2012 Nissan Versa Review

2012 Nissan Versa SV sedan 1.6L 4 cylinder (109 HP) from North America

Model year2012
Year of manufacture2012
First year of ownership2012
Most recent year of ownership2012
Engine and transmission 1.6L 4 cylinder (109 HP) Automatic
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 9 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 10 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.5 / 10
Distance when acquired23 miles
Most recent distance3800 miles
Previous carVolvo 940

Summary:

Great transportation for the budget-conscious

Faults:

- 14,500 miles - A LOUD metallic rattling noise began emanating from underneath the center area of the car. After investigating myself, I discovered that the catalytic converter heat shield had halfway come unfastened from the underbody and was resting on the exhaust pipe, causing the rattling noise. Nissan replaced the heat shield under warranty no questions asked. Apparently two tabs holding the heat shield to the underbody broke off. Not a clue how that happened. Either a design fault or not assembled properly.

- 20,000 miles - The passenger side of the dashboard started emitting chirping and squeaking noises in cold weather. Thankfully it's infrequent.

- 35,500 miles - The paint ("Super Black") started peeling and flaking off the rear quarter panels where the metal meets the tail lights. Nissan repainted with 500 miles left on the bumper to bumper warranty and provided me with a free rental car. I was never entirely happy with the paint quality from day 1. The gold metallic flecks in the paint are very poorly distributed. Some areas have heavy concentrations of fleck, while other areas have none. Looks like a cheap paint job. At least it's shiny.

General Comments:

THE GOOD:

- The least expensive car sold in the US that doesn't feel tiny and cramped. It's a very efficient design. I'm not sure where Nissan found all the interior room in such a tiny package!

- The EPA city/hwy rating is 30/38 respectively. I routinely average 38-42 MPG depending on the season and my driving habits. My mom and I took the car on a 475 mile trip (one way). We averaged 40.9 MPG on the way up and 44.1 MPG on the way back. I couldn't be more pleased.

- The 1.6L 109 HP 4 cylinder engine is smooth and sounds nice for a little 4-banger. Engine noise inside is quite low for cheap, basic transportation. It's only intrusive and unpleasant sounding when revved at 4,000 RPM and beyond, which is rare given how I drive the car. It's no sports car, but it's surprisingly peppy. The CVT takes a lot of getting accustomed to. It can be rather noisy upon initial acceleration in cold weather, making grinding and popping noises.

- I really like the ride quality. It's smooth on smooth pavement, yet handles pretty flat and stable. A nice balance of ride and handling. The tires leave a lot to be desired in the handling department. The low rolling resistance silica tires slide in corners too much.

- The interior is cavernous. You can easily fit 4 adults in this car. The rear leg room is limo-like. Head room is great up front and fine for adults under 6 feet tall in the back.

- The construction of the car, for the most part, feels solid. Not as chintzy as you might expect at this price. There are some exceptions in quality, which I'll discuss below.

- The driver's seat is surprisingly comfortable. It's more cushioned than I'm accustomed to in little economy cars. It's far plusher feeling than the seat in the Kia Rio, which has much harder, flatter feelings seats.

- Taste is subjective, of course, but I think the 2012 Versa sedan is a handsome little car. My Versa is black with the chrome exterior door handles and light grey interior. I think it looks pretty sharp. However, I will be honest and say that I find the dash design quite unattractive, although its ergonomics are decent.

THE BAD:

- The interior seems well put together, but looks and feels cheap. The carpet is literally trunk liner. The door arm rests are hard plastic. The sunvisors appear to be covered in shrink wrapped vinyl. The headliner feels like fuzzy cardboard. I can forgive the cheaply finished interior if they put that money into quality engineering at this price point.

- The electric power steering is overly boosted. It's too light for my taste. I prefer heavier feeling steering. However, it's very tight and responsive. At highway speeds, it's pretty much impossible to drive in a smooth and straight line. There's very little road feel through the steering. The passenger seat literally shakes and rattles at 80 MPH when it's not occupied. This car can cruise all day at 80 MPH, just don't ask it to ascend a hill too. Road noise at highway speeds is too loud, but nothing out of the ordinary for a subcompact car.

- Ergonomics are not that great. I found it difficult to find a comfortable driving position the first month or two that I owned the car. If I position myself a comfortable distance from the pedals, the steering wheel feels too far. If I position myself comfortably from the steering wheel, the pedals feel too far. This car REALLY needs a manual telescoping steering wheel.

- The glovebox is very difficult to access from the driver's seat. Instead of the box being part of the glovebox door, as is the case in most vehicles, it's simply a large, deep cubbyhole inside the dashboard. I literally have to lay down on the passenger seat to see inside and grab contents. A really dumb design. Not sure what the designers were thinking on that one.

- Although plush for an economy car, the front seat bottom cushions feel too short. I'm only 5'9". If the seat cushion feels too short for me, I'm sure it feels too short for most drivers.

- The automatically locking doors are a nuisance. Picture it... you pull into a gas station, put the car in Park, shut the car off and attempt to exit the car, but you can't because the door is locked. This car does not automatically release the lock when you pull on the interior door handle. Cars have had this feature for decades. With this Versa, if you want to get out of the car, you either have to remove the keys from the ignition (to trigger the release of the automatic locks) or press the unlock button on the driver's door. Not a fan of this at all. I much prefer how the doors automatically lock and unlock on GM vehicles when the vehicle is placed into "Park" or taken out of "Park".

- I'm an audiophile. I love listening to music in the car. This is literally the ONLY economy car sold in the U.S. that does not offer a 6-speaker stereo. It comes standard with 2, which is a joke in this day and age. If you step up to the SV trim, you get the same stereo head unit, but 4 speakers. If you opt for the Bluetooth package, you get an upgraded head unit with iPod connectivity. The speaker sound quality is mediocre at best. Nissan, add more sound insulation from road noise and add a couple of tweeter speakers. Problem solved.

- The CVT transmission requires fluid changes every 30k-60k miles, depending on how and where you drive. At $200 per fluid change, it seems rather expensive and high-maintenance. I believe all other subcompact cars with traditional automatics never need the transmission fluid changed. They are "fill for life" units. So this Versa (or any CVT equipped Nissan vehicle) will cost hundreds of dollars more in maintenance over its lifespan compared to the competition. Keep that in mind when shopping for your next car.

All in all, it's great basic transportation. Low on price and fuel consumption. High on interior space/comfort, and overall value.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 31st August, 2012

3rd Sep 2012, 18:58

A very thorough and well thought out review. It sounds like you really got to know your new car.

Unfortunately the word "cheap" is probably the best to describe this vehicle. It didn't cost a lot to buy for a reason. At least you seem reasonably happy with it.

22nd Nov 2012, 03:29

I also bought a 2012 Versa SV a few days ago. Despite the low price, the car is pretty loaded and looks like a "semi-luxurious" car to me. I first drove 250 miles (70% on freeways) and on-board MPG said a whopping 46 MPG average. When I filled the tank, I put it 7.0 gallons. That makes the actual MPG 35.7MPG. Still good, but far from the figure given by the computer (28% off).

Average review marks: 8.5 / 10, based on 1 review