2012 Nissan Versa SL Review – ‘V for Versatility’

With a starting price of just $10,990.00, the all-new 2012 Nissan Versa is a perfect first vehicle for young singles, couples and growing families.  Small on the outside, but big on the inside, combining refined styling and a high quality interior, the all-new Versa brings Smart Technology with next-generation efficiency, new dual injector system and sub-planetary CVT design to the sub-compact segment.  Helping out further in the pocketbook of budget minded consumers is Versa’s excellent 30mpg/city and 38mpg/highway specs.

Knowing that entry-level vehicles are used as ‘workhorses’-for commuting on weekdays, errand running on weekends and transporting family and friends all week long-the designers of the new Versa sedan sought to combine five-passenger practicality with a high degree of comfort and refinement.  It also offers an unexpected level of available entertainment and connectivity features such as Bluetooth navigation system with a 5-inch touch screen display, satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface.  Knowing that consumers of subcompacts are always busy, Nissan wanted to make sure that they feel good about their purchase of the new Versa long after the new car smell has worn off.  As a result of Nissan’s study of these consumers, designers invested more time and energy in areas that consumers see and touch most-like available Fine Vision instrumentation, quality fabrics, bright trim work and comfortable seating for front and rear seat passengers.

The new Versa sedan’s interior volume of 90 cu.ft. and trunk volume of 14.8 cu.ft., (104.8 cu.ft. total), are intended to not only look great on a spec sheet-the passenger and cargo spaces have been configured for real-world use.  Versa sedan has more legroom than some midsize sedans-trumping even luxury cars such as the Lexus LS460, BMW 5-Series and M-B E-Class.  The trunk design focuses on useable space, taking into consideration everything from the size of the hinges to the shape of the sidewalls.  A 60/40 split fold-down rear seat is offered in the SL model that I tested for even greater versatility.

Other available interior features include trip computer, power windows with driver’s-side one-touch down, speed sensing auto door locks, remote trunk release, fuel door remote release, and steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls.

The Versa sedan’s new exterior design is also a departure from most current sedans, offering a refreshing design character that is both sophisticated and highly aerodynamic.  The designers gave the exterior shape a strong sense of volume, with a wide shoulder width and a smooth silhouette.  In front Versa sedan features Nissan’s new signature sedan grille design and jewel-like headlights.  The front end blends smoothly into the cabin, which offers flowing curves, while design elements such as the shape of the trunklid help give the new Versa sedan excellent aerodynamics, including a low coefficient of drag of 0.31.  Another styling and aero feature not paid much attention to is the indented line in the middle of the Versa sedan’s sweeping roofline.  Not only a design feature, but it is also a functional innovation that helps reduce the amplitude of the roof panel vibrations in order to create a quieter cabin interior without the use of reinforcement devices call ‘mass bumpers’.  Other exterior features include a fixed roof antenna, body-color front and rear fascias and available chrome-accented grille, blacked-out B-pillar, chrome door handles and front foglamps-all coming standard in the SL model that I tested.

One of the biggest challenges in designing a compact sedan is where to put everything-people, cargo, engine, transmission and other mechanical components.  Often the solution is to gather a fraction of an inch here, a fraction there and hope they add up to a usable benefit.  For the new Versa sedan, the approach was a little more radical-create a totally new global platform and drivetrain, reducing the size of engine and transmission, reducing the number of component parts and reducing platform weight.  It’s unusual for a car company to develop a total new platform for only a second generation vehicle but Nissan sees no barriers to the investment of time and money.

The 2012 Versa Sedan’s all-new front-wheel drive global ‘V’ platform, designated ‘V’ for Versatile, utilizes nearly 20% few platform components and weights 150 lbs. less than the previous ‘B’ platform.  While retaining the same 102.4 inch wheelbase and 66.7 inch width as the previous generation Versa sedan, the new model is 1.2 inches lower in height (59.6 inches) and 0.6 inches shorter in overall length (175.4 inches).  The biggest dimensional gain, however, is in the visible gain in trunk length-provided by a more compact engine/transmission design that allows for a 2.7 inch increase in rear overhang.

The new Versa proves that when it comes to packaging and aerodynamics, not all small, entry-level sedans are created equal.  The same can be said of the engine and CVT transmission that beautifully balances excellent environmental performance, responsive power and smooth, quiet operation.  The second-generation 1.6 liter HR16DE 4-cylinder engine includes a range of cutting-edge technologies, making it one of the most advanced powerplants in its class.  For example, while the average engine uses only one injector per cylinder to inject fuel, the new Versa sedan engine is equipped with two streamlined injectors mounted near the inlet valve for each cylinder.  This dual injector system allows a wider injection of fuel, with the smaller nozzels delivering a finer spray (approximately 57% finer than the previous generation single injector design’s particle size) to help achieve stable combustion.  The new compact, lighter weight engine also utilizes DOHC’s, and twin Continuously Variable Timing Control (CVTC) system mounted on both intake and exhaust ports (versus conventional CVTC systems which are mounted only on the intake port), similar to the system used on the Flagship Nissan Maxima.  Using a CVTC on the outlet port increases thermal efficiency, decreases inhalation resistance and offers an approximate 4% improvement in fuel efficiency.  Other enhancements include the addition of a piston oiling jet, tuning of the piston top shape and expansion of the exhaust manifold diameter.  Putting these advanced engine technologies into an entry-level sedan is what Nissan does best-‘innovation for all’, the new dual injector system also uses around half the amount of rare metals in the catalyzer by reducing the amount of unburned fuel and hydrocarbons emissions.  The new 1.6 liter in-line 4-cylinder engine generates 109hp at 6,000rpm and 107lb.ft. of torque at 4,400rpm that quickly launches the Versa’s light curb weight of just 2,459lbs.  Mated to the engine is a standard five-speed manual transmission (1.6 S model only, and an optional next-generation Xtronic CVT transmission.  Nissan makes one of the smoothest and quietest CVT’s on the market and they continue this fact with the new Versa.  Nissan’s CVT also features a transmission ratio of 7.3:1 which is broader than those of conventional CVTs and even typical 7-speed automatic transmissions.  Friction is reduced by about 30%, weight by about 13% and overall size by about 10% versus the previous Versa sedan DVT design.  The new Versa SL sedan rides on 15X5.5 inch machined aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with 185/65R15 inch Continental Contac all-season tires with excellent traction and a smooth, quiet ride.  With all of these enhancements the Versa gets a very good 30mpg/city and 38mpg/highway.

Making the ride even smoother and giving you more control whether getting around city traffic, on the open road at speed, or when traversing curving roads is an independent MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars to ensure that there is no lean when driving through curves.  Other standard equipment includes electric power steering that is nicely weighed with extra boost at slow speeds and less boost at higher road speeds.  Slowing the new Versa down from speed are front vented steel disc brakes-10 inch clamped with single-piston calipers and 8 inch drum brakes in the rear.  Standard ABS, EBD and BA with traction and electronic stability control work together to keep you in control of the car’s direction when traveling and braking on wet or slick pavement.

In addition, the new Versa will be the first Nissan model in the U.S. branded with the PUREDRIVE designation.  PUREDRIVE will be used on models utilizing Nissan’s most advanced technologies to promote eco-friendly driving and lower CO2 emissions.

Standard equipment not mentioned above in the new Versa sedan includes A/C, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, AM-FM-CD/Aux-in Audio system with six speakers, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry, silver trim accents, chrome inside door handles, dual cupholders, variable intermittent wipers/washers, map light, trunk lamp, rear defogger, dual vanity mirrors, and storage slots in each front door with a deep and wide glove box.

Standard safety features in the new Versa sedan include the Nissan advanced airbag system that includes dual-stage supplemental airbags and front seat side-impact supplemental airbags for chest protection, seat-mounted driver and front passenger side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection, three-point safety belts for all five seating positions with front pretensioners/load limiters, front/rear crumple zones, LATCH system for child seats and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Entry-level sub compact sedans continue their sales increase and the new Nissan Versa is one of the best offering Nissan’s latest powertrain innovations and infotainment features at an affordable price with good looks, and great driving times.

2012 Nissan Versa Beauty Head On Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Beauty Side Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Beauty Rear Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Dashboard Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Cluster Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Front Seats Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Back Seats Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Door Trim Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Badge Done Small
2012 Nissan Versa Engine Done Small



  • Price: Base Versa S Sedan $10,990 / As Tested Versa SL $17,190.00 including $760.00 destination charges.
  • Transmission: CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)
  • Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
  • Total length: 175.4 inches
  • Total width: 66.7 inches
  • Total height: 59.6 inches
  • Track: f/r-58.3/38.5 inches
  • Headroom: f/r-39.8/36.6 inches
  • Legroom: f/r-41.8/37 inches
  • Turning circle: 34.8 ft.
  • Fuel tank: 10.8 gallons
  • 0-60 mph: 10.4 seconds