2013 Nissan Versa Review and Prices
The 2013 Nissan Versa is the best car for you if you want the all-new hatchback companion to the redesigned 2012 Versa sedan -- a companion that’ll look better than the sedan and have more room inside, too.
The 2013 Nissan Versa four-door hatchback will replace the 2007-2012 first-generation Versa hatchback. It should repeat as a surprisingly roomy subcompact that’s versatile, economical, and priced right. The redesigned 2013 Nissan Versa hatchback will join a Versa four-door sedan that was all-new for model-year 2012 but remained saddled with dull styling. The 2013 Versa hatchback should look far more exciting than the 2013 Versa sedan and will complete a refreshed two-body-style lineup to compete with those of the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, and Toyota Yaris.
Should you wait for the 2013 Nissan Versa or buy a 2012 Nissan Versa? Wait for the 2013 Versa if you want the all-new hatchback. It should enjoy added features and better fuel economy compared to its first-generation predecessor. Waiting for any 2013 Versa also gives you styling that will look fresh well into the future. Resale value will be stronger than that of a 2012 Versa, too. Buy a 2012 Versa if you need reliable daily transportation. The 2012 Versa hatchback is still a neat package and should be available with attractive discounts as dealers clear inventories for its 2013 replacement.
2013 Nissan Versa Changes back to top
Styling: The all-new 2013 Nissan Versa hatchback will essentially be an Americanized version of the Asian-market 2012 Nissan Tiida (see the picture accompanying this review). Nissan uses the Tiida name on the Versa in numerous overseas markets. In the U.S., the Versa hatchback has far outsold the less versatile and more ungainly sedan body style.
Expect the all-new 2013 Versa hatchback to emphasize the sculpted exterior design of the Tidda. Proportions would be well balanced with a rounded roofline that flows into the rear of the hatch. The rear end will be skewed to look narrower than the front, as with Nissan’s Leaf pure-electric car. The 2013 Versa’s grille would adopt the themes Nissan will use on many of its future cars and would be framed by headlights that stretch back well into the front fenders. The updated design is what Nissan describes as “premium and agile styling,” and the key goal is to give the hatchback a “fluid and brisk” appearance.
“Calm and refined” is how Nissan describes interior themes it’ll employ on the 2013 Versa. The exterior’s “fluid” premise is carried over with a “floating” central dashboard section artfully integrated into the flowing design of the instrument panel. The new look incorporates a more refined gauge cluster with white-on-black markings. Expect cushy armrests and comfortable seats to also highlight the 2012 Versa hatchback’s cabin.
Using the dimensions of the Tiida as a guide, the second-generation Versa hatchback promises improved passenger room thanks to wheelbase nearly four inches longer than the 2007-2012 model. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and helps define how much space a vehicle can devote to the passenger compartment. The 2013 Versa hatchback should also be nearly one inch longer and more than two inches wider, making it one of the largest vehicles in its class.
If Nissan maintains tradition, the 2013 Versa hatchback will have two trim levels: the entry S model and step up SL. Expect the SL to have visual distinctions that include chrome grille accents, body-color outside mirrors and perhaps fog lights and standard alloy wheels.
As for the 2013 Versa sedan, it’s not likely to change significantly after debuting as an all-new design for model year 2012. While the Versa sedan’s styling is conservative compared to the hatchback, it does offer one of the largest interiors and trunks in the subcompact class.
Nissan could add a trim level, but the 2013 Versa sedan most likely will continue with model selections: 1.6 S, 1.6 SV and 1.6 SL. The “1.6” denotes their 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (see below) and the letter designations indicate ascending levels of equipment. Expect visual differences to include chrome grille accents and body-color outside mirrors on the 2013 Versa SV and SL sedans and fog lights and standard alloy wheels on the 2012 Versa SL sedan.
Mechanical: A turbo surprise might be in the offing, but the surer best is that Nissan will consolidate the 2013 Versa’s powertrain lineup, with both the sedan and hatchback sharing the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine introduced in the 2012 sedan. This engine should retain ratings of 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque, making it again among the least-powerful engines of its size in the subcompact class. (Think of torque as the force that produces acceleration, horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.) By comparison, the 2012 Versa hatchback had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque.
Despite its unimpressive numbers on paper, Nissan says the 1.6-liter engine has qualities that contribute to efficiency, lower emissions and smoothness. These include two fuel injectors per cylinder instead of the customary one, as well as continuously variable timing for both intake and exhaust ports. The company christens this technology Puredrive.
The 2013 Versa sedan and hatchback could differ slightly in transmission selection. Both will employ Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of a conventional automatic transmission. A CVT eschews conventional gears for a belt and pulleys to deliver a continuous band of thrust without pausing to shift. And both will offer a manual transmission, though the sedan’s is likely to have five speeds while the hatchback’s gets a more viable six speeds. Expect the manual to be available only on the least-expensive trim levels of both body styles.
As for that possible turbo surprise, Nissan confirms that the China-market version of the Versa is slated to get a turbocharged engine and has hinted one might be in store for U.S.-market Versas. What isn’t clear is if it’s a turbocharged three-cylinder engine aimed at fuel economy or perhaps a four-cylinder aimed at higher performance. Indeed, the sporty Nissan Juke compact crossover SUV employs just such an engine in the form of a direct-injection 1.8-liter four that produces 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. (Direct injection is a state-of-the-art technology that precisely distributes fuel into the cylinders. This action maximizes both fuel economy and power and minimizes emissions.) It’s also unclear whether both the 2013 Versa hatchback and sedan would be available with the turbo engine, but chances are good they both would be.
It’s certain the 2013 Versa hatchback and sedan will retain front-wheel drive. This locates the weight of the engine and transmission over the wheels that propel the car. That benefits traction in snow and, by concentrating the powertrain components in the front of the car, leaves maximum space for passengers and cargo. Front-wheel drive is the rule in the subcompact class, and so is a torsion-beam rear suspension. This setup is less expensive than the independent rear suspension used on many larger and more expensive cars, but in exchange for its attendant sacrifices in ride and handling it delivers cost savings and packaging that helps free up space for rear seating and cargo.
Features: Expect the 2013 Nissan Versa to continue a pattern in which the sedan model line will start with a price-leader stripper model and both the sedan and hatchback pick up from there with trim levels that offer a fairly broad array of standard and optional features.
Nissan is likely to keep the base 2013 Versa 1.6S sedan as a subcompact price leader, which means it wouldn’t be equipped with a height-adjustable driver’s seat or with power windows, locks, or mirrors. However, all other sedan offerings should continue with a list of standard and optional features expected in a modern subcompact.
No matter the model designation, expect standard features on every 2013 Versa hatchback to include air conditioning; power windows, door locks and outside mirrors; an AM/FM/CD audio system: and a split/folding rear seatback.
To keep pace with rivals, Nissan could decide to equip every 2013 Versa model with an audio system that includes USB linking for iPods and other MP3 devices, as well as Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone and music-streaming interface. That type of connectivity is increasingly standard in subcompact cars and has been available only on the top Versa hatchback model. Also, a manual driver’s seat height adjuster and tilt/telescoping steering column is becoming the price of entry in the subcompact class.
Keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, cruise control, outside-temperature indicator, navigation system, and power moonroof will remain available as standard or optional on the 2013 Versa hatchback, depending on trim level. Should Nissan decide to distance the Versa from rivals, it could add available features such as leather upholstery and heated front seats.
2013 Nissan Versa Prices back to top
Prices for the 2013 Nissan Versa hatchback and sedan were not released in time for this review. However, competitive pressure is likely to compel Nissan to keep any 2013 Versa price increases to a minimum or even hold the line.
This suggests a base-price range of approximately $11,850-$16,620 for the 2013 Versa sedan and roughly $15,500-$19,500 for the 2013 Versa hatchback. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2012 Versa was $760).
2013 Nissan Versa Fuel Economy back to top
For a time this Nissan was among the most fuel-efficient cars of its size with every Versa model, regardless of engine or transmission, rated over 30 mpg on the highway. However, recently introduced competitors have made 40-mpg highway ratings the new standard for subcompact fuel economy, evidence of advancing technology and the priority automakers place on gas mileage.
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Nissan Versa were not released in time for this review, but unless Nissan can improve them over the 2012 ratings, the car will remain ineligible for the 40-mpg club. Still, the 2013 Nissan Versa sedan’s mileage ratings should again be in the upper tier of the subcompact segment, at a minimum of 30/37 mpg city/highway and 33 mpg combined when equipped with the CVT. (Ratings with the manual transmission were unavailable in time for this review.)
Expect the 2013 Versa hatchback to at least equal the sedan’s ratings.
2013 Nissan Versa Release Date back to top
The 2013 Nissan Versa hatchback and sedan should be in showrooms in early 2012.
What's next for the 2013 Nissan Versa back to top
Versa was introduced for model-year 2007 in both the four-door hatchback and four-door sedan body styles. Nissan introduced the redesigned sedan for model-year 2012, and seems intent on delaying introduction of the redesigned hatchback until model-year 2013.
If Nissan follows its five-model-year lifecycle pattern, today’s Versa sedan would be on sale over model years 2012-2017 and the hatchback over model-years 2013-2018. Both body styles are likely to receive a freshening about three years into their lifecycle. Such midcycle freshening typically involves minor exterior and interior styling changes and possibly mechanical updates.
However, new models from competitors or changing market conditions could alter the normal lifecycle. Versa is one of Nissan’s best-selling cars and the automaker is unlikely to delay improvements and fall behind its quick-moving rivals. To that end, it’s possible an all-electric Versa could join the Nissan Leaf to give Nissan a two-vehicle battery-powered lineup as early as 2014.
A longer shot is a Versa gasoline-electric hybrid, though Nissan has developed its own hybrid systems, one of which will be featured in the 2013 Altima midsize sedan and can be adapted for the Versa. (Nissan had been borrowing hybrid technology from Toyota engineering.)
2013 Nissan Versa Competition back to top
Hyundai Accent: Fully redesigned for model-year 2012, the Accent follows the same “Fluidic Sculpture” styling the South Korean automaker used to distance its redesigned 2011 Sonata and 2011 Elantra from the crowd. Offered as a sedan and four-door hatchback, the Accent is one of the largest cars in the class in both interior and exterior dimensions. It’s also one of the most frugal gas misers, with EPA ratings of 30/40/34 for either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. The standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine established new benchmarks with output of 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque, and the first engine in the subcompact class with high-tech direct fuel injection. Another first in its competitive set for the Accent, four-wheel disc brakes as standard. Expect the 2013 Accent to continue as one of the lowest-priced cars on sale in the U.S.
Ford Fiesta: Ford’s smallest car offering arrived for model-year 2011 with daring styling, European ride and handling characteristics, and a heap of high-tech treats, including the Sync infotainment system and even cabin mood lighting. Available as a four-door hatchback and four-door sedan, neither offers the roominess of the Versa but charms with its fun-to-drive attitude. The standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder produces 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration feels brisk with the five-speed manual transmission but slightly lethargic and a little jerky with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Fuel economy is in the top tier of the subcompact class: 29/38/33 with the automatic, 28/37/32 with the manual, and 30/40/33 with the Super Fuel Economy option. A sportier variant is expected for model-year 2013. Like the ST model planned for the 2012 Focus, the 2013 Fiesta would employ a version of Ford’s EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine possibly making 200 horsepower. Anything close to that would make Fiesta one quick little car.
Honda Fit: The Honda Fit is a candidate for a mid-cycle refresh in either model-year 2012 or 2013 since this subcompact debuted as a 2009 model. Updates would almost certainly be limited to a subtly redesigned grille and front bumper, mildly revised taillights, and perhaps some new wheel styles, exterior colors, and interior trim. Fit has been the segment leader for functional versatility and near the top for fun-to-drive but will be hard put against the latest offerings from rivals that include the Versa, Fiesta, and Accent. This four-door hatchback, however, has an amazing ability to carry large objects thanks to a low floorpan and an ingenious folding rear seat design that folds several ways. The only engine most likely will remain a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. Performance is more than adequate but fuel economy lags the leaders: 27/33/29 mpg with the five-speed manual transmission and 28/35/31 with the five-speed automatic.