2023 Nissan Versa SR
Inexpensive, But Not Cheap
To many of you, it may seem like all we do around here is talk about high-end sports cars and EVs. Well, that’s not the case; we always make time for the entry-level rides that are so important to many of us. So, let’s check-in with Nissan and see what they’ve been up to with the Versa.
This 3rd generation Nissan Versa arrived for 2020, and was more refined and more fun, yet still just as frugal as ever. For 2023, Nissan continues to improve on a good thing, adding more value into what is once again the least expensive new car you can buy in the U.S.
Styling has been updated too, with the typical forward fascia redo. A much broader version their trademark V-motion grille, with an ever bigger center Nissan logo, now takes up almost the entire front end.
There are new wheel choices too; 17-inch alloys on our SR-trimmed tester. Top SR also adds dressy black accents, LED headlights, fog lights, and dark chrome trim on the grille.
New features are always great, and Nissan continues to deliver a lot in the Versa. Wireless phone charging is now standard in all but the base model, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration through the standard 7-inch touchscreen display.
SR ups the screen size to 8-inches and also adds heated front seats, 6-speaker audio, automatic climate control, and remote start; plus, a more sport-minded theme with unique upholstery and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
There are plenty of soft touch materials to keep it from looking or feeling entry level, plus contrast stitching and a great control layout.
Nissan calls Versa a subcompact, while the government classifies it as a compact based on interior space. We actually think the front cabin room feels more mid-size, with fairly generous space for the rear seats as well. Trunk space is a cavernous 15.0 cubic-ft.
The Versa continues to boast a lot of standard safety features for its segment, including front and rear automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. Blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control are also available.
Regardless of which trim you get, modest power comes from a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter I4 engine, with 122-horsepower and 114 lb-ft. of torque.
A 6-speed manual is standard in base trim, but all others use Nissan’s Xtronic CVT.
Driving an entry level sedan used to equate to sloppy handling; and while that hasn’t been the case for some time, it’s totally not factual here in the Versa.
Simple strut front and torsion beam rear suspension designs, but tuning is quite good; something we seem to be relying more on electronics to take care of these days.
The Versa darted through our cone course quite effectively; not a lot of feedback or feel through the chassis as you can imagine, but it’s a solid little platform that never felt overwhelmed regardless of how hard we pushed.
Acceleration runs however, were more of what you’d expect with just 122-horsepower and a CVT. Economy is prioritized over performance. So, it was a slow and steady ramble to 60 of 11.2-seconds.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a car at the track with numbers that high; but it was actually a tenth quicker than the 2020 Versa we tested.
The small four really sounds like it’s working overtime just to provide the moderate acceleration that it does. Our best ¼-mile run was 17.9-seconds at 78 miles-per-hour.
Braking performance was pretty impressive however, with smooth and surprisingly calm stops of just 104-feet from 60 miles-per-hour.
And while it may not offer much excitement, it does deliver great fuel economy which is ultimately more important to entry-level drivers on a budget.
The Versa with CVT earns Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 32-City, 40-Highway, and 35-Combined. We averaged 38.7 miles-per-gallon of Regular. Great for any vehicle not a hybrid.
For a much better than average Energy Impact Score of just 8.5-barrels of oil used yearly, with 4.2 tons of CO2 emissions.
And the highway drive to and from the track was quite pleasant; not overly polished, but the ride is well-composed and the CVT doesn’t seem nearly as annoying in normal driving.
So, how much does the least expensive new car in America go for these days? $17,075 to start, mid-level SV trim comes in at $20,365 and top SR goes for $21,065.
So, even inexpensive new cars are not really cheap these days. But it must also be said that you do get a lot more car for your money than you used to. Many high-end convenience items are now looked at as almost necessary features. And Nissan has packed more of them into their entry-level car than anyone else. The 2023 Nissan Versa is a bargain-priced ride, that certainly doesn’t look or drive like one.
- Engine: 1.6-liter I-4
- Horsepower: 122
- 0-60 mph: 11.2-seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 104 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 38.7 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed manual or CVT
- Torque: 114 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 17.9-seconds at 78 mph
- EPA: 32 City / 40 Highway / 35 Combined