Given that the average price Americans paid for a new car in March 2023 was $48,008, the 2023 Nissan Versa is a stunningly cheap date, starting at a positively parsimonious $17,020, including shipping and handling.
That’s a whopping 64.5% less than the average price of a new car, truck, van or SUV. Of course, that’s for the base model with a 5-speed manual transmission and no options. Still, given its McDonald’s pricing, is there any joy to be found here?
Offered in ascending S, SV and SR trim, the Nissan Versa is the Japanese automaker’s cheapest ride, a small sedan for those with small budgets. Originally built for the Chinese market, Nissan federalized the Versa for the United States, which swiftly overtook Europe as the car’s largest market, a clear indication of our country’s steadily declining middle class.
For 2023, the Versa receives new Nissan brand logos, revised 17-inch alloy wheel design for Versa SR, a new Gray Sky Pearl paint color on the SV and SR, and a redesigned front fascia with an updated V-motion.
The Nissan Versa’s flamboyant exterior resembles a miniature Altima, wearing Nissan’s signature V-motion grille, floating roof, and C-pillar design features. LED headlights are standard. It has presence, and is a welcome improvement over its dowdy predecessor. Unlike, say, a Mitsubishi Mirage, you won’t be embarrassed being seen in one as it doesn’t quite play the part of the cheapie that, in reality, it is.
Once inside, you’ll understand just how little you paid. Even on our top-of-the-line SR model, there’s a lot of hard plastic, particularly on the center console where the driver’s right leg rests. Ambience is fairly basic, but it’s offset by the padded instrument panel and stitching — a premium touch that lends the cabin a more upscale feel than its frumpy predecessor.
Opting for the SR gets you a fair share of niceties, such as automatic climate control, heated front seats, intelligent key with pushbutton start, center console with armrest (unavailable in the base S), power windows with driver’s one-touch auto up/down, power door locks and automatic headlights.
Front seat space is adequate, and the seats proved to be surprisingly comfy and somewhat supportive. But rear seat leg room — once a clear Versa virtue — is a mere 31 inches, far less than the first-generation Versa. And cargo space is 15 cubic feet, which is generous for such a small sedan, but still less than it once was. If you don’t use the rear seat often, you’ll find the accommodations satisfactory.
All Versas get the same powertrain, a double-overhead-cam 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine generates 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque through a continuously variable automatic transmission, although a 5-speed manual transmission is offered on base S models. Front-wheel drive is standard. Payload is rated at 876 pounds for the SR, 948 pounds for the SV and 862 pounds for the S.
The car employs a front independent suspension with a torsion beam out back. The Versa wears 15-inch rubber on S models, 16-inch wheels on SV models and 17-inch footwear in SR trim.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the Nissan Versa as having five stars in all categories except rollover, for which it gets four.
You do get an impressive menu of driver assistance systems, including an excellent array of driver assistance safety features, like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warning, and high-beam assist. SV and SR models also get blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
When it comes to technology, Versa S and SV models come with a 7-inch color touchscreen, while SR models get a larger 8-inch touchscreen. A four-speaker AM/FM audio system is standard on S and SV trims, while a 6-speaker unit is standard on the SR.
Bluetooth, USB port and an auxiliary power point are standard on all models, while Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a wireless smartphone charging pad are added on SV and SR models. But if you want NissanConnect, you’ll have to pop for the SR. If you’re getting an S model, however, considering opting for the S Plus Package, which adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as 60/40 split folding sear seat and 16-inch alloy wheels
The infotainment interface is well designed, and the screen is sufficiently large, but you don’t get a navigation system. Given that most of use smartphones for navigation, it won’t be missed.
Power is adequate for a grocery getter, but being saddled with a CVT transmissions makes the engine slow off the line reluctantly responding to requests for more power by moaning louder than a teenager told to finish their homework assignments. This makes entering a highway a slow and sometimes terrifying affair. Fuel economy is OK, but not stellar, at 32 mpg.
Bump absorption is minimal, with stiff reactions to bumps. When cornering, there is an early onset to body lean, although there’s a surprising amount of grip from the tires. It’s a perfectly adequate performance.
That said, this is far from a stimulating drive.
2023 Nissan Versa SR Specifications
|Dimensions||L: 177 inches/W: 68.5 inches/H: 57.7 inches/Wheelbase: 103.1 inches|
|Powertrain||1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||32 mpg city/40 mpg highway/35 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $19,820; As tested: $00 including $1,190 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
Cars in this class are all about value for the money, and in that regard, the Versa is hard to match. Upper trim levels do not feel like a penalty box and even fully equipped; you’ll barely break $22,000. But at that price, you can get into a larger, more substantial Nissan Sentra, albeit with a lower trim level.
Nevertheless, at a time where the average vehicle price is more than double the price of a fully loaded 2023 Nissan Versa, it proves to be a tempting buy — as long as you’re not a driving enthusiast.
2023 Nissan Versa – Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Nissan Versa a reliable car?
J.D. Power gives the 2023 Nissan Versa a predicted reliability score of 82 out of 100, which it considers “Great.”
Why is the Nissan Versa so cheap?
Well, the definition of cheap has certainly changed in recent years, but the 2023 Nissan Versa certainly still qualifies. It starts at $16,825 for the base S trim with a 5-speed manual transmission, making it the least-expensive new car you can buy in the U.S. for 2023. Why the cheapest? Something has to be, right?
What are the changes for the 2023 Nissan Versa?
New Nissan brand emblems, reworked 17-inch alloy wheels for the Versa SR, a new Gray Sky Pearl paint color on the SV and SR, and a remodeled front fascia with an updated V-motion are among the changes to the 2023 Nissan Versa.