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Nissan Versa Performance

According to some test drivers, the 2015 Nissan Versa delivers acceptable power. However, several say it feels sluggish from a stop and labors while climbing steep hills. Equipped with a CVT, the Versa achieves excellent fuel economy ratings, but reviewers say it can be quite loud. The Versa’s steering is predictable, and a small turning radius makes it easy to maneuver, but handling is uninspired, critics note, adding that the Versa is less fun to drive than rival cars.

  • "Driving the Versa feels rather average. The CVT allows power to flow to the front wheels fairly smoothly. The engine is short on horsepower but tries its best to keep the little vehicle gliding along at highway speeds. We can't really complain about the driving characteristics of the Versa given its affordability, but driven back-to-back with the competition, the Versa's drawbacks are revealed." -- AutoTrader
  • "The Versa is also pretty uneventful to drive. Rivals like the Chevrolet Sonic and 2015 Ford Fiesta feel more alert and engaging when you're behind the wheel, for instance, and the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent are quicker to accelerate." -- Edmunds
  • "Vanilla, but solid and confident. That might sound damning, but Versa delivers precisely the pleasant character a mass-appeal car should." -- Popular Mechanics (2012)

Acceleration and Power

All 2015 Nissan Versa models are powered by a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The base sedan and hatchback come with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional on the base Versa sedan, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard on higher sedan and Versa Note trims. The 2015 Versa gets its best fuel economy estimates with the CVT, delivering 31/40 mpg city/highway, which is excellent for the class.

While several automotive reviewers think the Versa offers enough power for daily driving, others report it isn’t very quick off the line and strains when climbing steep hills or merging onto the highway. Some critics say the available continuously variable transmission is seamless at lower speeds, but can be loud when brisk acceleration is needed.

  • “The CVT is smooth and unobtrusive around town, but it can have the engine revving noisily if you abruptly press down on the gas pedal (in a highway passing situation, for instance) as it searches for its ideal ratio. This is a common complaint with CVTs that are paired with small four-cylinder engines, and most owners get used to this trait over time." -- Edmunds
  • "Like other cars with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), Versas so equipped take some getting used to. There are no conventional shift points, so the engine may seem to be working hard at unexpected times. With just 109 horsepower, the 2015 Versa's acceleration - or lack thereof - won't tempt you to enter many drag races." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • “Predictably, acceleration from the 109-hp I-4 is best described as adequate. We didn't have a chance to drive a Versa Note S with the five-speed manual, but our SV and SL test cars with the CVT were well matched for duty on both the streets and freeways of San Diego. However, the powertrain labored on the large hills of the Pacific Coast Highway." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • “This car is loud when pushed, somewhat underpowered, and the cabin lined with scratchy hard plastic. That said, I can away from the Note mostly impressed. The power issue only really matters when merging onto the highway or trying to pass at speed." -- Consumer Guide (2014)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say the Nissan Versa is a breeze to drive, though it’s not as athletic as rivals like the Ford Fiesta. The Versa has light, predictable steering and a tight turning radius for easy maneuvering, they report, and the ride is comfortable and composed.

  • "The Versa feels light and flimsy in a market of surprisingly substantial subcompacts. As basic transportation, the Versa is fine. Alongside the newest offerings from its competitors, however, it pales in comparison." -- AutoTrader
  • "The Versa's suspension is tuned for comfort, and the result is a smooth ride quality that many subcompact models can't match. On the other hand, the small Nissan's steering and handling are pretty uninspiring compared with most competitors. You'll probably never notice those characteristics if you only drive your Nissan Versa to the office and back, but if you want something more fun, the Fiesta is worth a look." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2015 Nissan Versa is not a thrilling car to drive, but it sure is easy. Both the sedan and the smaller Versa Note hatchback are smooth and quiet by economy-car standards, and we were impressed with the refinement of the newer Note in particular. The steering is light, its turning radius is tight, and visibility is very good from the driver's seat." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Ride quality is a little less harsh than before, and the Versa Note feels slightly steadier on its feet than prior Versa hatch models, although large bumps do occasionally unsettle the rear beam axle. The Versa Note isn't necessarily the most engaging subcompact we've driven, but its steering is both sharp and decently weighted at speed." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
Review Last Updated: 4/9/15

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