The Nissan Versa remains a fan-favorite for its budget-friendly price tag, great features, and smooth performance. Even for the 2020 model year, the price starts at only $14,730. Similar competitor cars such as the Hyundai Accent and Honda Fit are much pricier. Nissan cars boast good performance in general. But for some time, the Nissan Versa problems got out of hand.
While this affordable option may seem like the perfect choice when you are shopping on a budget, there are two model years you must steer clear of. Tainted by user complaints, these Nissan Versa problems have managed to overshadow the pros.
What are these issues and are they really that severe? Find out below.
- Origin Story
- Problems By Model Years
- Nissan Versa Recalls
- 2019 Nissan Versa Reliability
- 2020 Nissan Versa Reliability
The Origin Story Of The Nissan Versa
North American-branded Nissan Versa is a compact car that goes by many other names depending on the market, like the Sentra, the Sunny, and the Pulsar. The automaker selected the name Versa since it was supposed to be brief for “versatile space.” The nameplate is supposed to indicate how the compact car has a surprisingly generous interior space and many cargo configurations.
In the U.S., Nissan introduced this car in 2006 and to this day, it remains one of the more affordable vehicles in today’s market.
Although Nissan started manufacturing the Versa in 2004, the brand waited 2 years to introduce it to the American market. North America’s first interaction with the Nissan Versa was in the form of the 2007 Nissan Versa. The hatchback model was launched first followed by a sedan later in the year.
When it first hit the U.S. shores, the Nissan Versa was priced at only $9,990, making it one of the least expensive vehicles of this kind. The sleek design paired with the low asking price made it popular amongst young buyers.
What made the Nissan Versa such an all-rounder? For starters, the 2007 model focused on usability and comfort in a compact size. The front was inspired by Murano whereas the rear took inspiration from 350Z. Under the hood, Nissan added the MR18, a “Best in Class” engine with 122 HP/127 lb-ft torque horsepower/torque rating.
Paired with impressive rear legroom and capacious 17.8 cubic foot cabin, the Versa makes efficient use of its entire dimension. All these features awarded the 2007 Nissan Versa the title of “Best Buy Aware” by Consumers Digest.
The lineup went through its share of ups and downs but currently is one of the more highly regarded budget-friendly cars money can get. Recently, the manufacturer added a sporty yet smaller Versa Note to the group. Economically conscious customers will be pulled in by the impressive fuel economy and low MSRP.
Another recent redesign has given the Versa a brand new look, making it appear similar to its larger siblings, like the Altima.
Common Nissan Versa Problems
Although it is a very reliable car, the Nissan Versa has its issues. Some model years did not have it in them to fill the very large shoes of their predecessors. While the 2009 Versa recorded the highest number of user complaints, the complications were more severe with the 2012 Nissan Versa. Here are some of the most frequently mentioned Nissan Versa problems for multiple model years:
The 2012 Nissan Versa had a shocking number of complaints regarding the transmission. It was prone to failure once the average mileage crossed the 72,900-miles margin. Repairing a transmission costs around $4,000 – one of the most expensive repairs for a car.
A few transmission problems can sprout in the automatic transmissions, but the majority of them affected the CVT transmissions spanning between the 2012 to 2017 model years. Common examples include:
- Jerking transmission during driving
- Trouble shifting gears
- Whining noises
- Jumps in tachometer scale
- The car abruptly stopping in the middle of the road
In most of these cases, the problem went away entirely only after the transmission was replaced, either with a remanufactured system or a brand new one. Some disgruntled owners decided to get rid of their Nissan Versa rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on getting the faulty transmission fixed.
There was a lot going for the 2016 Nissan Versa, such as a spacious interior and great fuel economy. However, complaints started flowing in reporting how the car tended to fly or drift into opposite lanes. The problem seemed to happen on the interstate and open roads at median speed.
The dealerships claimed their sedans were really out of alignment. Even after repairs were done, the Versa did not seem to react properly.
NHTSA complaints brought up other issues linked to steering failure. Some owners claimed the car would wander back and forth or veer off across the road. The steering wheel would lock without warning, sharply increasing the risk of accidents. Drivers would end up rear-ending another car on the road.
Similar to the drifting problem, these issues persisted despite multiple repairs at Nissan dealerships.
Poor Coil Springs
Perhaps the 2009 Nissan Versa is not as bad as the 2012 model, but the benchmark is not that high, to begin with. Recurring problems exist in these models. The 2009 model year did not receive as many complaints about the transmission but people noted how the suspension was disappointing this time. The coil springs are super brittle and will break down often, taking down other suspension components with them.
In a particular case, the broken front coil cracked the bottom strut. The damaged strut rotated the tire, ripping up the interior of the rubber tire. In worse cases, the damaged coil spring damaged the tire by itself, resulting in a blowout.
On top of that, the tire would separate entirely from the vehicle. As a result, the car would bang into the tire before swerving out of control, damaging the ball joints, axle, and brake line.
Nissan announced a recall to address the front coil springs issue. Springs contain a corrosion coating to protect them from road salt while driving in winter. Turns out, there was not enough coating for states that had excessive road salt. Rust would develop on these coil springs and they would disintegrate faster than usual.
Suspension problems on the Nissan Versa are not limited to simply the front coil springs. Cracked rear coil springs are a common cause. Faulty springs must be replaced before they damage other suspension components.
Takata airbags are a popular airbag choice for many vehicles, and for the model years 2007 through 2011, Nissan Versa had those. However, these airbags were subjected to a recall after multiple reports claimed they would not deploy during collisions. Apart from engaging too slowly or not engaging at all, Takata airbags were prone to bursting, injuring the occupants.
As if not bad enough on their own, the Takata airbag problems became more severe when paired with the poor functionalities of the Nissan Versa. If a suspension, steering, or transmission problem would disrupt the control of the sedan, it could lead to a crash. And if the airbags would not deploy, people could get seriously injured.
Nissan Versa Problems By Model Years
There are three generations in the Nissan Versa lineup:
- First Generation: 2007 to 2011
- Second Generation: 2012 to 2019
- Third Generation: 2020 to present
As we mentioned before, not all the Nissan Versa models are problematic. In fact, some of them remain within the top 10 affordable sedans for many. However, to determine which one you should get, you must be aware of the problems each model year has.
Worst Nissan Versa Model Years
According to Car Complaints, a concerning 734 complaints and 150 problems were reported for the 2009 Nissan Versa. Almost 30% of this car’s problems are linked to the suspension system. Out of 30% of these issues, about all of them were due to broken coil springs. Owners generally had to pay around $600 to get it fixed and the problems started appearing at about 71,000 miles.
Minor issues include hubcaps falling off, failing handles, failing exhaust system, and poor engine and transmission.
On the other hand, the 2012 Versa was riddled with transmission problems. A total of 145 problems and 708 complaints were reported by users – the most common issue being with the transmission. 70% of these complaints revolved around transmission failure. The average price of replacing a transmission is $4,000. Needless to say, this model year got awful reviews everywhere.
In general, the 2007 and 2012 model years are the worst Nissan Versas so avoid these at all costs.
2007 Nissan Versa Problems
The representative of the Nissan Versa line, the 2007 model had little to no performance problems. Of course, it was not immune to the occasional malfunction. The only problem users had with it apart from the faulty airbags were the hubs and wheels system. There were minor issues with the exhaust system too.
Nissan issued two recalls in the United States for Versa 2007-2011 to fix the airbag problem – the first in May 2016 and the other in July 2017. Dealerships were unable to solve this problem due to a shortage of parts so the problem only worsened.
Coming back to the hubs and wheel system, users reported that hubcaps would keep falling off. In addition, the tire pressure sensor light would remain on. Hubcap replacement costs just under $300 and starts happening at around 38,000 miles.
2007 Nissan Versa problems were nothing out of the ordinary for a regular car. The exhaust system was said to go down with premature muffler corrosion of the occasional faulty catalytic converter. In both cases, the best solution was to replace the muffler which would cost the owner around $550. Symptoms occurred near 60,000 miles.
2008 Nissan Versa Problems
For the 2008 model year, top complaints were similar to the 2007 model year problems – exhaust system failure, airbag issues, and poor seatbelts. The exhaust system issues include:
- Rusting exhaust flange
- Premature rust on the exhaust
- Rotting of catalytic converter joint
Fixing the exhaust range would typically cost $280 and the problems would start at 61,000 miles on average. Experts recommended drivers change the exhaust assembly.
NHTSA complaints, for the most part, dealt with airbags and seat belt difficulties. The airbag light would blink continuously, airbags would not deploy, the airbag sensor was unresponsive, and users also reported that the airbag light would not turn off for multiple days at a time. Issues like that caused nine crashes, ten injuries, and 1 death.
2009 Nissan Versa Problems
Most of the complaints about the 2009 Nissan Versa focus on wheels and hubs along with suspension, with the NHTSA claiming 200 complaints poured in about the suspension. A broken coil spring was what was generally messing with the suspension.
Signs included faulty control arm bushings and a popping noise emitting from the front end. Owners would have to spend an average of $570 to get the broken coil spring repaired and it was assumed that the problems would start at about 71,000 miles.
2010 Nissan Versa Problems
It was in 2010 when a brand new complaint started surfacing about the Nissan Versa. Exterior accessories along with suspension problems had owners reporting 119 complaints. Airbag and seat belt issues were included as well.
However, the top complaints about the suspension remained the same – noise from the strut and strut and spring failure. Median repair costs rounded up to $630 and were incurred at around 66,000 miles.
Complaints registered at the NHTSA dealt with the airbag light staying on along with issues with the frontal airbags and seat belts. Problems like that caused ten crashes, one fire, and eight injuries. Drivers noted how the problems would start at about 23,000 miles.
2012 Nissan Versa Problems
Now comes the worst Nissan Versa to have been made by the automaker. Model years 2012 to 2017 displayed failures in the CVT transmission and would have the owners spending thousands to get it fixed. The defect was brought up in a class action settlement in late 2018 but the actual lawsuit was filed in 2012.
Main user complaints included:
- Noisy transmission
- Transmission failure
- Clunking transmission
- Car shifting roughly or jerking
2014 Nissan Versa Problems
2014 marks the last model year where there were significant Nissan Versa problems. Users complained about the transmission while NHTSA complaints talked about the drivetrain errors. The transmission would fail often, refuse to get into gear, and not deliver enough power to the engine to accelerate.
Typically, repair costs would average around $3,600 and customers could expect to develop in the car after 81,000 miles.
NHTSA complaints about the drivetrain focused on the loss of power during acceleration, the excessive time required to shift the car, wobbliness when the vehicle accelerated, and transmission failure during use. Two crashes and one injury were caused by these shortcomings.
Nissan Versa Recalls
In its most remarkable 13-years lifespan, the Versa has been subjected to 22 recalls. To no one’s surprise, the 2012 model year was recalled the most.
Usually, the automaker or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a recall due to widespread safety concerns. Most of them were owing to faulty passenger airbag inflators. Below is a table of Nissan Versa recalls to date:
Number of Recalls
One of the earliest and most severe recalls dealt with airbags for the window and sides. The manufacturers issued a recall because some model years were known to be equipped with a particular side curtain airbag. Those airbags featured a harmful propellant mixture, decreasing the amount of compressed gas and stopping the airbags from deploying properly.
One more recall was announced a few years later but this one mentioned passenger side frontal airbags. Some 2007 to 2011 Versa cars were recalled as they came with inflators prone to rupturing. When the propellant degraded due to long-term exposure to elevated temperatures, the airbags would fail to deploy.
There was another recall that dealt with the front suspension, suspension, and coil springs. Certain model years between 2007 to 2012 model years had corroded front coil springs. As a result, the coil springs would crack, occasionally puncturing the tire altogether.
2019 Nissan Versa Reliability
According to RepairPal, the 2019 Nissan Versa has a 4.0 out of 5.0 on the reliability scale. It received 21st place in the 2019 Hatchbacks category, 11th place in the 2019 Subcompact Cars category, and slightly lowers rankings in a handful of other categories.
In the 2019 Affordable Small cars category, the Versa earned the 31st position as well as a 37th position in the Used Subcompact Cars (Between $10,000 to $15,000), 45th place in Used Hatchbacks ($12,000 to $15,000), and 46th place in Used Small CArs ($12,000 to $14,000).
In total, the rating in the U.S. News Scorecard was 6.9 out of 10 while critics’ rating totaled 5.6. A breakdown of that:
- Performance: 4.5
- Interior: 6.2
- Total ownership cost: 9.2
- Safety: 8.1
- Reliability score from JD power: 3.5
All of these marks are out of a 10 scale.
2020 Nissan Versa Reliability
The 2020 Versa ranked significantly higher than its immediate predecessor by scoring the 6th position in the Subcompact Cars category. The car earned the 20th position in the Small CArs segment. The U.S. News Scorecard total is 7.7 out of 10 but critics rate it an impressive 9.2. Breakdown of score:
- Performance: 6.2 / 10
- Interior: 6.8 / 10
- Safety: 9.5 / 10
- JD Power reliability index: 3 / 5
The best features of the 2020 Versa include a lower price tag in comparison to other models, a stylish, sleek interior, great standard inclusions, and a reliable safety score. The cons of this otherwise good model would be the low-performing and weak engine, the slow-to-respond touch screen, lack of functionality of touch screen, and lesser second-row space.
Longevity Of Nissan Versa In Comparison To Similar Subcompact Cars
When comparing two subcompact cars, we will take into consideration three factors:
- Reliability rating
- Miles covered
- Maintenance cost annually
Nissan Versa Vs. 2019 Honda Fit
Truth be told, the 2019 Fit outperforms the Versa in almost every single category, as the 2019 Nissan Versa got a rather poor score in the total US News Rankings. 2019 Honda Fit is only available in a hatchback design, but it does offer generous cargo space for the passenger area and gear. It also features a roomy cabin and a decorated interior, dissimilar to the Nissan Versa.
The Nissan only contains a single rearview camera whereas the Fit is equipped with multiple safety and driving assistance features to add to its overall reliability. Although acceleration is not a strong suit for either of these cars, the Fit ensures better fuel economy and smoother handling.
Nissan Versa Vs. Nissan Sentra
Comparing the Versa to a sister model, the Nissan Sentra is definitely a better compact car. It scores higher in terms of reliability and has an extra driver safety feature. The sweet 188 HP engine is one of the things owners liked most about this car, including the larger class. The Sentra, however, does not offer any additional cargo or passenger space.
That being said, we still think it’s best to invest a little and get the Sentra instead of the Versa.
Nissan Versa Vs. Ford Fiesta
Based on covered miles, the Nissan Versa is as long-lasting as the Ford Fiesta. These cars can easily cross 200,000 miles with proper maintenance and care. Both scores a 4.0 out of 5.0 on the reliability scale of RepairPal. However, in terms of rank as a subcompact camp, the Versa is ahead. It stands at 9th position while the Fiesta is at 13th place out of 21.
On average, maintenance of a Ford Fiesta costs $552 annually whereas it costs $456 per year to maintain a Nissan Versa. So, there is a $96 cost difference in terms of maintenance.
Be it used or new, a Versa in general, is a good car. It’s important to study up the common Nissan Versa problems each model year displays. If you already own this car, knowing about these problems beforehand can help you extend the service life of your vehicle.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.