2011 Nissan Versa Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 1, 2011

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2011 Nissan Versa Buying Advice

The 2011 Nissan Versa is the best car for you if driving a good small car now is more important than waiting for a replacement you hope is as capable, efficient, and affordable

The 2011 Nissan Versa is largely a carryover from the 2010 Nissan Versa, though the important safety advantage of an antilock braking system (ABS) becomes standard instead of optional on more models. The 2011 Versa will continue as a cleverly packaged five-passenger auto that competes with smaller subcompact cars on price but with larger compact cars for passenger and cargo room. Versa was introduced for model-year 2007, supplanting the Sentra as Nissan’s entry-level car. Nicer to look at and better to drive than the Sentra, it’s gone on to outsell its more established sibling, and now Nissan is preparing to introduce the second-generation Versa. The company is mum on details, but it appears the redesigned Versa will go on sale during 2011 as a 2012 model.

Should you buy a 2011 Nissan Versa or wait for the 2012 Nissan Versa? Buy a 2011 Versa if your immediate transportation needs call for a small car that’ll won’t bust your budget but will surprise you with its all-around competence. Wait for the 2012 Versa if you hanker for the next-generation model and want to gamble that Nissan won’t dally until model-year 2013 to introduce it. In any event, Nissan dealers will discount outgoing first-generation Versas to clear inventory for the redesigned replacement – be it a 2012 or 2013 model.

2011 Nissan Versa Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Nissan Versa is a visual duplicate of the 2010 Nissan Versa, carrying over a freshening to grille, front fascia, and wheels. That midcycle revamp didn’t change Versa’s overall shape or size and the 2011 Versa continues as a four-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. Both have tall, arched roofs that help make them uncommonly roomy for compact cars.

Evidence of Versa buyers’ good taste is that 75 percent choose the hatchback. Its brave architectural angles create a far cooler-looking car than the dumpy sedan. And they pay off in an impressive 50.4 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats folded and 18 cubic feet with them in place. The sedan’s trunk has 13.8 cubic feet, which is bigger than most subcompacts’.
Versa rides a well-engineered platform and has front-wheel drive, which promotes predictable handling and good wet-weather traction by putting the weight of the engine over the tires that propel the car.

A key Versa’s interior roominess is a relatively long wheelbase. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and key to a vehicle’s cabin space. Versa’s 102.4-inch span is more akin to that of compact cars such as the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla than to subcompacts such as the 2011 Ford Fiesta or Toyota Yaris. (As an aside, Nissan slices some 10 inches from Versa’s wheelbase,  slaps on a shoe-box-shaped body, and sells the result as the 2011 Nissan Cube. Nissan says about 60 percent of Versa buyers are married and tend to be slightly older and earn a bit more than Cube’s audience of single, trend-chasing 20-somethings.)       

Mechanical: Versa isn’t fast, but it’s agile and composed on the road and soaks up bumps exceptionally well for a small car. The 2011 Versa returns with two four-cylinder engines. The 1.6-liter has 107 horsepower and is the basis for the two entry-level models: the 2011 Versa 1.6 Base model and the 2011 Versa 1.6. Both these are sedans and the 1.6 Base is the stripper Nissan pitches as one of America’s lowest-priced cars.

The 2011 Versa 1.8 S and 1.8 SL models come in both sedan and hatchback form. They use a 122-horsepower 1.8-liter. The 2011 Versa 1.6 Base sedan comes only with a five-speed manual transmission. All other 2011 Versas -- except the top-line 1.8 SL hatchback -- get a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.

The 2011 Versa 1.8 SL hatchback comes only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), essentially an automatic that replaces gears with belts and provides a rheostat-like delivery of power.

Versa’s simple suspension design is typical of that found on subcompact cars, as is Nissan’s choice to fit it with front-disc and rear-drum brakes. Such cost-conscious engineering distinguishes Versa from the general run of compact cars, which tend to have a more sophisticated suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. Yet smart chassis tuning gives Versa responsive and confident handling and helps it absorb bumps better than many larger, heavier cars.

Nissan’s been parsimonious over the years with safety features such as ABS to aid control in emergency stops and traction and antiskid systems to help Versa get off the line and avoid sideways slides. But the 2011 Versa is the most generous yet with these technologies. ABS is newly standard on the 1.8 S, which means it’s now included in the starting price of every 2011 Versa except the 1.8 Base model, where it’s a reasonable $250 option. Traction control and Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) antiskid system are standard on the 1.8 SL models and optional on the 1.8 S versions but remain unavailable on the 1.6 Base and 1.6 sedans.

Features: The 2011 Nissan Versa continues as highly affordable transportation partly because features such as power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and cruise control are standard only on the top-line 1.8 SL sedan and hatchback. Those features are optional on the 2011 Versa 1.8 S models and unavailable on 1.6 models.

Still, you can equip select 2011 Versa models with some features not commonly found on cars in its price range. For example, a power moonroof is an option exclusive to the 2011 Versa 1.8 SL hatchback. And 1.8 SL models in both body styles are the only 2011 Versas eligible for the navigation/satellite package, which includes a 5-inch LCD touch screen monitor and subscription-based XM satellite radio with real-time traffic information.

Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity is part of options packages for 1.8 SL models, packages that also include a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls. Leather upholstery is unavailable on any 2011 Versa.

The 1.6 Base and 1.6 S sedans are among the few modern cars that don’t come with a radio. The 1.8 S models have a four-speaker, single-CD stereo with auxiliary MP3 input while 1.8 SL models get s six-speaker unit with an in-dash six-CD changer and a USB interface for iPods. Height adjustment for the driver’s seat remains exclusive to 1.8 SL models.

Versa’s 2011 hatchbacks and 1.8 S and 1.8 SL sedans have a 60/40 split folding rear seatback. The Versa 1.6 Base model comes with 14-inch steel wheels with wheel covers. Versa 1.8 S and 1.8 SL models come with 15-inch wheels; they’re alloys on the SLs. Optional only on the top-of-the-line 2011 Versa 1.8 SL hatchback are 16-inch alloy wheels.

2011 Nissan Versa Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2011 Nissan Versa is $10,740-$17,650. This range is in line with subcompact cars physically smaller than the Versa, such as the 2011 Ford Fiesta subcompact. Compact cars similar in size to the Versa – the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla, for example – start around $16,000. (Base prices sited in this review do not include options but do factor in the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 Versa is $750.)

At $9,990 without the destination charge, Nissan is justified in touting the 2011 Versa 1.6 Base sedan as one of the lowest-priced new cars sold in the U.S.; only the least expensive Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback rivals it for the title. The starting price of the 2011 Versa 1.6 Base sedan in fact hasn’t changed since the car was introduced for model year 2009, though the destination fee has climbed slightly.

The 2011 Nissan Versa 1.6 sedan starts at $11,990 with manual transmission and $12,990 with automatic. Moving up the sedan line, the 2011 Versa 1.8 S sedan has a base price of $14,320 with manual transmission, $15,320 with automatic. The 2011 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL sedan comes only with the four-speed automatic transmission and has a base price of $17,220.

The best value in the Versa line is the 1.8 S hatchback. It’s priced from $14,270 with manual transmission and from $15,270 with automatic. Add the $980 Power Plus option package (power windows with driver-side auto up/down, power locks, remote keyless entry, a glovebox light, rear map pockets, padded door armrests, and cruise control), and you have versatile, economical transportation at a very friendly price.

Go all out and a 2011 Versa 1.8 SL hatchback with the CVT starts at $17,650. It comes with ABS, a height-adjustable driver seat, center console, cruise control, power windows, locks, and mirrors, alloy wheels, remote keyless entry and pushbutton starting. Also included at that price are the six-disc in-dash CD audio system, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone link, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, power sunroof, and the subwoofer/satellite-radio sound system.

Among key 2011 Versa options, the navigation/satellite radio package option for the 1.8 SL models is a reasonable $610, the power moonroof for the 1.8 SL hatchback is $600, and the safety-enhancing VDC package for 1.8 S models is $370.

2011 Nissan Versa Fuel Economy back to top

Fuel economy is a happy story for the 2011 Versa, with every model, regardless of engine or transmission rated over 30 mpg on the highway. Versa’s enjoyed this sort of economy since its introduction and for a time was among the most frugal cars its size. However, rivals introduced since model-year 2007 increasingly match Versa for fuel economy, evidence of advancing technology and the premium automakers place on gas mileage.

The 2011 Nissan Versa sedan with the 1.6-liter engine is rated at 26/34 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual transmission and 26/33 with the four-speed automatic.

The 2011 Nissan Versa sedan and hatchback with the 1.8-liter engine is rated at 26/31 mpg with the six-speed manual transmission, 24/32 with the four-speed automatic, and 27/33 with the CVT.

2011 Nissan Versa Release Date back to top

The 2011 Versa went on sale in June 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Nissan Versa back to top

The styling and features of the 2011 Versa will carry this Nissan to its next-generation redesign – which now seems likely to arrive during 2011 as a 2013 model. Four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles ought to continue. Front-wheel drive and four-cylinder engines will return, as well. Nissan probably won’t make Versa’s body noticeably longer, but it could mount it on a slightly longer wheelbase to increase passenger leg room. Nissan would be wise to retain Versa’s generous ceiling height to preserve head room. The most pressing need is for slightly more width to alleviate the hint of hip and shoulder squeeze in the current model.

French automaker Renault is a Nissan corporate partner, and industry speculation suggests Nissan may be considering adoption of a Renault chassis for the next-generation Versa. Renault’s recently revamped Megane four-door hatchback has a body that’s as long as today’s Versa hatchback, and it rides a 2-inch-longer wheelbase. A design sketch of the next-generation released by Nissan in October 2010 does indeed resemble the latest Megane. The styling may be similar, but the Megane’s chassis design could prove too expensive for Versa’s price positioning. That leaves a development of Versa’s current Japanese-derived platform a more-cost-efficient prospect for the second-generation car.  

As for alternative-power possibilities, Nissan has committed to full-electric vehicles as a way to leap frog the gas-electric hybrid leadership of Honda and Toyota. That opens the possibility the next-generation Versa could offer a full-electric model, though Nissan began selling the Versa-sized all-electric Leaf in late 2010. Nissan and Renault both offer strong, efficient four-cylinder diesel engines in overseas markets, and a diesel Versa would be an exciting prospect if Nissan can make an economic case for it.  

2011 Nissan Versa Competition back to top

2011 Ford Fiesta: A 2011 model new to the U.S. by way of Ford’s global engineering team, Fiesta brim with personality. Offered in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback form, Fiesta is smaller than Versa inside and out – especially in rear-seat and cargo room. But its flamboyant design, generous infotainment tech, composed road manners, and quality feel could help change how Americans think about domestic-brand subcompacts. Fiesta is offered initially with a 120-horsepower four-cylinder but a livelier turbo four is in the pipeline. Fuel economy is an impressive 29/38 mpg with manual transmission, 30/40 with automatic. The 2011 Fiesta sedan starts at $13,995, the hatchback at $15,795, but $20,000 isn’t hard to reach if you option either with the most tempting goodies. .       

2011 Honda Fit: An alternative to the Versa hatchback, this small wagon has passenger space similar to the Nissan’s but boasts more cargo volume, a sportier character, and more advanced features, such as a navigation system with voice recognition. Fit isn’t as soft-riding or quiet as the Versa, however, and base prices are higher, too, roughly in the $15,500-$16,500 range. Horsepower is just 117, but fuel economy is 27/33 mpg with manual transmission, 28/35 with automatic. Foreign-market Fits are now available with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain, but U.S. Fits are not and won’t get any major changes until model-year 2014 or so.

2011 Kia Soul: This South Korean hatchback broke from the gate quickly upon its model-year 2010 introduction. Credit Kia, a corporate holding of Hyundai, with ongoing updates that are making the Soul ride better and feel more refined, but the cute styling remains its No. 1 appeal. Soul’s base prices start around $14,000 for a special stripper model, but begin in earnest at just under $16,000 for mainstream versions. Horsepower choices are 122 and 142, fuel economy ranges from 24/30 to 26/31.