The 2023 Nissan Versa Is the Hero We Need Right Now

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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the 2023 nissan versa is the hero we need right now

Are you finding food too expensive? Do fuel prices have you down in the dumps? Tired of selling valuable bodily fluids to cover the phone bill? Boy, do we have good news. In a world where the average transaction price for a new automobile exceeds $47,000, the refreshed 2023 Nissan Versa still starts below $17,000 – including destination and delivery fees.

If you’re thinking that figure is unbelievable, let’s take this opportunity to lower your expectations. In its base format, the Versa is about as utilitarian as personal transportation is allowed to be in the current era. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces a tepid 122 horsepower and is matched with a five-speed manual transmission. Knowing your way around a gearbox actually saves you quite a bit of money here because leveling up to the “Xtronic” CVT shifts the Versa’s price tag from $16,675 to $18,345.

That arguably makes the Versa S a much better deal than its nearest rivals. But they’re likely to be better equipped with bigger back seats and punchier engines, something that probably shouldn’t be all that surprising when they’re going against the cheapest new car on offer in the United States (now that the Mitsubishi Mirage and Chevrolet Spark have been discontinued). Still, it’s quite comfortable for the segment thanks to having some decent front seats and not too bad on fuel consumption – just don’t think you can have everything at once.

Whereas CVT-equipped models can expect 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, manual models are only estimated to return 27 mpg city and 35 highway – making the decision between the two that much harder. The bottom-rung S trim is also fairly spartan inside, especially for a modern vehicle. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Nissan has opted to update some of the features to modernize it a tad.

Though the stuff you’d probably want the most is tied to the optional S Plus package. This adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in addition to 60/40 split-folding rear seats. But those wanting more will probably be better served by going up a trim. The SV offers more features as standard and gains a center console with an armrest and a wireless charging pad that previous years lacked. It utilizes nicer materials, comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, and digital instrumentation, and has some exterior flair the S trim lacks. However, you’ll be spending $19,485 just to get into it and the best features are still optional extras.

Those hoping to get more from their Versa will probably be better served by the SR model, which gets a new 17-inch wheel design, adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, passive hands-free entry, remote starter, wi-fi hotspot, and more. It is also the only way to get the larger, 8.0-inch touchscreen or heated seats. But you have to pay $20,085 just to get there.

That kind of makes the SV seem a little pointless. Customers seeking the best bargain around and would likewise enjoy a manual transmission (or are interested in learning how to use one) will probably be better served running with the bare-bones S trim. Though if you’re really pinching those pennies and anticipate putting a lot of miles beneath the wheels in a short period of time the better fuel mileage afforded by the CVT could be worth the extra money.

Otherwise, it’s hard not to recommend the SR. Having spent a lot of time in the Versa over the years, none of them are likely to stir your soul (maybe if you really thrashed the manual). But they’re still serviceable cars that’ll probably suit the majority of one’s needs, with the highest trim offering enough standard features to rationalize the price increase. It’s just a little harder to rationalize it against slightly larger models retailing for a few grand more.

With Versa sales having taken a serious dive from the 144,528-unit peak enjoyed in 2015, it’s a little surprising to see Nissan keeping the little sedan around – let alone giving it a mild refresh. Sales for 2021 barely crested 60,000 units and this year is shaping up to be even worse. But here it is with its new grille and some other visual accenting for a price that’s downright reasonable. Perhaps the company is banking on the economic downturn and thinks the Versa and Kicks (which have seen volumes increasing) are due some attention.

[Images: Nissan]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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3 of 31 comments
  • Peter E. Puffington IV Peter E. Puffington IV on Nov 18, 2022

    My oldest tried to find one of these earlier in the week. All he found were loaded ones.

    • FreedMike FreedMike on Nov 18, 2022

      My kid found a mid-level one. Here in Denver, the next "wave" of them apparently arrives in a month.

  • RHD RHD on Dec 10, 2022

    The price is quite reasonable for what you get, and its only competition is a used car of the same price (which could be a pickup, a Miata, Charger or Lexus).

    What it needs: better visibility out of the windows and comfortable seats. Other than that, it's sui generis.

  • Theflyersfan And in other breaking news, the sun rose in the east, water is wet, and there are a few people here who need committed as soon as possible. Of course they fall short! Automakers are going to publish the rosiest numbers possible with a big old "*" next to them to CYA. It's the same thing with ICEs. The worst offenders are the 2.0L turbos in 5,000 lb CUVs. The numbers look all fine in the EPA tests, but in the real world, loaded with people and stuff, with weather and hills, and driving like you're late for practice, and keeping the mouse-motor in constant boost, that 28 mpg in mixed driving becomes 18. EVs are no different. I guess CR and everyone who reported it needed clicks today.
  • Mike Beranek The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Ravenuer So how many gas cars run short of their "range"?
  • SCE to AUX "The publication tested 22 cars at highway speeds of 70 mph"Since the EPA test protocol has an average highway speed of 48 mph, there's the problem. Same thing happens with ICE cars.Why not test them at 80 or 90 mph, since that's what people do?
  • Damon Great. You know more trivia about cars than the reporter. Here’s your cookie.Meanwhile that car is a dangerous monstrosity that nobody needs. Automated acceleration? Give me a break. It’s like the plane with the automated “crash into ground” feature.