By on July 15, 2016

Nissan Versa

Through the first-half of 2016, passenger car sales volume is down 8 percent in the United States.

It’s not quite that bad in the subcompact car category, but sharp declines from the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Prius C, Toyota Yaris, plus the disappearance of the Mazda2 pushed subcompact car volume down 6 percent.

Yet U.S. sales of the Nissan Versa are on the rise.

Not only are Nissan Versa sales on the rise, the Versa is consistently America’s top-selling subcompact car.

Not only are Versa sales rising now, Versa sales have been on the rise for the last seven years.

TODAY
Topping the subcompact segment in 2016 is not the challenge it’s been in the past for Versa. Sales of the subcompact Nissan’s seven key rivals fell 19 percent so far this year, a loss of 36,448 sales. (We’ve excluded the Scion iA as it wasn’t on sale in the first-half of 2015.)

The Detroit duo — Sonic and Fiesta — have seen their market share slide from 28 percent in the first-half of 2015 (and 31 percent in 2013) to just 22 percent in 2016. Despite adding 16,427 sales via the Scion iA, Toyota’s total subcompact volume is up by fewer than 3,000 sales because of sharp drop-offs from the Prius C and Yaris.

The Hyundai Accent is on track to end 2016 at a seven-year high, but its Kia Rio partner’s modest 4-percent uptick will likely still result in a 39-percent drop compared with 2013 and half as many sales as the Rio managed in 2002.

Combined, the two top-selling Versa rivals haven’t sold as often as the Nissan so far this year.

2016 Nissan Versa Note red

BEST SELLERS
The Versa’s status among subcompact cars is noteworthy, but so great is its margin of victory — 33,131 units over the second-ranked Accent through six months — that its performance relative to cars in general may be more telling. Year-to-date, the Versa is America’s 13th-best-selling car, ahead of the Kia Soul, Ford Mustang, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Impala, and Kia Forte.

For every Versa/Versa Note sold in U.S. Nissan showrooms, Nissan sells 1.7 copies of the Sentra, another Nissan passenger car bucking the trend and sourcing growth in a dying car market. Sentra volume is up 16 percent this year; Altima volume is slightly better than flat, year-over-year Maxima volume has more than doubled, and the Nissan brand’s total car volume is up 9 percent.

HISTORY
Given the aversion to small, affordable, efficient cars in a market that’s gone crazy for subcompact crossovers and pickup trucks, the simple fact that Versa sales have increased would merit mention. But Versa sales are growing fast.

The 8.2-percent improvement through six months is better than the 1.4-percent industry-wide improvement, the 7.1-percent growth rate among pickup trucks, and the 8.0-percent increase in total SUV/crossover volume.

Nissan is on pace to sell 156,000 Versas in the U.S. in 2016. That’s 11,000 more than last year and 88-percent more than the Versa managed when its improvement streak began. Versa volume jumped 20 percent in 2010, levelled off in 2011, then grew 14 percent in 2012, 4 percent in 2013, 19 percent in 2014, and 3 percent last year.

HOW?
What’s the difference? Why does the Versa succeed when its rivals are fading and industry observers conclude that consumers are done with subcompacts? Why has the Versa thrived when some rivals are giving up and many others don’t even bother with the segment in North America?

“Success in compact cars is very important for brands as they’re often the first new car purchase of an individual and become a source for building brand loyalty,” Nissan’s director of communications, Dan Bedore, told TTAC earlier this month.

Recognizing this, Nissan is aggressive in making sure the Versa ranks high on the affordability quotient for first-time car buyers. A basic Versa S sedan at $12,825 includes air conditioning and Bluetooth. The least costly Ford Fiesta is $14,965. That 17-percent jump is a big leap for a budget-conscious economy car buyer.

Does the theory essentially go: customer buys a Versa, then a Sentra, then a Rogue, and then an Infiniti QX60, thus making it worth it to Nissan to sell a Versa at a low price (with presumably low margins) in the first place? I asked Nissan’s Bedore.

2016 Nissan Versa Note cargo

“It’s a theory, and a very important one,” Bedore says. “This is why the dealer experience is so critical. If the car meets their expectations and the dealer forms a relationship through the sales and service experience, it can be a great long-term relationship for everyone.”

Although it’s a somewhat forgettable, low-dollar car to many, Nissan takes its Versa seriously.

“Versa is so practical in so many ways that it’s as much a source of pride to us as anything else we build and sell.”

Practicality is certainly where the Versa excels. The rear seat is spacious enough to be acceptable in a larger midsize car. The Honda Fit, oft-praised for its minivan-like cargo area, has 12 percent less cargo space with the rear seats upright than the Versa Note, which forms roughly 40 percent of Versa volume. And the fight loses all fairness when the Versa Note’s $1,660 price advantage over the Fit is taken into account.

The Nissan Versa is no thrill ride for the typical automotive enthusiast. The sedan is frumpy and its continuously variable transmission is not one of the industry’s better CVT implementations. Yet Nissan has the U.S. subcompact market cornered, pleasing more and more of the right people with the right balance of features at the right price point.

[Images: Nissan]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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66 Comments on “Subcompact Cars Are Dying, Yet Nissan Is Selling Five-Year-Old Versas Like They’re Crossovers or Something...”


  • avatar

    Why buy a small car when I can buy a small crossover and have more space for “about the same amount of money”?

    It’s no wonder why the sedan market is being killed by the crossover market .

    MOAR HEADROOM

    AWD option with MOAR GROUND CLEARANCE.

    MOAR CARGO CAPACITY.

    It’s elementary my dear Watson!!!

    On a side note: I’ll be LIVE FACEBOOKIN’ tomorrow at a Cadillac V-series drive event at citi field. 9-12pm EST

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Not if they kill off the Compass/Patriot.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      You forgot to say “Hellcat.” :)

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed, BTSR – well, sort of.

      In this case, the Versa is a very roomy car, with no really bad qualities. It’s quite affordable, simple to operate, efficient, and runs well. In contrast, my recent experience in a Focus rental was horrifying in all these ways.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      A base Versa can be had new, off the lot, for less than 12000.00 after negotiations. You wont find any new CUV within spitting distance of that price. You are talking a difference of $10k minimum to go to a CUV, BTSR.

      I see a lot of used Versa’s on the commute. They make excellent commuter cars – who cares if it gets dented up or sandblasted on the expressway if it is a $12k car? Leave the $70k HELLCAT at home, let the $12k Versa get the road rash during the week.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Off-topic, what happened to the comment section in the road rage article? I thought we were past shutting down comment sections. I just started reading it. I could tell after two posts that the 2nd Amendment comments had totally derailed everything. So I skipped all the way down to the next comment thread. You, taking responsibility for not getting involved in that mess. But conversation was totally shut down on the more reasonable and on-topic portions of the thread.

    • 0 avatar

      “I thought we were past shutting down comment sections.”

      I said nothing of the sort. The thread devolved and I shut it down. Now we are trying to figure out what to do with it.

      • 0 avatar
        PRNDLOL

        I just went and read the comments as it was an article I earlier missed.

        It’s a sh*teshow in there, and to be honest I’m concerned with the climate at TTAC lately. Page views and comment totals are important yes, but the energy isn’t so fun anymore. Yesterday I read a comment from a reader legitimately expressing concern about someone taking selfies and videos while driving, only the get a reply from one of the writers saying “Thanks for being that guy.”

        Really?

        • 0 avatar
          SSJeep

          Its a crazy year in politics (and history) and there is a lot of anger and consternation to go around. The exact same things happen nowadays around tables of friends playing poker and smoking cigars.

          Ive just learned to deal with it and try to keep my mouth shut!

  • avatar
    TMA1

    “A basic Versa S sedan at $12,825 includes air conditioning and Bluetooth. The least costly Ford Fiesta is $14,965.”

    This could be an issue with OEMs needing to be more realistic in their MSRPs. I doubt there’s really a $2,100 difference between these cars. Ford will offer most of that in the form of a rebate. But most shoppers aren’t going to look past the first number that’s put in front of them before passing over a car as being too expensive.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I will say, I do have a soft spot for the Versa Note. It’s not pretty, but it just works, in a segment where a lot of the other entrants are too small, too expensive or too gimmicky.

    The fact that the Versa family is, yes, particularly affordable for a new car helps explain why it sells so well.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      A functioning back seat doesn’t hurt either. Versa should be the new car of choice for single mothers everywhere. I don’t mean that as an insult, just that most single mothers I know have little money and need to fit car seats.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Agreed,
      We rented a Versa Note for a week last January on the big island in Hawaii. We didn’t use the back seat for passengers, but I did note that I could “sit behind myself” without my knees being buried in the rear of the front seat. The trunk was on the smallish side with the back seat up.
      While lacking any semblance of power, it was the right tool for the big island where there are no limited access highways. Given the amount of traffic, a bicycle could keep up in the stop and go driving around Kona or Hilo.
      I wouldn’t recommend this car for high speed commuting, but it worked well for the low speed local driving averaging 38 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      My mother has a Versa hatchback. It is a perfectly acceptable driving car, has been reliable, and yes the backseat is freaking huge. It may be the only subcompact that actually works well as a four-seater.

      I don’t have much experience driving in this segment, but it drives like a larger car. The seating position is upright, it is easy to get into and out of, and has a comfortable ride on the highway. It might be a budget car but I firmly believe Nissan hit this one out of the park.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    The Versa sedan is freakin’ huge inside – they use them as taxis in Mexico City, and I’d rather be in the back of a Versa than any Panther, even the stretched one.

    Nissan has found its calling: mainstream brand, about 5% cheaper than the comparable Toyota or Honda. They’ve made it work for them and are gaining market share, although presumably some of that is fleet.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The forumla is easy: cheapest car that can reasonably fit 4 adults or 2 adults and 2 child seats and luggage for said people (better than a hatchback). Air conditioning, 4 cylinder engine that is head and shoulders above the egg-shaped and less roomy bottom feeders (Spark and Mirage). Why is this some sort of revelation?

  • avatar
    hoserdad

    We handed down my wife’s 2010 versa 6 speed hatch to my daughter last year, and its been exceptionally reliable with 175000 km on it, and the back seat room was the selling feature back in 2010. The interior fit and finish back in 2010 was much better than Kia/Hyundai and some other brands. Cross winds are not its friend.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    I’m not sure subcompact cars will do well at this point in time, particularly now that they have to compete with subcompact CUVs. I’m surprised the Versa is doing so well, but I wonder how much that actually has to do with the Versa itself, or perhaps that the Versa Note is de-facto acting as their subcompact CUV entry? The Juke, while it arguably created the segment, is not a frugal economical ride like the competition. Frankly, it’s an ugly WRX. :)

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    The power of a warranty and new car smell are not lost upon even the less fortunate working Americans.

    Though I’d love to have an age breakdown of Versa’s sales. I’m thinking more than a few frugal retirees are involved.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      While I’m not yet a retiree, I am of the appropriate age. I recently bought a 2012 Versa hatchback (sold to me brand new, though, as it had only 1,000 miles on it) and I can very easily see how retirees would be quite happy with one.

      It’s incredibly easy ingress and egress, both front and rear seats, and has a more upright seating position and panoramic glass compared to most vehicles with their bunker like glass and seating.

      It’s surprisingly quiet on the highway; I made a 3500 mile round trip to the west coast last month and had less road fatigue than I’ve had in several recent vehicles. That plus excellent mileage equals a winner for most people, let alone retirees.

      In western Canada, the versa hatchback has a solid reputation for reliability and durability.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Monty,

        I’m increasingly measuring success by the ability to only drive when, where and how I wish to and preferably not at all. If the easy ingress/egress is there, I’d be good with a Versa, too, providing the preceding conditions are met.

        Like, who do we need to impress?

        Edit: I do believe your 2012 is significantly larger that the current Versa Note, isn’t it? That’s what first attracted me to Versas only to be disappointed at the shrunken Notes.

        • 0 avatar
          Monty

          It’s why I wanted a first generation Versa. It does seem to be larger inside than the Note.

          The car has some flaws – a notchy shifter, a clutch pressure point that’s sloppier than a hooker during the RNC convention and a vague sense of steering. On the positive side, it’s roomy enough that I can sit behind myself with room to spare (and I’m 6’1″ and 225LBS); I didn’t need to have the hazard lights on to merge on the highway, and I averaged over 45 mpg on my trip.

          I recommend the Versa hatch with the manual.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I rented one in Siesta Key FL in April and was amazed…huge back seat with more leg room than any car I’ve been in recently, and it drove OK, with one exception…it had awful directional stability, needed lots of steering corrections to stay in its lane on the interstate. That might have been an alignment issue with this particular car, but that was my only quibble.

    Fiesta 5 speeds are advertised around here at $13900, and the DCT in the Ford would scare me off from anything BUT the manual transmission. While the CVT in the Versa makes me a little nervous as far as long term durability, I’d take it over Ford’s little nightmare gearbox any time.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    It’s all about the room, stupid! For the same money you get the awful, tiny, unsafe Mirage.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      But Mirage sales are increasing, pretty much carrying Mitsubishi in the US. However, for that car, it’s only about the price.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      The Mirage’s crash-test ratings are equal to the Versa’s. Also, the Mirage has FAR better owner reviews than the Versa. Comparably equipped, the Mirage is cheaper than the Versa and gets better gas mileage.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Thing one: Rental-car agencies LOVE the Versa. The buy-in is cheap, the depreciation is probably not too horrible (say, versus the Mirage), and the customers who want the $19/day special are more than satisfied with a Versa.

    Thing two: I can’t speak for all of the US, but in the Desert Southwest, Nissan (the whole brand) has a huge following in the Mexican-American community. While Nissan has a middling reputation among Americans, the brand is huge and well-respected in Mexico. It’s hard to find a native speaker of English in a Nissan dealer in Las Vegas, customer or employee.

    Thing three: I like the Versa Note just swell, and I would have shopped one… except that if you insist on a manual transmission, you may not have power windows and/or cruise control.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      This factor cannot be understated. I’ve been taxied around in primarily Tsurus (91-94 US B13 Sentra), but have ridden in a several Versas (gen 1 “Tiida” that shared that Renault megane platform, and the new bubbly ones) as well as a ’07-12 era Sentra. Nissan is ubiquitous in Mexico, from pickup trucks for both private and commercial use (D21, D22 “NP300”), to totally dominating taxi fleets as well as lower cost personal vehicles.

      When folks from Mexico come to the states, many stick with what they know, namely Nissan. Combine that with pretty easy credit/financing, and it’s a winning strategy. Just don’t go full Mitsubishi!

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I found the same problem looking at the Canadian-market Micra. A/C is only an option on the base model if you also take the automatic, otherwise you’re forced to step up to the midrange model, which is priced in line with plenty of other conventional, and more charming, subcompacts. I mean, I can respect a certain lack of features, but I can’t deal with humidity, especially in a car with crank windows.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Makes sense why this would be the big winner in this segment – it’s all about price at the bottom of the market, and the Versa is cheap. Of course, it drives cheap, but…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    To add to the subcompact list of we hardly knew ye – the Scion xD.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Was that before the xD, xU and xQ, or after?

      Or did they even exist?

      I’m thinking they should have just gone all out and introduced the xXX, and included a five year supply of Axe. Win!

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Reading consumer’s reviews on the Versa at Edmund’s, when they switched to CVT’s is when quality took a dive, I would look for a 4 speed instead, as archaic as it may be, it is a lot more reliable than the cvt

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    To TMA1’s comments above, I was helping a single mom friend shop for a car a couple of years ago. She was on a tight budget and was primarily trying to find a used car. She ended up getting a new Versa Note.

    She got a base model with a manual transmission. Other than A/C it had no real features (no Bluetooth on the manual model back then, even). I think she paid $11,999 (+ TTL) and got some really low interest rate to boot. She couldn’t even find a decent car with under 90k miles for that price. For her it was a new car with a warranty and a low payment for less than the cost of an unknown used car. The manual trans made is relatively fun to drive and it’s roomy for her and her three kids. It’s now at about 70k miles and has been trouble free.

    What can you say? It remains a good value and that’s why they sell. They even hold their resale value well. I found the car kind of slow, with a rough and noisy ride, but certainly no worse than most small cars from 10 years ago. The dealer experience won’t have her rushing back to Nissan any time soon,though.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Single woman at the dealer, like a drop of blood in a tank full of sharks. I’ve suggested the Versa to several single mothers, who usually aren’t seeing any kind of support from their deadbeat exes (those guys don’t seem to mind their kids riding around in salvage-title Foci deep into 6-figure mileage for some reason).

      Most of those women are pretty broke, with shredded credit from divorce or the misbehavior of their exes. Invariably, they always ask, “Can I get an SUV?” Well… you can get a Compass for a few thousand more than the Versa. “Yeah, but I don’t trust Chrysler reliability.” Sigh…

  • avatar
    VajazzleMcDildertits

    Based on the 3 people I know that bought Versas in the last 3 years, they bought them because it was cheaper. They saw the competition, found that they could live without the extra perks, and bought the car without hesitation. Undercutting the market is still a legitimate strategy assuming you’re not actually trying to add poison during shipping and delivery.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    I think the Nissan Versa is too small (didn’t have the telescoping steering column when I sat in the recent model) in terms of length, width, height and comfort, at least for my 6′ broad shouldered frame with long legs. The various reviews on the Nissan Versa aren’t so good either but it’s supposedly a fuel sipper and should be less expensive to maintain.

    It may be good for someone starting out with a car, someone short in height or cash flow is tight or whatever.

    For a relatively similar price, one could instead buy a pre-owned better quality and larger size sedan like the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry or Honda Accord or a Ford vehicle, which would be a better deal.

    • 0 avatar
      hoserdad

      I am not sure about the newer gen, but the older gen was fine for me, 6’4″ and manual tranny.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Buddy of mine is about 6’4 and 280 and bought 1st gen Versa hatch new not long out of college, and one specific reason it was about the only new car (warranty) on his budget that he could fit comfortably in. He bought it more out of necessity, but likes it and keeps it.

  • avatar
    ericb91

    “This is why the dealer experience is so critical. If the car meets their expectations and the dealer forms a relationship through the sales and service experience, it can be a great long-term relationship for everyone.”

    Huh. I’ve only heard bad things about Nissan dealers. The dealer/manufacturer relationship is an incredibly strained one, to the point that Nissan threatens to revoke franchises from even above-average dealerships, because they aren’t selling enough.

    Odd.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My dealer experience in co-shopping with my son for a new 14 Versa Note was absolutely awful. The best parts were the use of the cute receptionist as a sales tool, the endless presentation of the 4-square (despite my demands to stuff it), and the bait-n-switch regarding available inventory.

      I chose to burn 2+ hours of the salesman’s time so my son would look and learn, as this was his first car-buying experience.

      He bought a used 11 Sonata instead, elsewhere – very pleasant.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Last week I had a rental Versa for 2 days. It was the Hertz $20 per day special. For an in town commuter, it was fine. I didn’t drive the freeway. I was impressed with how roomy it was. The steering, brakes and A/C were all fine. The seating was reasonably high and the outward vision was excellent. It sipped gas. The CVT was not annoying, as from multiple comments I thought I would hate it. I can understand why it sells well. The price seems reasonable for what you get.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I test-drove a new 14 Versa Note, and found the CVT incredibly responsive, second only to an EV. I was surprised at how much I liked it.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        I have had multi-month rentals of both versa and the Versa Note this year while on travel and I’ll tell you what, the Versa Note is a much better car than the Versa sedan. I agree something is different in that CVT because it is much more Zippy and responsive. Either way, both are great cars for the dollar.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I have a friend with a 2008 Versa sedan with the automatic. She beats the he11 out of it and it keeps going. She treats it like a truck even though it’s a sedan (things are often strapped to the roof with ratchet straps).

    My last boss had a Versa Note S that I rode in with snow tires on it last November. Extremely noisy on the highway and the backseat was very uncomfortable for an adult after about 30 minutes, as was the rental Micra that I rode in when I visited Nova Scotia.

    I can see why they sell though. They’re cheap as a brand new car from a major manufacturer that isn’t likely to leave the U.S. anytime soon (Looking at you, Mitsubishi) and it comes with a warranty. Most people probably don’t care about the CVT, as long as it has 4 tires and a steering wheel it fits the bill for a lot of lower-income or cheap people.

  • avatar
    MerlinV12

    Isn’t it an open secret that Nissan’s credit division will work with those with poor credit? That would explain everything. Around my part of town, every vehicle is either a donk, an aging Cadillac or a new Nissan Rougue, Altima or Versa.

    • 0 avatar
      Delta88

      I also have the feeling that Nissan is the new Pontiac (of the 2000’s) Lots of flash for less cash. Poor fundamentals hiding underneath the wretched styling. I’ve rented Versas, Altimas, and a last gen Maxima recently. Hate all of them. Cheap feeling and dynamically challenged.

    • 0 avatar
      ItsJustaRide

      Through a combination of some poor planning, bad luck and all that is entailed with raising four sons, my close friend & his wife are cash rich but credit poor.

      They’re on their 4th new Nissan lease in 3 years from the same franchise.

      For them, Nissan’s leases are $100 – $150/month less than similarly-priced/kitted cars from other brands. There are some major subsidies at work here.

      I’ve driven each vehicle they’ve leased — Pathfinder, Sentra, Rogue and Altima — and have been (silently) blown away by the cheapness. With everything from the paint to the interior materials/assembly to the major & secondary controls, there is obvious cost-cutting.

      Coming from a too-long history of owning (and having no hopes of keeping up with maintaining) numerous Chrysler products, they’re just happy to have a reliable, warrantied car in the driveway.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    hispanics love their nissans, probably because they make a bunch in mexico, including the old old old sentra still.

    that and im pretty sure them, mitsu, and FCA are known for making ANY deal “work” as long as the buyer has a pulse and a walmart paystub.

    never knew why the sentras and maximas still sold, when the versa and altimas are pretty much the same thing. but apparently they are, so ok then! i just rarely see any new ones on the road.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    It’s simple. The Versa is the cheapest way to get into a brand new car that could function as a family vehicle. None of the Versa’s competition can really match the rear seat room, trunk space, and price.

    I had my first Versa experience in Lima, Peru where these things are used everywhere as taxis. That’s a rough place for any vehicle, so the fact that there are so many banging along down there is definitely a testament to their durability.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    The Versa Note is genuinely comfortable, has a massive back seat, good trunk, and getting a decent screen with back-up camera is genuinely affordable.

    If they sold a 1.2 Dig-T version (115bhp, 140lb ft of torque) with a 6 speed manual transmission I’d buy it in a heart beat when it’s time to replace my Mazda 5 (my kids will be old enough the sliding doors aren’t needed).

    I’ll dream on re. engine/transmission combo.

  • avatar

    In August 2015 I purchased a new ’15 Versa Note. With a 70 mile rt commute, I was shopping for fuel economy first and relative comfort after. Accent was too cramped. Fiesta too loud at highway speed. Nothing was really wrong with Sonic or Rio but the roofline makes the cars feel relatively cramped. and each was $2500-4000 more than the Versa Note S. Fit was in the middle of what should have been a tragic, reputation destroying first year, and had an additional $3000 of random mark ups at every dealer I bothered with making the total price $5000 more. Yaris was not in consideration.

    You have to get into a Versa, and ideally live with it for a few days to appreciate it. It glides along the road as well as any mid-sized car. It is as quiet at speed as most mid-sized cars. It’s crude, but functional. There’s a sticky clutch (until it wears in) and a notchy shifter, but I wasn’t shopping for a Porsche. It has the teensiest turning circle of any FWD car I’ve owned. And that back seat.

    You get all this for a cost under the price of a used car not covered in red flags. My crappy, worn out trade-in and $10500 at 3.2% later (Yay credit unions) and I’m in something spirited and new that is comfortable around town and over the road.

    I drove my Versa Note on my first proper road trip of the smart-phone era. 3500 miles from Central Texas to the Atlantic coast of Florida and then just north of the Ohio River and back. 3500 refreshing, confident miles at an average of 42 MPG, with lots of urban driving along the way.

    At the many Travel Centers at which I found myself along the way (Pilot-Flying J offers free wi-fi at most locations, if you didn’t know.) The lots were replete with Versas and Notes registered in distant states. I thought I had stumbled upon some kind of secret, but this does not appear to be the case. If you are able to withstand the dealer experience, and I very nearly wasn’t, you can get a pretty good car for crap car money in the Versas.

    • 0 avatar

      and I know no one gets this far down the list but I want to say something else pro-Versa publically. My social circle is the CUV crowd or the folks who insist on Euros or Subarus and consider the cost of ownership and maintenance signs of their success.

      On at least four occasions someone has sat in the Note and peered around for a minute or so only to say, “You know, this is actually kind of nice.” I don’t think they were fooled for a minute by my requisite-in-Texas DashMat.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I had one of the earliest Versa hatches on a 4 year lease. I took delivery in July 2007 and for the first few months was one of a few in a city of 5 million.

    It had outstanding rear seat leg room and the CVT made for relaxed highway cruising with low rpms. By contrast the Fiesta had little rear seat legroom and the first Fit was buzzy on the highway. The Versa’s cornering at speed wasn’t great. But I had no issues with my first electric steering. No hydraulic trans & steering – no leaks.

    I recall it needed a rear brake bulb. Two warranty issues I didn’t bother with. A warped passenger airbag cover and a popping front strut. Due to a bushing not seated properly in Aqua-S. Oh the gripes of early production flaws!

    They improved the CVT mileage around 2009 with some tweak.

    I think Versa shows how far small ordinary cars have come.

  • avatar

    I rented 3 Versas (Note generation) in quick succession, and had one for a week to travel for 1000 miles. It was terrible, noticeably worse than Yaris. Especially the air conditioner and the stereo system led the way. I’m pretty sure buyers of Versa Note have to go for the price.

  • avatar
    dagr382

    Ugly and crude, but cheap, tough, and roomy. A rolling reminder of why Japanese cars caught on in the first place.

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    The Versa is a cheap SEDAN. This is what Americans between the coasts actually buy. It’s not trying to be a corner carver, it has AC, and a trunk they can lock their purses and laptops in, and it can seat 4 in relative comfort. That covers 99% of what most Americans need from a car.

    I bought a 2013 Altima because it was a steal at the time, and slightly larger version of the same idea. I actually liked it better than the Accord and Fusion, but mainly, it fit my budget, was comfortable, reliable, and a respectable looking car.

    My dealership has been great, and the car was perfect. So when, it came time to get something a little nicer, I looked around, but ended up spending my money on a 2016 Maxima.

    Some commenters discount the dealership experience, but to busy professionals, it’s make or break. I have 3 other older cars that I do all my own maintenance on. For my daily driver, it just needs to start every morning, and never take up an extra minute of my time.

    For the people who say “Why buy a new X when you could spend the same amount and get a 2010 Mercedes….”, this is why. I wouldn’t replace my under warranty Nissan with a used German if you gave it to me for free.

  • avatar
    Grunt

    The explanation is simple, look up the repo rates of them if possible. If you have a pulse you can get financed.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    Last night I just purchased a brand new 2017 Versa in black with the 5-speed stick and no factory options… I think gonna love this little car. It reminds me of driving my first Nissan D21, my first new vehicle back in 1988, except this one has AC and Bluetooth…

    • 0 avatar

      Welcome to our secret society. Over a year in, and I am more impressed by my Versa Note all the time. Please take my word for it, and spend the $50ish on a dash cover. KIlling the reflection of the dash in the windshield addresses the car’s only flaw.


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