2023 Nissan Versa SR — Best subcompact car for the money

By Jim Prueter

(December 26, 2022) The 2023 Nissan Versa is the brands smallest and least expensive vehicle with a starting price of $15,730. The Versa was completely redesigned for 2020 and is only offered as a 5-seat, four-door sedan. The hatchback Versa called the Note is discontinued and basically replaced by the Nissan Kicks.

For 2023 the Versa has been given a mild refresh with the most noticeable changes a new grille with silver trim bits that accent the main blacked-out grille to go along with a new front fascia with an updated version of Nissan’s ubiquitous V-motion styling. Three trim levels S, SV and SR grades are available.

Regardless of trim level, all models are powered by a 122-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, paired with a 5-speed manual shifter (S only) or Nissan’s Xtronic CVT automatic transmission. Nissan provided the SR trim level for our week of testing.

Inside, the cabin looks more refined than previously, but there’s ample amounts of hard plastic surfaces, and cost cutting trim. Still Nissan did add a few nice touches like the padded and stitched material that stretches across the center of the entire dash. We also liked the carbon-fiber-look plastic trim about the doors and around the instrument cluster. Still, some thought it garish and tastelessly an unnecessary decoration.

There’s seating for five but this is a very small sedan with even four pushing the limits. The front seat driver’s room is surprisingly adequate even for this 6-6 tall journalist courtesy of best-in-class front leg and headroom. The seats are basic, flat, and not a lot of support but there’s enough adjustment to make it all work. We wished the tilt steering wheel had more adjustment though. The rear seat is small and head room a premium thanks to the sloping roof at the rear.

The tested SR includes as standard equipment automatic on/off headlights, push button start, a center console with armrest, wireless phone charging, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a six-speaker audio system, remote engine start intelligent cruise control, automatic climate control and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

All vehicle operating controls are simple, intuitive and easy to use. There’s good old-fashioned knobs for the climate control and audio system. There’s controls on the steering column and column stalks. It’s simple to pair your smartphone through the 8-inch touchscreen and the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay works when the smartphone is plugged in.

All Versa trims will come standard have the Nissan Safety Shield 360 features, which include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, rear automatic braking and high beam assist. Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the SR, optional on other trim levels.

The trunk accommodates 15 cubic feet of storage but there’s no exterior trunk release, so owners will have to press a button on the key fob. The rear seat is 60/40 split-folding - standard on the SV and SR, optional on S. 17-inch wheels are standard on SR, 16 on S and SV.

Versa is comparatively inexpensive to purchase, easy to drive and park and around town easy to pick up speed. However, when entering the interstate where merging quickly is often necessary the car feels like it’s running out of breath with the engine droning for all its worth. Nissan say the Versa will go from 0-60 in 9.6 seconds, similar to other vehicles in its class.

There isn’t much, if any, driving excitement to the Versa and it isn’t particularly quick to respond to driver inputs. The body leans in curves and when cornering even when its being driven in a normal, safe manner. This isn’t a sporty car by any stretch of the imagination, but it does tend to feel like there is some sense of exhibited secure and forgiveness when cornering at its limits.

The cabin noise level is generally tolerable around town driving but when pushed on heavy acceleration and at highway speeds engine and road noise becomes necessarily pronounced even when pavement is relatively smooth.

Standard safety and driver assist features on all trim levels includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Automatic Braking and High Beam Assist. Available safety technologies include Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Overall, unless your needs require seating for more than four, the Versa is likely an adequate vehicle for most people 90 percent of the time. It isn’t a bad looking car, the stereo sounded good, heat and air work perfectly, the seats are heated drives easily, parks easily and comes well equipped with standard safety and driver assist features. Shoppers at this level aren’t looking to buy a status symbol, rather a reliable vehicle companion to sufficiently complement and simplify their lives.

The Versa, like all cars in its class won’t be a future collector car, and nobody will follow you home, green with envy, wanting to know just what it is you are driving. Rather, it’s a good car and a decent price and will be used hard and you’ll be satisfied with its adequately noble service of sufficient transportation. Almost gives one a lump in their throat.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $16,455 - $20,745
Price as Tested: $21,140
Engine-Transmission: 1.6-liter 122 horsepower four cylinder paired with a Xtronic CVT automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 32/40/35 – MPG City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Side and moderate overlap front: rated Good by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and an overall highest rated five star from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Aguascalientes, Mexico

Competes With:
Hyundai Accent
Kia Rio
Mitsubishi Mirage

Comfortable, convenient, affordable
Decent amount of interior room
Excellent safety ratings

Needs more horsepower
Rear seat not as roomy as competitors
Interior shows obvious cost-cutting materials