I must start by saying that I think the Versa sedan is the ugliest car on the US market right now.
To me it looks like an 80's eastern European car.
So there I said it.
The current Sentra is no beauty queen but it looks like Marylin Monroe next to the Versa.
The rear view is the Versa's worst and dorkiest angle. Really.
A tall and narrow car with tiny wheels never looks good.
But is the cheapest car in the country and a bit less than $10 000. My test model was the 1.6 Liter Sedan with Air. Which turns out to be $12 000 including destination.
SentraI drove was the SL model with a premium package, retailing $21 500.
So we're talking almost $10 000 more than the Versa. A huge difference.(But a base Sentra starts at about $17 000)
-HOW IT IS INSIDE.
The Sentra dash is nothing amazing, but everything seems to work very well. The stereo has good sound quality. The SL comes with leather and the premium package adds a sunroof.
Everything is well put together and of good quality.
The seating position is a bit high. Too high for my taste.
The Versa I drove didn't even have a radio. That also means no clock.
That means i had to drive playing the harmonica most of the time, or practice the guitar in parking lots.
You'd be surprised how many times a day you want to listen to .. something, anything.. or even check the time from the dashboard. Sure, we all have phones and watches. But the clock on the dash is such a habit... It's just weird not having one.
The Versa interior is 100% hard and cheap looking. That's what you get for buying the cheapest car around.
And it always reminds you that you did.
The back seat is roomy on the Sentra. But even more so in the smaller Versa.
It's actually pretty amazing. You would thin that if they could do "whatever they do" to make such a small car that roomy, their Altima sedan should have the back seat of a Town Car. (But it doesn't...)
-HOW IT DRIVES:
Both cars have a very smooth ride. Making the Sentra feels like a more expensive car than it is.
There is nothing the ride, or anything else, can do to make the Versa feels like a more expensive car....
But the Versa didn't feel as stable on the freeway. It felt really light.
Again, letting you know you got the cheapest new car around...
Steering in both cars is of course pretty light. But also precise.
The 2.0 Liter in the Sentra is an amazingly smooth and quiet engine. The car is always quiet and refined, no matter how you push it.
The smaller 1.6 Liter in the Versa isn't.
It's not terrible. But it gets really busy at speed past 65MPH. So I guess it kind of forces you to stay under the speed limit...
The CVT shines again in the Sentra. Being very quick to respond to your right foot input.
The 5 speed manual in the Versa was fine. Very easy to shift and smooth.
But the shifter itself felt like I could break it if I went too hard on it.
The Sentra is a really good compact car.
Quick enough, smooth and super quiet. And the SL can become a small luxury car if you order every option.
Sure it isn't really cheap. But carsdirect has loaded ones for under $20 000.
The Versa is cheap. And reminds it to you constantly.
To me, I would rather get a really decent used car for $12 000 than the Versa.
If you get a higher end version, you'd still have to deal with the cheap unstable feel at freeway speed, hard cheap looking and feeling plastics etc...
And then, that would be almost $15 000. (A base Sentra starts at $17 000)
I would recomand the Sentra for someone looking for a good compact sedan. Even the look grew on me in the week I had it.
On the other hand, the look of the Versa never did. And I would really recomand a good used car for the same money.
Or check out what the "cheap cars specialists" Hyundai/Kia have to offer for $12 000.
Even the similarly priced Chevrolet Aveo I drove last year was better and much more upscale.