Affordable, stylish, and ready to hit the road. That’s the story behind the 2021 Nissan Versa as the little car cruises into dealerships just ahead of the new year. If you want a practical and economical set of wheels, it’s tough to overlook the Versa. Contrary to popular belief, the humble sedan isn’t going anywhere and will continue to hold its own in a truck and SUV world.
Cool as trucks and SUVs are, they are also quite spendy. The Versa, which was completely redesigned last year, sails into 2021 with a host of newfound updates, minus the price tag.
There are three trim levels for the Nissan Versa: S, SV, and SR. Here is a look at the starting MSRP for each. The figures below include the $925 destination and handling fee.
Versa S: $17,525
Versa SV: $18,665
Versa SR: $19,365
The Versa S does have an option for a manual transmission. Going that route, you can shave a little more off the MSRP. With a manual, the Versa S begins at $15,855. Only the S model has the option for a manual transmission. The SV and SR are strictly automatics.
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
Under the hood of the 2021 Nissan Versa is the automaker’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft. of torque. The trick is not to get too caught up in the horsepower and torque figures. Given the Versa’s small footprint (no configuration is above 3,000 lbs.), the 1.6-liter should be “zippy” enough to move the car, but for a fraction of what it would cost to fill up a bigger vehicle. I would even wager that, with something like the new Versa, a driver could improve their fuel economy with gentle acceleration and braking.
As mentioned above, the S trim level has the option for the five-speed manual. Otherwise, the engine is paired to an Xtronic automatic transmission. With the Xtronic transmission, EPA fuel economy estimates come in at 32/40 city/highway and 35 combined. Opt for the manual and the estimates drop to 27/35 city/highway and 30 combined.
Every 2021 Nissan Versa is front-wheel drive only. If you fancy Nissan sedans and want all-wheel drive, it is an option on the new Altima.
Safety & Security
Standard on SV and SR, and optional on the S, is Nissan Safety Shield 360. The package of advanced safety features includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Though a small car, the 2021 Nissan Versa benefits from a unibody design and strategically placed front and rear crumple zones (Nissan will often call this a “Zone Body” construction). During an impact, the crumple zones dissipate crash energy away from the occupants. The hood features “buckling creases” that work like the crumple zones, while an energy-absorbing steering column helps to protect the driver further.
On the Versa SR, fog lights are standard to help with nighttime driving. A tire pressure warning system and the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) are standard on every 2021 Nissan Versa.
Interior & Tech Treatments
Like the larger Nissan Maxima, the Versa makes good use of the automaker’s “Gliding Wing” design for the interior. The goal is to create a stylish, driver-centric vehicle where all of the controls are within easy reach. Highlights include the D-shaped steering wheel, “floating” seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth capability, Siri Eyes Free, push-button start, and the option for heated seats. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on SV and SR.
The available 60/40-split fold-down rear seat provides some additional room if you need to carry longer items. However, if you opt for the S with a manual transmission, the 2021 Nissan Versa will come with a fixed rear seat.
Although a solid offering, the Nissan Versa is not alone. If you are looking for a reliable and affordable compact sedan, you have several additional options. The Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, and Chevy Sonic are all strong contenders in this arena. In terms of exterior styling, the 2021 Nissan Versa is our favorite, although the Chevy Sonic is a close second.
Given the lower fuel economy and the lack of a fold-down rear seat, we would probably pass on the Versa’s optional manual transmission. We would opt for either the SV or SR, given the better fuel economy and other standard features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM, and a six-speaker audio system.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.