the sedan’s styling has no redeeming value. At just $10,620, including destination, the Nissan Versa Sedan 1.6 Base model, however, does contend for title of “America’s least-expensive new car.”

Should you buy a 2010 Nissan Versa or wait for the 2011 Nissan Versa? Buy the 2010 Versa. It gets appearance and equipment updates to carry the car through the end of this design generation, which is expected to end with the 2011 model year (see the “What’s Next” section below). Today’s Versa design debuted for model-year 2007. It’s elderly in car terms, but holds up surprisingly well against newer rivals, especially on price. It’s also strong alternative to the oddball Nissan Cube, which Nissan positions as a more-expensive car than the Versa. So buying a 2010 Versa is a safe bet. It’ll look fresh until the fully redesigned 2012 model arrives, and it’ll continue to sing a happy value song.

2010 Nissan Versa Changes back to top

Styling: The 2010 Nissan Versa gets a new grille, updated wheel styles, and some sporty new body addenda for the top-line model. Unchanged is the size or basic shape of the artfully proportioned Versa wagon (a nice hatchback) or the ill-proportioned Versa sedan (a graceless hunchback). Both body styles share a 102.4-inch wheelbase, which is the distance between the front and rear axles and a key determinate in passenger room. It’s not a long wheelbase for a compact car, but both the Versa hatchback and sedan have a tall roof that makes possible comfortable, upright seating. The 2010 Nissan Versa lineup continues with model designations that reflect their engine size. It starts off with the1.6 Base Sedan and the 1.6 Sedan. Next up are the1.8 S Sedan and 1.8 S Hatchback and the 1.8 SL Sedan and 1.8 SL Hatchback. The 1.8 SL Hatchback is considered the top-of-the-line model and it gets the biggest appearance changes for 2010. Like other 2010 Versas, the 1.8 SL Hatchback gets a new grille, but it’s complimented by fresh front and rear fascias, new body side sills, a rear spoiler, and standard front fog lamps. The 1.8 SL Hatchback is also available for the first time with 16-inch alloy wheels in place of the standard 15-inch alloys it shares with the 1.8 SL Sedan. All models also get reddish orange cabin illumination for 2010.

Mechanical: The 2010 Nissan Versa doesn’t veer from its well-developed front-wheel-drive layout. This platform is sound enough to underpin the 2010 Nissan Cube, as well. Versa is a larger car than the Cube, though the two share a 122-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The Versa, however, is available with a smaller engine, a 107-horsepower 1.6-liter four that’s integral to holding down the cost of the Versa 1.6 Base Sedan and 1.6 Sedan models. The heavily decontented 2010 Versa 1.6 Base Sedan in fact vies with a similarly stripped Hyundai Accent for title of lowest-priced new car in the U.S. Both come in well under $11,000, including destination fees. Versa is among the few compact cars with four available transmissions: manuals with five and six speeds, a four-speed automatic, and – exclusive to the 1.8 SL Hatchback -- a continuously variable transmission. Abbreviated as CVT, this type of transmission performs the task of an automatic but with a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than with a limited number of pre-set gear ratios. The intent is to more precisely match available engine power to demand, and the goal is better fuel economy.

Features: Every 2010 Nissan Versa except the 1.8 SL Sedan and 1.8 SL Hatchback come as very basic cars: power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and cruise control are among core features that cost extra. However, an antilock brake system (ABS), which helps maintain steering control in panic stops, becomes standard for 2010 on the Versa 1.8 S and 1.8 SL models; it remains optional on the 1.6 models. Head-protecting curtain side airbags are standard on every 2010 Versa. And Nissan wins points with safety advocates for 2010 by making an antiskid system available for the first time on the Versa. Commonly called stability control, an antiskid system combats sideways slides by automatically activating individual brakes and throttling-back the engine. Nissan calls it Vehicle Dynamic Control and provides it as standard on 2010 Versa 1.8 SL models and optional on the 1.8 S models. Also available for the first time on a Versa is a factory navigation system. It’s part of a revised audio unit that doesn’t require revisions to the car’s dashboard design, which is unchanged for 2010. A slightly simplified system – no voice recognition capability, for example -- navigation is combined with optional XM satellite radio and is available only on the 2010 Versa SL models. While it was at it, Nissan upgraded every 2010 Versa’s audio system. The Versa 1.6 and 1.8 S models gain an auxiliary input for iPods and other digital audio devices, while Versa 1.8 SL sedans and hatchbacks now have iPod USB connectivity. A booming Rockford Fosgate sound system with satellite radio capability, a subwoofer, and Clarion speakers continues on the options list. The power sunroof, though, is now available only on the 2010 Versa 1.8 SL Hatchback; it had also been available on the 1.8 SL Sedan.

2010 Nissan Versa Test Drive back to top

From behind the wheel:  No Versa engine-transmission combination creates a fast car. But combined with a capable chassis, this is a pleasant-driving compact with road manners that belie its low price.

Weight savings courtesy of a parsimonious equipment list help the 1.6 sedans offset some of the power deficit of their smaller engine. These penny-pinchers don’t feel that much slower than the Versa 1.8 S and SL models. Any manual-transmission Versa is livelier than one with automatic. With either the manual or automatic, however, you’ll need to be aggressive with the gas pedal to gain speed with any immediacy. And filtering into fast-moving freeway traffic or passing on two-lane roads requires patience and forethought. The 1.8 SL Hatchback is the only Versa with any verve and credit goes to the CVT. The 1.8 SL Hatchback is no quicker off the line than one with the conventional automatic transmission. But the CVT helps the 1.8 SL Hatchback merge or overtake with lag-free confidence.

No excuses required when it comes to handling. These are laudably balanced little cars. They respond eagerly to steering inputs and turn quickly with minimal noseplow, tire squealing, or body lean. Driving enthusiasts use “tossable” to praise this sort of behavior. And thumbs up to Nissan for expanding Versa’s safety envelope with introduction of an antiskid system, though it and ABS ought to be included as standard in every Versa model, not just some.    

Dashboard and controls:  Among the benefits of a car with a modest array of features is a modest number of buttons, dials, and rockers required to control them. Versa’s dashboard is simplicity itself. A trio of interlocked circles sets the instruments directly before the driver. Grouped to the right are the easy-to-reach audio and climate controls.

Nissan thankfully avoids fancy typeface when marking Versa’s gauges and switchgear. But it does use pale white letters, numbers, and icons. They’d be easier to read set against matte black rather than slate-gray backgrounds. And Nissan would improve driver positioning by adding telescopic adjustment to the Versa’s tilt steering wheel. Many compact-car rivals come with a steering wheel that telescopes as well as tilts.

Availability of a navigation system is a bit tardy, but, like the even more overdue addition of USB connectivity, it qualifies as a praiseworthy move for a mid-cycle freshening. Steering-wheel audio controls are a nice convenience, but they’re limited to 1.8 SL models. Working your way into the 1.8 SL option packages gets you Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity. It’s a nice feature in this price range, though its voice-recognition software forces you to annunciate each digit rather than rattling off a number in conversational form.

Spring for a 1.8 SL Sedan or a 1.8 SL Hatchback if you want an abundant array of padded interior panels. The less-expensive 1.6 and 1.8 S models don’t exactly feel cut-rate, but do show more hard-plastic surfaces and so seem more like run-of-the-mill compact cars. 

Room, comfort, and utility:  A spacious cabin is a Versa virtue. Thanks to the high roofline you get chairlike seating that promotes a natural bend at the knees and reduces the need for long footwells. Good thing, because the front foot boxes are rather narrow for size-13 sneakers.

You don’t quite need to be a plus-size to find the front buckets a little narrow in the cushion. One telltale is that Nissan can’t find enough clearance between the front seats and the door panels to accommodate the backrest-rake levers. Instead, it locates the levers inboard, where they fight for space with the seatbelt receptacles. In fairness, complaints about the front cushions seem more a matter of how one’s body is proportioned and less a matter of sheer girth. It’s almost all good news in the back seat. There’s generous width for two big adults and this is arguably the only back seat in the class to accept three grownups without clown-car squeezing. 

Front seat or back, you’ll wonder where the bumps went as the Versa trundles peacefully over most any road surface. There’s uncommon absorbency here, with a sense of long, well-damped wheel travel that enables this compact to soak up potholes and road warts without pounding. Just as satisfying, it settles quickly after traversing dips and swells. Many larger cars don’t ride this well.

Access to the hatchback’s big cargo bay is aided by a liftgate that hinges high and out of the way. But it’s hampered, too, by the narrowed opening at bumper level. The sedan’s trunk is large for these exterior dimensions. But the in neither body type to the rear seats fold flat with the floor. This leaves a plateau partway in and hampers ultimate loading ease.

2010 Nissan Versa Prices back to top

Sizewise, the 2010 Versa competes with compact-class cars such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3. Pricewise, it competes with subcompact-class cars, such as the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit. Basically, Nissan’s offering a compact-sized car for subcompact-car money. That’s good value.

The 2010 Nissan Versa price range is $10,620-$17,250. (All prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee is $720 for 2010 models.)

The entry-level 2010 Nissan Versa 1.6 Base Sedan is priced at $10,620. This competes with a version of the Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback for title of the lowest-priced new car on sale in the U.S. The Versa Sedan 1.6 Base is confined to the 1.6-liter engine, the five-speed manual transmission, and 14-inch tires on steel wheels. It can’t be ordered with air conditioning, power windows, or even a factory radio.

Shorn of the “Base” tag is the slightly better-equipped 2010 Nissan Versa 1.6 Sedan. It’s priced from $11,710 with the five-speed manual transmission and from $12,710 with the four-speed automatic. The 1.8 Sedan’s main addition over the 1.6 Base Sedan is air conditioning as standard. ABS remains optional on the Versa 1.6 Base Sedan and 1.6 Sedan. Nissan prices it at a reasonable $250, but by making it optional, Nissan still tempts budget-squeezed buyers to forego this important safety feature.

Move up to the 2010 Nissan Versa 1.8 S Sedan or 1.8 S Hatchback and you get the 1.8-liter engine, power mirrors, CD audio, 15-inch tires on steel wheels, and the-now standard ABS. The 1.8 S Hatchback has a split folding rear seat, cargo cover, and rear-window wiper/washer. The 2010 Nissan Versa 1.8 S Sedan is priced from $13,820 with the five-speed manual transmission and from $14,820 with the four-speed automatic. The 2010 Nissan Versa 1.8 S Hatchback is priced from $13,870 with the five-speed manual and from $14,870 with the four-speed automatic.

Among key options for the 2010 Versa 1.8 S Sedan and 1.8 S Hatchback is the Power Plus Package. It runs $930 and adds power windows, mirrors, and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, a glovebox light, rear map pockets, and padded door armrests. Nissan’s VDC antiskid control is a $370 option on these models.

Topping the lineup is the Versa 1.8 SL Sedan, starting at $16,820, and the 1.8 SL Hatchback, priced from $17,250. These models also have the 1.8-liter engine, but the 1.8 SL Sedan mates it with the four-speed automatic transmission while the 1.8 SL Hatchback hooks it to the CVT. A height-adjustable driver seat, center console, cruise control, power windows, locks, and mirrors, and 15-inch alloy wheels are standard. So is remote keyless entry, a six-disc in-dash CD audio system, traction control, and for 2010, VDC antiskid control.

The Versa 1.8 SL Sedan is available with the $650 Convenience Package, which includes Bluetooth wireless cell-phone link and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. This package also adds Nissan’s Intelligent Key, basically a keyfob transmitter that remotely unlocks the doors and allows you to start the car without removing the fob from your pocket, purse, backpack, or briefcase. Combining elements of several options groups is the $980 Premium Package option for the 1.8 SL Hatchback.

Exclusive to the 2010 Versa 1.8 SL Sedan and 1.8 SL Hatchback is the navigation system option. Introduced for sale in January 2010, it’s priced at $610 and includes a 5-inch color dashboard screen, XM satellite radio, and real-time traffic information through XM services.

2010 Nissan Versa Fuel Economy back to top

The 2010 Nissan Versa fuel-economy story is pleasing on paper and, considering the car’s virtues, outstanding on the road. This is one of the few compacts to rate more than 30 mpg on the highway, regardless which engine-transmission combo you choose.

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2010 Nissan Versa 1.6 Sedan are 26/34 mpg (city/highway) with the five-speed manual transmission and 26/33 with the four-speed automatic.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2010 Versa 1.8 S and 1.8 SL models is 26/31 mpg with the five-speed manual transmission, 24/32 with the four-speed automatic, and 28/34 with the CVT.

2010 Nissan Versa Safety and Reliability back to top

Government crash-test ratings award a maximum five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side collisions (safecar.gov). The Nissan Versa sedan and hatchback score four of five stars for driver and passenger protection in both frontal and side impacts. This score is on par with crash-test results for most compact cars

For overall quality during the first 90 days of ownership, Nissan rates about average in polls conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer-survey firm (jdpower.com). Nissan Versa owners rate the Versa below average for overall initial quality in these J.D. Power surveys. They give it average marks for powertrain and interior design, but rate powertrain performance and interior quality below average.

For overall reliability during the first three years of ownership, the Nissan brand ranked slightly below average in J.D. Power customer surveys. Having debuted for model-year 2007, the current-generation Versa has not yet been included in the latest J.D. Power dependability studies, which survey owners of 2006-model cars.

2010 Nissan Versa Release Date back to top

The 2010 Nissan Versa went on sale in mid-September 2009.

What's next for the 2010 Nissan Versa back to top

It’s pretty certain the next-generation 2012 Nissan Versa will continue with four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Four-cylinder power and front-wheel drive are safe bets, too. What the 2012 Versa will look like is a wide-open debate, as is the platform on which it’ll be based. Nissan could go with an evolution of the current chassis, which has roots in the Nissan Tiida, the Japanese-market version of the Versa that was launched around 2004. It could create a new homegrown platform. Or it might share architecture with the advanced Megane small car from Renault.

The French automaker is a Nissan corporate partner. Basing the next-generation Versa on the Megane would produce a compact with European-grade road manners. However, some insiders say the Megane platform is relatively costly to build and would drive the price of the Versa out of the value niche that’s served it well. 

Though rivals Honda and Toyota are planning hybrid versions of existing models – the Fit and Yaris, respectively -- the next-generation Versa probably won’t host a gas-electric powertrain. Nissan is reportedly concentrating instead on small cars with all-electric power, reserving gas-electric hybrids for its upscale Infiniti division. Whether Nissan’s coming crop of pure-electrics will be dedicated electric vehicles or versions of existing models is unclear.  

Finally, the Versa – either its current platform or some version of its next-generation design – was being considered as the basis for a new small car Nissan would have supplied to Chrysler for sale as the Dodge Hornet. That arrangement was shelved during 2009 after Chrysler’s takeover by Italian automaker Fiat.

2010 Nissan Versa Competition back to top

2010 Honda Fit: A sportier but slightly smaller rival for the Versa hatchback. Smart packaging means Fit provides similar room for people and things and promises even better real-world fuel economy than the Versa hatchback. Fit was redesigned for the 2009 model year, growing a bit in size and power and adding features like a navigation system with voice recognition. Base price range is $15,610-$19,820. Fit has a 117-horsepower four-cylinder engine and rates 27/33 mpg with manual transmission, 28/35 with automatic. Honda has apparently dropped plans to offer a Fit gas-electric hybrid model. No major Fit changes are expected until model-year 2014 or so.

2010 Scion xB: Another challenger to the Versa hatchback – and to the Nissan Cube, as well -- this boxy wagon comes from Toyota’s Scion youth brand. At around $16,600, base prices start a bit higher than Versa’s. But the xB comes standard with features that cost extra on the Nissan, so transaction prices ought to be similar once you add a few options to the Versa. The xB has a 124-horsepower four and rates 22/28 with both manual and automatic transmission. It was redesigned for 2008 and won’t change drastically until model-year 2013 or later.

2010 Hyundai Elantra: A better alternative to the Versa sedan. This South Korean compact isn’t very sporty or stylish, but it’s a daunting value for the money. Solid comfort, lots of standard features, and quality cabin materials are highlights. Base price range is around $14,800-$18,500. (The impressive Elantra Touring, a Euro-flavored four-door station wagon version, starts around $18,500.) The Elantra sedan has a 138-horsepower four-cylinder and is rated at 24/33 with manual transmission, 25/33 with automatic. Elantra is set for a full redesign in model-year 2012.