• Auto123 reviews the 2023 Nissan Versa SR.
• You don't buy the Versa for its driving pleasure or its sleek design, but...
• … the subcompact remains a smart, cheap option for first-time buyers.
• Long live affordable, simple and easy-to-park cars.
In recent years we’ve seen more than a few manufacturers abandon the car completely or almost in favour of lineups that are all SUVs, all the time. Nissan has no shortage of crossovers on its roster, but even so, the brand continues to believe in the sedan. There are still four models in North America, including the little Versa, which has only one subcompact competitor left: the Kia Rio.
For buyers (on a budget) for whom driving pleasure and the prestige of driving a luxury car are not priorities, the Nissan Versa is certainly a viable option.
The Nissan Versa has been slightly redesigned for 2023, and in SR trim particularly, it looks more attractive. Up front, the bumper is a bit busier with its wider, glossy black grill and silver stripes that slink up toward the light clusters. The lower portion of the nose is also sportier, with a pseudo-wing at the base.
On the sides, the new 17-inch wheels are also very busy in their styling approach, a design that recalls some Pontiac models from the 1990s and 2000s, no less.
Nissan designers still believe in the floating roof illusion, in place starting at the rear C-pillar. Though in this case, the contrast is a bit minimal with the glossy black/matte black combo. At the back, the Versa SR gets a spoiler at the end of the trunk, with darkened parking lights and even a diffuser installed at the base of the rear bumper shell. Sitting at the top of the lineup, the Versa SR offers a more elegant look than the base model, but to be clear we’re not in the realm of the curvy new Nissan Z.
Mind you, at this more basic level of motoring, buyers don't necessarily expect to drive an eye-catching car.
- The SR model is kinda sharp
- The 17-inch wheels
- The verticality of the sedan
- We miss the Versa Note with its five-door body style
The Versa sedan might not be an SUV, but, the subcompact is still far roomier than a Mitsubishi Mirage, for example. First-row space is very good for a small car, and second-row space is even better, offering a surprising amount of room for a subcompact.
The trunk is also quite large for a sedan, but by that measure, Nissan’s Kicks is more useful with all that volume freed up when the seat is lowered.
The seats could be more comfortable, especially with the shortness of the front-row seat bottoms. Taller adults might find road trips a little rough on these seats, as they're not as soft as the bolt-on ones in the Nissan Altima. The same goes for the second-row bench, which, fortunately in this better-equipped version, can open partially - thanks to its 60/40 configuration - or fully to carry larger objects.
As for the dashboard, it's not as tech-y as what's offered in most modern models. The Versa is a budget car, we repeat. No sense making the price climb with made-to-impress large screens and touch-sensitive buttons everywhere.
Still, this is 2023, so there's an 8-inch centre touchscreen with shortcut buttons on either side, with the latest version of the brand's infotainment system. This makes the graphics clearer and the responsiveness good for the few fingertip commands.
Another pleasing detail is the presence of traditional controls for the climate system, starter button or even the gear shifter. Even the flat-bottomed steering wheel is pleasant to hold and use (there are multiple controls on its upper spokes). In short, the Versa hasn't quite adopted that “almost all touch” philosophy yet, which will please many
Of note, this dashboard is new for 2023; it's not unlike the one built into the interior of the Kicks. Since both vehicles are based on the same platform, it's only natural that some components are shared, like this central touchscreen inside which is the latest version of the brand's infotainment system.
- A simple dashboard
- Better-quality infotainment system
- Not very comfortable seats (for longer trips)
- No 60/40 seat on the less equipped models!
As mentioned, the Versa shares its platform with the Kicks crossover. So there are no surprises when you lift the hood; the sedan relies on the same 1.6L, 4-cylinder engine as when it debuted in 2007. Of course, the 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque on offer are more generous than in the 2000s.
While the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is better calibrated than back then, we're not talking about a power monster here. The Versa is much more at home in the city. On the highway, you have to plan your passing manoeuvres, because acceleration is not very impressive.
Still, it's not a serious issue, since the Versa is a basic car made to meet the needs of those who don't necessarily need a dynamic, powerful and racy vehicle. For those folks, the Nissan Versa plays its role very well.
Still, the 2023 Versa shows its limits when you push the accelerator hard; get ready for some screaming. Fortunately, things calm down nicely once cruising speed is reached.
Where the small 4-cylinder engine/CVT combination really comes into its own is when it comes time to calculate average fuel consumption. The Canadian EnerGuide reports an average of 7.4L/100 km in the city and 5.9L/100 km on the highway, for an average of 6.7L/100 km.
After a few days of "regular" driving, the sedan's on-board computer showed 7.5L/100 km, or 0.8 liters per 100 km more than expected. It's true that a couple of highway entries pushed the needle up on the tachometer, but otherwise, I drove this Versa as it should be driven, i.e., not too hard. So it's a reasonable result.
- Agility of a subcompact car
- Light steering in the city
- Relatively comfortable
- The seats are too short
- No 60/40 bench seat on base models
- Acceleration is high in decibels
The final word
Nissan's decision to keep an affordable car in its ranks is not a bad idea in my opinion. With prices skyrocketing, I wouldn't be surprised to see other carmakers return to the subcompact class in the not-too-distant future. Technology is all well and good in 2023 (electric or not), but the average price of a car has risen in recent years to levels that are difficult for many to manage. Consumers who don't need the latest model or a big, hard-to-park SUV will be happy behind the wheel of the Versa... as long as they don't have high expectations.
Here are a few of your questions about the 2023 Nissan Versa:
What is the base price of a Versa sedan?
The starting price is $18,463, before prepayment and applicable taxes.
What is the trunk space?
The Nissan Versa offers 425 litres of space.