Compact car; Built in
  • 4-door hatchback
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $5,800 – $14,700*

2012 Nissan Versa

2012 Nissan Versa

2012 Nissan Versa

2012 Nissan Versa

  • Fuel economy
  • Rear-seat room
  • Engine noise
  • Feature and option availability on sedan
  • Wind noise

Versa is priced like a subcompact, but its blend of room, comfort, and overall refinement are an easy match for any number of more-expensive compact cars. Modest acceleration and some obvious cost cutting are disappointing, but those negatives are balanced by the car’s fine road manners. Regardless, if you’re on a tight budget and considering buying a used car, either Versa is worth checking out.


Most notably, when new the redesigned 2012 Versa 4-door sedan was by far the least-expensive new car sold in the U.S. Note that the 4-door hatchback version of the Versa carried on little-changed from 2011, and its starting price–and equipment level–was much higher than the new sedan’s. Something else that was noteworthy about the sedan was that while most inexpensive entry-level cars are subcompacts, the Versa sedan was large enough and roomy enough to be considered a compact. As such, it competed not only against inexpensive subcompact cars, but also against compact family sedans such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, and Toyota Corolla. The Versa hatchback was also a compact, and competed against those cars plus another hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf. Both the Versa sedan and hatchback were built in Mexico.

As we mentioned above, almost nothing was new on the 2012 Versa hatchback. On the sedan though, virtually everything was. The sedan’s styling was much more fluid than its boxy predecessor, and though it was about the same size, it was projected to get better fuel economy.

Versa sedans came in three trim levels: 1.6 S, 1.6 SV, and 1.6 SL. The S was sparsely equipped, but did come with air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with stereo input jack, and a height-adjustable driver seat. Cruise control was optional. SV added cruise control and power windows/mirrors/locks with remote; options included a wireless cell-phone link and iPod interface. SL added a split folding rear seat, iPod interface, wireless cell-phone link, and alloy wheels. Options included a navigation system, satellite radio, and USB port.

Versa hatchbacks were offered in 1.8 S and 1.8 SL trim levels. The S hatchback started out better equipped than the S sedan, so it added a split-folding rear seat and power windows/mirrors/locks, but deleted the height-adjustable driver seat. Options included cruise control, remote entry, iPod interface, wireless cell-phone link, navigation system, satellite radio, USB port, and alloy wheels. The SL hatchback was very well equipped with standard cruise control, height-adjustable driver seat, remote entry, keyless access and starting, iPod interface, wireless cell-phone link, and alloy wheels. Options included satellite radio, navigation system, and a USB port.

All sedans were equipped with a 109-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Only the base S was offered with a 5-speed manual transmission; optional on the S and standard on other sedans was a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that behaved much like an automatic.

All hatchbacks had a 122-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder. The base S offered either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The SL only was sold with a CVT, which behaved much like an automatic.

All Versas were front-wheel drive.

EPA ratings for the 2012 sedan were 27 city/36 highway with the manual transmission, 30/38 with the CVT. These figures were up by 1-2 mpg with manual, 5 mpg with the CVT. In Consumer Guide testing, a Versa sedan with the CVT averaged 37.5 mpg in mostly highway driving–quite frugal for the class.

Hatchbacks with the 6-speed manual transmission were rated at 26/31; with the 4-speed automatic, 24/32; with the CVT, 28/34. It’s interesting to note that the same car with the same engine gets 2-4 mpg more with the CVT than with the conventional 4-speed automatic. In Consumer Guide testing, Versa hatchbacks have averaged between 24.5 mpg and 27.4 mpg in a mix of city/highway driving.

Yearly Updates

2012 Versa
After their redesign for 2012, Versa sedans saw only minor changes for 2013–mainly the addition of a traditional automatic transmission and a shuffling of trim levels and package content. Versa sedans were now sold in four trim levels: 1.6 S, 1.6 S Plus, 1.6 SV, and 1.6 SL. As mentioned above, the previous-generation Versa hatchback design continued through calendar 2012, but Nissan did not offer it as a 2013 model.
2013 Versa
Nissan retuned the Versa sedan’s suspension and steering for 2014. There were also some minor features added based on trim level. Nissan also introduced a new Versa Note hatchback for 2014, but it is reviewed in its own report.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Versa sedans were equipped with a 109-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. The base S was offered with a 5-speed manual transmission or, starting in 2013, a 4-speed automatic transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) that behaved much like an automatic was standard on S Plus, SV, and SL. The CVT was optional on the 2012 S.

dohc I41
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/98
Engine HP 109
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 107
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed manual
CVT automatic
dohc I42
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 122
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 127
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
6-speed manual
CVT automatic

1. Versa sedans. 2. Versa hatchbacks (2012 model only).

Road Test

Despite having less power than the 2012-style hatchback, Versa sedans with the CVT have better-than-expected acceleration. Throttle response is very good, and power builds smoothly, if not quickly. No manual-transmission or 4-speed-automatic sedans have been made available for testing. Manual- and 4-speed-automatic transmission hatchbacks feel labored and weak by comparison on account of their additional curb weight (some 300 pounds compared to the sedan). With the manual, lots of shifting is required for maximum acceleration; an S model so equipped did 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds. SL hatchbacks have the CVT, and these models feel livelier from a stop. They also provide acceptable passing response.

In Consumer Guide testing, a Versa sedan with the CVT averaged a commendable 37.5 mpg in mostly highway driving. A 1.8-liter S hatchback with manual transmission averaged 27.4 mpg. A test S hatchback with the 4-speed automatic averaged 24.8 mpg. An SL hatchback with the CVT averaged 24.5 mpg in mostly city driving. Versa uses regular-grade gas.

Versa offers a comfortable and controlled ride on most surfaces. Large bumps still register sharply, and there is moderate bobbing over wavy pavement.

For a basic economy car with no overt performance pretensions, Versa is nimble and fun to drive. The steering is precise, with little tire squeal and moderate body lean in fast turns. Tidy dimensions aid close-quarters maneuverability. Braking control is good.

Both the 1.6- and 1.8-liter engines are buzzy in rapid acceleration. They’re more subdued, but still audible, on the highway. The highway ride is also disturbed by modest wind noise from the mirrors and some coarse-surface tire thrum.

The controls are logically placed and, for the most part, clearly marked. Especially nice are the large, handy climate knobs, but some of the audio buttons are on the small side, demanding a longer look from the road than we would prefer. The available wireless cell-phone link is let down somewhat by a voice-control system that only understands commands that are spoken slowly, loudly, and clearly. Note that all Versa sedan models have an auxiliary stereo input jack. Standard on SL and optional on SV models is a proprietary connector for Apple iPod and iPhone devices. A USB port is included in the SL’s optional Technology Package. An SL model so equipped on our preview drive would charge but not otherwise recognize an iPhone connected to the USB port.

Versa interiors use lots of hard plastic. In the 2012-model Hatchback, materials are attractive and pleasant for the price. One test model suffered from malfunctioning power door locks, and another suffered from a few dashboard creaks. Interior materials on sedan models look especially cheap. On the SL sedan, the door armrests and part of the door trim have fabric padding. S, S Plus, and SV versions make do with unpadded plastic panels, which are an obvious cost-cutting measure.

Large and comfortable seats belie Versa’s small-car price. Even large adults have plenty of room, though tall occupants will want more seat travel. Visibility is good in all directions. All but the S hatchback have a height-adjustable driver seat. Versas lack a center console and there are no armrests on the inboard sides of the front seats; this is detrimental to long-distance comfort.

The 2012 Versa hatchback’s rear seat has exceptional room for two large adults, highlighted by ample knee clearance and foot space. The same can mostly be said of the sedan, at least in terms of legroom and knee space. The sedan’s lower, sloping roofline cuts into headroom a bit. Passengers 6’2″ and taller will likely brush against the headliner.

With 14.5 cubic feet of cargo space, the Versa sedan has one of the largest trunks in the segment. The aperture is wide enough to accommodate most large boxes, and liftover is very low. However, a folding rear seat back is standard only on the top-line SL model; it’s optional as part of the Convenience Package on the SV. th e 2012 Hatchbacks have generous cargo room, but the load floor is interrupted by rear seats that don’t fold flush, creating an annoying stepped surface. Several cupholders and a decently sized glovebox and door pockets compensate somewhat for the lack of a center console.


Model Tested: SV sedan

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 8
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 9

Total: 55


4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 169.1 66.7 60.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
50.4 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 38.3 41.4 38.0
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 175.4 66.7 59.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.8 10.8 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.8 36.6 41.8 37.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2012 Versa sedan 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 3

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: Rain-sensing function for windshield wipers may operate intermittently or unexpectedly when sensors come in contact with items including exhaust fumes, dirt, moisture, fingerprints, and insects. (2012)

Recall History

2012 Versa
Description: Road salt may corrode the front springs, resulting in the springs fracturing.
2012 Versa
Description: Certain 2012 model Nissan Versa model may be equipped with side-curtain airbags that contain an incorrect propellant mixture.
2012 Versa Sedan with CVT
Description: Certain 2012 model Nissan Versa sedans equipped with CVT transmissions and made between June 9, 2011 and January 13, 2012 may have gear selectors that allow the vehicle to be shifted out of park without first depressing the brake pedal.
2012-14 Versa sedan
Description: Certain 2012 through 2014 model Nissan Versa sedan models made after June 9, 2011 may have a center console trim panel that can catch on the driver’s shoe and increase the amount of time it takes to transition from the accelerator to the brake pedal.
2014 Versa
Description: Certain 2014 model Nissan Versa vehicles made between July 16, 2013 and January 29, 2014 may have engine stop/start buttons that can become stuck inside the button housing.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.