Price as Tested: $19,310
This week, we’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Nissan Versa Note SR, a compact hatchback high on features and low on price. As it’s been several years since we last drove a Versa, one thing stands out above all and else and that’s the fact that Versa’s price for the 2015 model is LESS than the hatchback we drove four years ago. Further, with updates to economy, safety and amenities, Versa just might be one of the best compact car values out there.
Based strictly on inflationary concerns, a good looking Versa four-door sedan (instead of the Versa hatchback) starts at just $11,990 and comes with the same safety items and power train that motivates Versa Note hatchbacks. The choice is yours as both are good lookers with the sedan sitting a bit higher in stance when you park them side by side.
In comparing the two models further, the fifth-door hatchback adds a nice rear slant, while the front window slopes to a large extent toward the grill. Versa Note SR also sits nicely on 16-inch tires and machined alloy wheels, and the standard sport package features chrome bezel Halogen head lamps, chrome accent fog lamps, sporty front and rear fascias and a rear roof spoiler.
Versa’s continued attention to enhancing fuel economy finds the 2015 model delivering six more MPG highway than the last generation we drove back in 2011.
Yes, that’s right. Six more MPG.
To accomplish this, instead of the 122-horse 1.8 four cylinder used in the past, Versa now utilizes its smaller 1.6-liter, 109-horsepower four across the board. This engine became the most popular Versa choice with the 2012 model introduction when the 1.8 was still available. When mated to the Xtronic continuous variable transmission (CVT), this smaller and lower horsepower combo delivers 40 MPG city fuel economy and, most surprising, peppy performance.
Major factors contributing to the fuel economy enrichment stems from what I’ll call a successful Versa diet. Specifically, the 2015 Versa is 300 pounds lighter than the Versa we drove in 2011 and even the fuel tank is 2.4 gallons smaller, resulting in less weight when full.
The value of Versa is further enhanced through the Nissan safety and security package. Standard on all Versa models are advanced air bags, energy absorbing steering column and front and rear crumple zones.
Versa’s cabin offers the most overall interior space in class, although don’t expect the rear-seat middle passenger to be comfortable over the long haul. Interior features include standard air conditioning, all the powers, cruise, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD Stereo four speaker system, intermittent rear wiper, 60/40 fold down rear seat, USB, Bluetooth, and much more. Your Nissan dealer awaits your visit to explain.
On the road, Versa is a capable performer although the ride is a bit rougher than larger wheelbase and heavier cars. Bumps are more pronounced, and the interior is still more basic than luxury with lots of plastic touches. However, and considering what you receive for your money, it is still a top buy overall with very good owner reliability ratings.
Our tester came with a recommended $660 SR Convenience Package that features a rear safety backup camera, Nissan Connect with 5-inch display, Sirius XM, Streaming audio, hands free text messaging, and a divide and hide adjustable floor. Carpeted floor mats cost another $180 and a rear cargo mat came in at $130.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 102.4-inches, 10.8-gallon fuel tank, 17.8 to 50.4 cu. ft. of cargo space, 2,460-pound curb weight and 31 city and 40 highway EPA numbers.
Versa offers everything expected in a small compact and is a solid choice that handles well. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that in this day and age of $30K cars and up, you can get yourself into a quality 102.4-inch wheelbase vehicle with a spacious interior for just $11,990 retail.
Likes: Standard features, price, Nissan reputation.
Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, noisy engine, rear camera optional.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist).