2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV review: ‘My First New Car’

2015 Nissan Versa SV

2015 Nissan Versa SV

Not everybody loves hatchbacks. We can understand that. Even if it makes more sense for a one-car apartmenthold—those who have a household are more likely to have just one car—to have the versatility a hatch, some just prefer a sedan. In that case, we’ll de-note the Nissan Versa Note and present the 2015 Nissan Versa Sedan.

Nissan differentiates between the Versa Sedan and the hatchback Versa by calling the latter the Versa Note, introducing the latter as such last year when it came out as an all-new model. This year the Versa sedan catches up with a new front end treatment with bigger headlights, bigger front fascia and standard chrome on the grille, intended to bring the Versa Sedan’s appearance more in line with the Nissan Sentra, Nissan Altima and Nissan Maxima sedans…and significantly—completely—different from the Versa Note.

2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV

The 2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV interior is basic. (click to enlarge)

However, the Versa Sedan more differentiated than different from the Note. Inside the cars are quite similar the sedan’s centerstack  revised like the Note’s. The center stack has a 2-DIN AM/FM/CD audio head with standard RDS and AUX plug. The instrument cluster changes to more contemporary white LED’s replacing orange. The steering wheel gets fatter and comes with standard audio and Bluetooth hands-free phone controls.

Overall, the Nissan Versa Sedan is comfortable and gives an impression of durability. There are no soft-touch surfaces—those cost money—though the seats are comfortable and the fabric upholstery feel like it will last. There are matching fabric inserts in the door panels, a nice touch. The front seats aren’t luxurious, but they’re nicely contoured for support.

The back seat has a surprising amount of room. A 6’ 2” passenger rode in the back without complaint—though without high praise, either. The rear seatbacks do fold down for long items through the trunk, which at 14 cubic feet with the seatbacks up is roomy for a compact class sedan.

2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV back seat

The 2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV back seat is roomy enough even for six footers. (click to enlarge)

The steering wheel is a satisfying handful with a rubbery though not clammy surface. The driver has to reach around or through the steering wheel to change the trip computer pages…though at least the Versa Sedan SV has a trip computer.

Like the Versa Note, the Versa Sedan is powered by a 1.6-liter four with double overhead cams and variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust cams. The engine has a dual fuel injector system. It’s not direct injection but the two injectors allow a finer atomization of fuel for better combustion and improved fuel economy.

Don’t expect thunder and lightning from under the hood, however, just a little crackle and pop. The engine is rated at 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. With a curb weight of less than 2,500 lbs the relative lack of power is, well, relative. But merging into traffic will have everyone in the car leaning forward for just that extra little bit of speed.

Nissan’s Xtronic CVT actually helps with acceleration. Nissan describes it as two transmissions in one. The conventional—we’ve come to that with the continuously variable transmission—steel belt and pulley system is joined by an auxiliary planetary gearbox which allows a wider range if ratios, allowing quicker takeoff at low speeds and lower engine rpm for highway cruising, which improves fuel economy.

2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV engine

The 2015 Nissan Versa Sedan engine is thrifty if not overly powerful. (click to enlarge)

Nissan has tightened up this generation of CVT. Continuously variable transmissions have been criticized for what’s been described as the feel of a slipping clutch or motorboat-like transmission of power. While that modus operandi may have been more efficient, this CVT doesn’t feel as ready to jump to high revs at the touch of the gas pedal. Nail it and it zips to the power peak, and the engine isn’t exactly sonorous up there, but around town the engine/transmission combo is benign as with the traditional automatic transmission.

Along with the drivetrain, the Versa Sedan’s suspension is the same as the Versa Note’s, MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam axle at the rear. While no one will confuse it with anything wearing an Infiniti logo, the Versa Sedan’s ride is commendably smooth—for what it is—and quiet. There’s a pleasingly minimal amount of wind noise and we’ve heard more road noise from more expensive models.

Not atypical for its class, the 2015 Nissan Versa Sedan has rear drum brakes. With the Versa’s low curb weight that’s not as big a concern as it might be, but we still wouldn’t want to have to make repeated quick stops. Drum brakes don’t shed heat like discs, but a light car like the Versa doesn’t accumulate it that quickly either.

The 2015 Nissan Versa Sedan’s product lineup starts with the “S” trim level which, despite its $11,990 sticker for a five-speed manual transmission car, isn’t…well, good luck finding one on a dealer’s lot. Handcrank windows are a hard sell.

2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV

2015 Nissan Versa Sedan SV

Next up is the Versa Sedan S Plus, which replaces the standard S model’s manual/four-speed automatic choice with Nissan’s CVT automatic, plus a rear spoiler and rear wheel spats, and doubles the number of the audio system’s speakers from two to four. The S Plus also gets cruise control…but still handcrank wndows and manual door locks. The price goes up to $13,990.

The Nissan Versa Sedan SV should be the most popular trim line. At $15,530, it adds an upgraded fabric headliner, a maplight with key activated illuminated entry, plus USB/iPod controls and an outside temperature display.

Adding $1,630 to the SV’s price nets the Versa Sedan SL. That $16,890 brings niceties include proximity key “keyless” entry and pushbutton starting along with  AM/FM/CD/USB-iPod audio with a five-inch display and NissanConnectSM with Mobile Apps. That’s either an extravagance on an inexpensive car, or luxury touches otherwise out of reach for a new car buyer. Going all out with the SL Technology package enlarges the monitor screen to 5.8 inches. Satellite radio is available only on the SL.

More plus window sticker and specifications next page.