The 2023 Nissan Versa starts at $18,595 in the United States and at $20,198 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included.
Refined drive, huge trunk, great fuel economy.
No heated steering wheel, sensitive to crosswinds, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is optional.
The 2023 Nissan Versa is currently the third most affordable new car in the U.S. and Canada, competing in a segment that seems ready to disappear as consumers and manufacturers move up to costlier and bigger vehicles.
The Versa, now available exclusively as a four-door sedan, goes head-to-head with the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Kia Rio in what has now become a three-model subcompact car category. Maybe four if we consider the premium MINI hatchback. The Versa is the second lowest-priced sedan in the U.S. behind the Rio and a few bucks less than the Mirage G4, but both the Kia and the Mitsubishi are hatchback-only in Canada, meaning the Versa is the lowest-priced sedan north of the border.
We’re emphasizing the Versa’s MSRP because it’s an important thing to consider. Small, budget-minded cars are becoming increasingly rare, and that’s partially for financial reasons that have nothing to do with the car’s competence. Because the 2023 Nissan Versa is a competent little car.
First of all, its design is more modern than the Mirage’s, which was introduced back for the 2014 model year, while the current-gen Rio launched for the 2018 model year in North America. The latest Versa debuted for the 2020 model year (2021 in Canada) and just received a mild refresh just two years later.
Of course, not everything about the Versa was all-new when it launched. Its naturally aspirated 1.6L four-cylinder engine has been around for ages, although it was revised in the current-generation to see its output rise from 109 to 122 horsepower. Even the late, not-that-great Nissan cube that disappeared after the 2014 model year boasted a 1.6L four with 122 hp, although it was a different engine build. While a six-speed manual is still offered in the base trim level, most buyers will obviously choose the continuously variable automatic transmission.
Didn’t Nissan have all sorts of problems with its CVT? Yes, but the company seems to have figured out what was wrong with it, and fixed it. The more recent models years have has much fewer complaints, it seems. So that’s good news.
The other good news is fuel economy. The 2023 Nissan Versa with the CVT shows city/highway/combined ratings of 32/40/35 mpg or 7.4/5.9/6.7 L/100 km. With the manual, we’re looking at a combined rating of 30 mpg or 7.7 L/100 km, so there’s really no real advantage of choosing it over the automatic gearbox, and it’s not like the car is a blast to drive with a clutch pedal anyway. During out test, we managed a very good 37 mpg or 6.3 L/100 km, and the car was equipped with winter tires, too.
Although 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque may not seem like much, the Versa launches swiftly. It’s not like its rivals were better, as the Mirage putters along with 78 horsepower and the Rio gets 120 horsepower. Sheer speed isn’t the Versa’s main attraction, but at least it has no problem cruising down the interstate at a decent clip.
What the 2023 Nissan Versa is less adept at is keeping a straight line at highway speeds, at least when there’s crosswinds blowing. It’s just how it is with small cars like this one, with a narrow track preventing them from feeling as buttoned down as larger, wider vehicles. That’s one of the differences between the Versa and the compact Nissan Sentra sedan, for those who are wondering which one to choose between the two. The interior noise level is more than acceptable, although we can hear a faint CVT whine from time to time—just like in the Sentra.
Another difference with the Sentra is, of course, interior space. Yet the Versa offers a decent amount of rear-seat legroom for our growing kids, while entry and exit is made easier with long lower rear-door openings. The Versa’s trunk is pretty big with a volume of up to 15.0 cubic feet or 425 litres. That’s more than in the Rio sedan, way more than in the Mirage G4, and even slightly more than in the Sentra. Go figure.
The 2023 Nissan Versa also offers a lot of creature comforts. Our top-shelf SR trim level gets black and gray cloth seats with sporty red inserts, heated front seats, automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control (U.S. only), an intelligent key, blind-spot monitoring as well as an eight-inch infotainment system touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, SiriusXM radio compatibility, a six-speaker stereo, wireless phone charging and NissanConnect services. The SR also gets some visual eye candy with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and a decklid spoiler.
The base S trim features a seven-inch infotainment screen, but sadly, we have to move up to the SV to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, or choose the S Plus Package in the U.S. Air conditioning is standard on the S and SV in the U.S. while automatic climate control is included in the SV and SR trims in Canada, in addition to the heated seats. Unfortunately, no heated steering wheel is available at all.
Pricing for the 2023 Nissan Versa starts at $18,595 in the United States and at $20,198 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included. The range-topping SR is listed from $20,915 or $24,698, depending on which country you live in. Being one of the most-affordable cars doesn’t necessarily mean the Versa is cheap, but it’s not simply basic point-A-to-B transportation like the previous generation was.
Before or after the pandemic, before or after the microchip and supply chain shortages, before or after the high inflation rates we’ve had to cope with in the past couple of years, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed for those who are looking to finance or lease their next new vehicle. The interest rates on compact cars are lower than subcompacts, meaning a Versa will cost about the same, or only a few bucks less a month, than a comparably-equipped Sentra. For that small difference, we’re getting a more comfortable, more spacious car with about the same fuel economy. It’s a no-brainer decision, and one of the reasons why subcompacts cars have all but disappeared from our market.
Is the 2023 Nissan Versa better than the Kia Rio? For Canadians who prefer sedans, it’s the best choice by default. For U.S. shoppers, they’re both pretty close in price and features. The Versa has a bigger trunk while the Rio offers slightly better fuel economy at 36 mpg combined. What’s clear is that the Versa is a much better choice than the Mirage and Mirage G4 sedan, which are underpowered and unrefined, but boast a better warranty. In all cases, if a subcompact car is in your line of sight, don’t wait around for too long because they might not be on the market for very long.