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Those who are in the market for a subcompact sedan with an affordable price tag attached to it will likely find the 2021 Nissan Versa to be an attractive option this year. Hot off of its redesign in 2020, the 2021 sees relatively few changes - and that is a good thing. Everything that Nissan did in 2020, they did right.
Last model year, the Nissan Versa got a total overhaul. The exterior and interior were both fully restyled in order to appear more contemporary. The exterior became much more aerodynamic, and the lighter body weight means that the Versa is able to be more nimble on its feet than it was in the past. The vehicle now sits about 2.3 inches lower to the ground and is about 1.8 inches wider. Also, its profile is about 1.6 inches longer than the outgoing generation's. This makes it look a lot more like the Altima.
Feature-wise, the Versa has become, ahem, more well verse-a'ed in infotainment and safety features. Last year saw the inclusion of exponentially more standard and optional features, such as the total standardization of keyless entry and ignition and power doors and locks, all of which were once relegated to the line-topping trim levels.
What else do you get with the 2021 Versa? Well, it really depends on which trim level you want to buy. Since the Versa Note hatchback was dropped for the 2020 overhaul, you can only get the Versa as a sedan. Take your pick from the base S trim, the mid-tier SV, or the line-topping SR trim level. Each one has a little something different that makes the value go up.
We will tell you right off the bat not to expect any serious mechanical differences. All three trim levels are powered by the same standard 1.6-L 4-cylinder engine that generates a power output of 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets 35 mpg combined, with 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Also, front-wheel drive is the standard drivetrain for the Versa. All three share the same foundations, but as you go up in trim levels, you will find differences in terms of cosmetics, safety features, infotainment gadgets, and creature comforts.
So, which features are equipped on which trim levels? Read on to find out. Oh, and be sure to hang on through the conclusion since that is where we will announce which of the 2021 Nissan Versa's three trim levels we think offers the most bang for its buck.
Compare the 2021 Nissan Versa S vs SV - What is the Difference?
The base S trim level starts you off with the essentials for the 2021 Nissan Versa. As we already mentioned above, the Versa is powered by the 1.6-L 4-cylinder engine. This engine is not turbocharged and comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to round out the powertrain. And, again, there is only front-wheel drive available. You cannot get all-wheel drive as an option for the Versa. The CVT was added for the 2020 overhaul and, so far, pairs up nicely with the 1.6-L engine. This engine gets 13 hp and 5 lb-ft more of torque than its predecessor, so we view that as a 'win' for sure. There is a 5-speed manual that can be equipped on the S trim level, but many people will likely opt for the CVT since stick drivers seem to be fewer and farther between these days. Still, if you want a manual transmission, you can get one, but it is only available on the S. The SV and SR stick to using just the CVT.
Both the S and SV come with an array of standard mechanical features. These include brake assist, an independent front strut suspension, a torsion beam rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, and electric power steering. The S rides atop standar 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers equipped while the SV has 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels put on.
Both vehicles have a fairly generous amount of driver assistance technologies for the Versa being a 'budget' vehicle. Whether you buy the S or the SV, you get cruise control, intelligent forward collision warning, a pedestrian detection feature with the automatic emergency braking function, lane departure warning, high beam assist, a rear-view monitor, rear automatic braking, and vehicle dynamic control along with a traction control system. To that, the SV adds even more helpful features like intelligent driver alertness, a blind spot monitoring system, and a rear cross traffic alert.
On the outside, these two trim levels do look remarkably similar. You will have to look closely to see some distinctions - and there are a few. So, what all do they share? The S and SV both have automatic on/off headlights up front for the halogen projector beam headlights, a chrome-V motion grille, power side mirrors, and a rear diffuser with a carbon fiber look to it. The S has black door handles and outside mirror caps while the SV has those done in your choice of body paint colors instead. Also, on the SV, the side mirrors have power heating with LED turn indicators built into them.
Enough about the outside since we all know it is really what is on the inside that matters. The Versa looks great on the outside, and the inside is quite the treat. Gone are all the hard plastics and tacky fabrics that once composed the Versa's cabin. Now, even on the S trim, you get a well-designed cabin fraught with high-quality materials. The S and SV both have an in-cabin micro filter with the air conditioning system. They also feature one-touch up/down on the power driver's window, and the power door locks have a speed-sensing auto-lock feature on them. Push button start comes with the standard remote keyless entry system. You also get a tilt and telescoping steering column, dual sun visors with extensions and illuminated vanity mirrors, a 12-volt power outlet, and map and reading lights. The SV adds a rear door alert.
As far as seating goes, both trims come with a driver's seat that is manually adjustable six ways and a front passenger's seat that is manually adjustable four ways. There is standard cloth trim on the S and upgraded premium cloth trim on the SV. Both have matte carbon fiber looking interior door trim and rear seats that are 60/40-split folding. The only difference is that the SV has chrome interior door handles.
Infotainment is where things get a bit different. Let's go over what the S has first: a 7-inch touchscreen display, Siri Eyes Free, Voice Recognition, an AM/FM radio tuner with a 4-speaker sound system, a hands-free text messaging assistant, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Bluetooth audio streaming, an auxiliary jack input, three USB ports, and audio controls mounted to the steering wheel. So, what does the SV add? It gets a 3-month trial to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Google Asistant on Android Auto, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the NissanConnect 7-inch color touchscreen display, and the advanced driver-assist display. This is where Nissan really hits the sweet spot with its upgrades, and we can see why a lot of buyers went for the SV trim level in 2020.
Compare the 2021 Nissan Versa SV vs SR - What is the Difference?
How, exactly, does the SR compare to the mid-tier SV trim level? How does it sweeten the deal - or does it? It does make a few additions, including adding on some options that you cannot get on the lower trim levels at all.
When it comes to the driver assistance technologies, there are not really any noteworthy differences between the SV and SR. The SR makes intelligent cruise control an option for buyer, but that is the extent to which Nissan makes any changes. The Versa SV is already really well-equipped with driver aids for being a 'budget' vehicle, so it is hard to lodge any complaints here. It might be something you want to add on, sure, but you have to spend a few grand more to do so.
The SR does upgrade you to some cool-looking 17-inch split 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels. They come with all-season tires. On the front fascia, you might notice that the headlights look different, and that's because they are upgraded to LED headlights with an LED signature. You also get LED fog lights, a dark chrome V-motion grille, black-painted side mirrors, and a rear spoiler done in your choice of the body color.
The interior design has a few more standard features as well as available options included. Inside of the SR, you will find Follow Me Home headlights, a push button ignition as part of the Nissan Intelligent Key, and options for automatic temperature control and a remote engine start system that comes with intelligent climate control. You also get a driver's seat-mounted arm rest, sport cloth trim for the seats, Prima-Tex trim for the dash, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, and the option of adding heating to the front seats.
The infotainment features list sees barely any upgrades. Two more speakers get added to the sound system, but that's really the only big change. Other than that, there is little else to report as being truly different between the SV and the SR. The only package that is available on any trim level is the Convenience package, which you can equip on the SR. This is how you get those heated front seats, automatic temperature control, and intelligent cruise control. Otherwise, you will have to take the plunge and buy a lot of separate optional add-ons.
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Which Trim to Choose?
Now that we have gone over that makes the 2021 Nissan Versa's three trim levels different, let us give you our final verdict. It should be fairly obvious that we favor one trim above the rest. If you have not sussed it out by now, that trim is the mid-tier SV trim level.
The SV offers a huge list of standard features for a really reasonable price. The jump you see in features from the S to the SV is intense, but the price tag is not, which is what really impresses us about the SV. Sure, you do not get any other choice in powertrain or even drivetrain, but the mechanical aspects are relatively solid for this being an economy-minded vehicle. With that in mind, picking out the SV trim is pretty easy.
The sheer amount of infotainment features alone is impressive. We don't think you will need those extra two speakers on the SR trim to make you feel "wow"ed. What you get inside of the SV is more than good enough for the price you pay. We really dig the Nissan Connect infotainment system and think it is one of the better systems out there right now, as it is very user-friendly and has a logical set-up to its menus filled with crystal-clear graphics.
Th S is fine but a bit too basic, and the SR just doesn't go the extra mile. Going middle-of-the-road with the SV gets you the best deal on the 2021 Nissan Versa. Most drivers should be pleased with what they find inside of this cozy little sedan, and, in particular, inside of this trim level.
• Compare the 2020 Nissan Versa Trim Levels