2021 Nissan Versa

By January 6, 2021

For the price, there are few cars that offer the safety and infotainment features of the 2021 Nissan Versa. It’s a handsome little car with a big trunk and well-designed cabin. New for 2020, the Versa receives no changes for 2021.

The 2021 Versa is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder making 122 horsepower that works fairly hard but delivers excellent fuel economy, with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s front-wheel drive, and still offers an available 5-speed manual transmission.

The ride and steering are straight from the economy-car playbook. Two adults fit well in the front, but there’s only enough room in the rear for two more, at least to be comfortable.

With the CVT, the 2021 Versa is EPA-rated at 32 mpg city, 40 highway, 35 combined. The 5-speed gearbox drops fuel economy by as much as 5 mpg.

The IIHS hasn’t crash-tested the 2021 Versa yet, but the NHTSA gives it five stars overall, a great score for a small car. Automatic emergency braking is standard, while the SV and SR models also have standard blind-spot monitors.

Model Lineup

There are three models of the 2021 Nissan Versa: S, SV and SR.

The Versa S costs $15,855 with the 5-speed transmission, or $17,525 with the CVT. It comes with cloth upholstery, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, automatic emergency braking, keyless start, and 15-inch wheels.

For $18,665 the Versa SV adds the CVT as standard, plus nicer cloth upholstery and infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, blind-spot monitors, and 16-inch wheels.

The $19,265 Versa SR adds 17-inch wheels, six-speaker audio, fog lights, and some sporty details.

Every Versa carries a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.

Exterior

The Versa has a classy look that belies its cost. It carries a family resemblance to the higher-priced and larger Nissan sedans, the Sentra and Maxima. Its pert dimensions boast a deep V-shaped grille, an artful curved roofline, and an interesting blacked-out rear roof pillar. The big, swept-back headlights make you forget it’s a compact car.

Interior

Inside, the Versa is tame but far from boring. The V-shaped dash mimics the grille, while the 7.0-inch touchscreen draws the eyes. The cloth upholstery looks durable, especially the upgraded cloth in the SV model, and the rest of the interior materials are soft. Only the carpeting, and the limited storage spots for small items, shows any cost-cutting.

The front-seat comfort is fine, with wide cushions and good padding, and six-way adjustment, including seat height, to find the right driving position. The SR model wears contrasting stitching on the seats.

The Versa is slightly wider than most small sedans, but that doesn’t help much in the rear, especially not for the middle passenger. Leg room is tight at 31 inches, while head room is also limited.

But four adults might be able to carry their suitcases to the airport. The trunk is a generous 15 cubic feet, and the opening is low and wide.

Driving Impressions

Making a modest 122 horsepower, the 1.6-liter inline-4 engine, mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), is no threat to overpower the front wheels. But there are quite a few compact cars that are slower to accelerate to 60 mph; the Versa can do it in about eight seconds, while others take as much as 10. The Versa’s engine is responsive at low speeds, making the Versa pleasant to drive around town. The CVT is quite quick to change ratios.

When the Versa was redesigned it gained a stiffer body, which improves the response of the steering; the electric power steering feels precise and settled.

Meanwhile the ride is decent. The McPherson struts in front and the twist-beam axle in the rear aren’t meant for sharp handling, but they absorb moderate bumps fairly well.

The front brakes are discs, however the rear brakes are drums, to save money. But they get the job done, and very few Versa buyers will ever know the difference.

Final Word

Although the 2021 Nissan Versa sedan lacks the versatility of a hatchback, it still defines “value” in a new car. For less than $19,000 in the SV model (very affordable payments), you get everything you need in reliable, basic transportation: Handsome styling, great infotainment, impressive safety, excellent powertrain, and 35 miles per gallon

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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