2012 Nissan Versa Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
Test drivers say the 2012 Nissan Versa is not powerful or sporty by any means, but it will survive urban commutes and can manage highway trips.
- "Vanilla, but solid and confident. That might sound damning, but Versa delivers precisely the pleasant character a mass-appeal car should." -- Popular Mechanics
- "Engine and road noise are moderate." -- Kansas City Star
- "The level of road noise certainly isn't unacceptable, but it's one of the few reminders of the Versa's cheap price. But there's nothing cheap about the way it drives: The Versa rides comfortably and handles well, with commendably good steering feel." -- About.com
- "The driving experience is acceptable but wholly unremarkable. I'm surprised (and disappointed) that a car with such a small engine and low curb weight can't meet the magical 40-mpg mark on the highway." -- Automobile Magazine
Acceleration and Power
The 2012 Nissan Versa sedan and hatchback have different engines. The base sedan has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 109 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Reviewers are satisfied with the Versa's powertrain, though they say it’s not sporty by any means, and struggles at highway speeds sometimes. Still, they say that, the most part, the Versa sedan has respectable performance for a car at its price point.
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional, and reviewers are surprised that they actually like it because CVTs usually skimp on performance for better fuel economy. According to the EPA, the Versa averages up to 30/38 mpg city/highway with the 1.6-liter engine, which is pretty good for the class, but not as good as the 30/40 mpg ratings on the Hyundai Accent.
The Versa hatchback has a larger and more powerful 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower. It also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission on the base trim, and a four-speed automatic is optional. The highest trim has a CVT standard. Overall, test drivers like the amount of power available on the hatchback, and say the manual is fun to drive. With the 1.8-liter engine, the Versa hatchback gets up to 28/34 mpg with the CVT.
- "Unlike the previous car that felt like an oversize Power Wheels car, the 2012 Versa has a very planted and substantial feel. Cruising at highway speeds is no longer accompanied by the CVT-induced droning of the engine but is now a relatively hushed affair, and the powertrain no longer strains under 80-mph cruising." -- Automobile Magazine
- "No complaints. The Versa's engine and transmission work in quiet harmony to deliver an adequate amount of acceleration with a minimum amount of drama." -- Edmunds
- "Though the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at just 109 horsepower, it moves the Versa with verve and rarely feels challenged in urban or freeway driving." -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Handling and Braking
The most critical reviewers note that the Versa sedan has a lot of body roll, numb steering and sloppy handling. The brakes, however, are pretty good for a small car with little power.
- "I drove it on a racetrack, surely the last thing any real owner would do, and found it offers accurate steering, a compliant yet composed suspension, and resilient brakes (at least resilient enough for the 109-hp engine and 2360-pound curb weight)." -- Automobile Magazine
- "Brakes remain vented discs up front and drums in the rear, and Continental ContiPro Contact low-rolling-resistance all-season tires (185/65R15) are also carried over. And the combination works very well." -- Edmunds