2012 Nissan Versa fully equipped from North America

Summary:

Quite well put together, and even with a little bit of soul, which is rare for an econo box

General Comments:

I don't own this car, but have it at work. This car has been used as a delivery vehicle inside the city. We have very poor roads here and harsh winters.

I was surprised with this car. It has a good driving position, although there is no leg room for drivers above 6' (a 5'10" should fit OK, but not perfect). I'm 6'1" and my right knee rests against the dashboard. Rear leg room is good. Front seats are high and easy to get in and out, but lack lumbar cushion - a widespread issue in Nissan models, so the lower back hurts after sitting for 30 minutes, especially if you are a tall person.

The interior door handle is poorly designed and hard to grab, and the lock button on the handle is even worse - not easy to open the door each time.

The dashboard instruments and buttons are simple but easy to operate, the radio and climate controls are excellent, and the radio channel button is very well designed and easy to use.

The climate unit has very good hot air in winter time.

Surprisingly there is no cabin illumination when the doors open, or maybe it has failed on this car.

The side mirrors are very large which helps in traffic, while the rear glass along with the rear mirror are small and restrict rear visibility.

The CVT transmission still works on this car - not sure if it's the original one, while the engine makes a suspect rattle. There is also quite a bit of suspension knocking; probably the owner hasn't replaced worn suspension parts - a bit worrying while driving.

All econo cars under $20k need several suspension/steering parts replaced after 80k miles such as ball joints, tie rods, bushings. Keep in mind this car had the roughest life a car can get. These cars are also known to break coil springs.

The engine pulls well from a stop, but lacks power for accelerations past 30mph. A good car for city driving with decent handling, power from a stop and brakes, it even has a little bit of 'personality' in the way it drives, which is surprising and the kind of thing that makes you remember a car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 4th February, 2017

5th Feb 2017, 17:34

"Surprisingly there is no cabin illumination when the doors open, or maybe it has failed on this car."

Or maybe... somebody just switched it off.

15th Feb 2017, 00:22

I didn't realize the switch was near the light in the center of the headliner.

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

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).