After the pandemic and everything else that’s been going on over the past few years, the market for affordable family cars has exploded. Two offerings from Japanese giant Nissan include the more compact Nissan Versa, and the larger Nissan Sentra. Both are affordable and packed with features, but besides pure size, how else can we distinguish between them?
The Nissan Versa is a subcompact car and slightly smaller than the Nissan Sentra, which is a compact car. The Nissan Versa offers excellent value with its low starting price and strong fuel economy, but we prefer the bigger Nissan Sentra for its more attractive exterior and more spacious interior.
The Nissan Versa is the more budget-friendly of the 2 models, with a starting MSRP of just $15,080. It comes in 3 different trim levels: S, SV, and SR. The S variant is available as both a 5-speed manual and with Xtronic CVT automatic. The SV starts at $17,890, and the SR at $18,490, which means all versions of the Versa start at under $20,000.
The Nissan Sentra starts at $19,510, and comes in 4 trim levels: S, SV, SR, and SR Midnight Edition. The SV starts at $20,570, the SR at $22,100, and the ST Midnight at $22,795.
For many, the exterior styling of the Nissan Sentra is perhaps the more appealing because the Versa is somewhat reminiscent of the always-controversial Toyota Prius design. The front end has a noticeable droop while the rear end remains higher. By contrast, the Sentra has a sportier and more executive feel to its exterior styling.
The Nissan Sentra also features more angular and bolder lines, a larger grille, and large, sweep-back headlights. It’s a whole 5 inches longer and 3 inches wider, which contributes to the slightly grander look of the Sentra, but also to the roomier interior. The Sentra’s interior offers better space, especially for rear passengers.
While the Nissan Sentra is the bigger car, it’s still a relatively small car. While bigger than the Versa and electric Nissan LEAF, it’s positioned behind the Nissan Altima and Nissan Maxima in terms of size.
The Sentra’s interior offers better space, especially for rear passengers.
In terms of interior styling, the Sentra offers more scope for customization and options, including tan quilted leather, Prima-Tex, Sport Cloth, and other upholstery options. Both offer some measure of two-tone seating colors, either in cloth for the Versa, or in contrast stitching for the Sentra.
The cockpits of both are fairly similar, which isn’t surprising since they’re both Nissan cars. Simple elegance reigns supreme with decent-quality materials but a few harder plastics are still in sight – nothing unusual for vehicles within this price range.
The Nissan Versa is powered by a 1.6L inline-4 engine outputting 122-hp and 114 lb-ft of torque paired with either a 5-speed manual transmission or an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) depending on which trim level you choose. The manual is only available on the base model.
The Nissan Sentra houses a bigger 2.0L engine that delivers 149-hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. That’s paired with a CVT transmission as standard. Both are FWD drivetrains.
So, neither of them are exactly horsepower machines, but then again that’s not the primary reason people decide to buy them. On the road, the Nissan Versa is a comfortable ride and the newest version offers much better damping performance than its predecessor. The transmission in particular performs well, helping to keep the mechanics quiet. Thanks to its more compact size, it also benefits from a tighter 17.4-foot turning radius that makes it better at navigating narrow city streets.
The Nissan Sentra has a good-quality independent rear suspension, but if you opt for the very attractive 18-inch wheels, then you can expect there to be more road noise and a somewhat harder and bumpier ride. The brakes, however, are built to impress and can bring it to a halt from 70-mph in just 170 feet.
Unsurprisingly, the more compact Nissan Versa with its smaller engine is more fuel efficient than the Nissan Sentra. It offers 32-mpg in the city, 40-mpg on the highway, and a combined mpg rating of 35-mpg.
The Nissan Sentra only manages 28, 37 and 32-mpg respectively. This doesn’t make the Nissan Sentra an inefficient car, especially for a larger sedan, but it still can’t beat the Versa on efficiency.
The Versa also edges out the Sentra when it comes to cargo space, offering 15 cubic feet compared to just 14.3 cubic feet in the Sentra. This is when rear seats are upright, however, and the Nissan Sentra comfortably edges out the Nissan Versa in total cargo volume when the rear seats are folded down.
Sedans often get compared in terms of leg room, and it’s in this area that the Nissan Sentra has a distinct advantage, which we touched on above. Up front, both cars are about the same, but the Sentra offers 3.7 inches extra legroom in the rear of the car compared to the Versa. That’s great news for adult passengers.
Technology & Features
Standard tech features on both models include a 7-inch infotainment display as standard, 3 USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and voice-activated audio controls. The Nissan Sentra gets a better audio system with 6 speakers compared to just 4 on the Versa. There’s also the option to upgrade the infotainment screen to 8 inches on the Sentra, as well as to an 8-speaker Bose premium sound system.
Nissan is generally very generous when it comes to safety and driver assistance technology. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is present in both cars and includes a whole array of ADAS and safety features.
Namely, you can expect to find automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and rear automatic braking mitigation technology as basic safety features. On top of that, the regular ADAS package includes auto high-beam headlights, hill start assist, tire pressure warning, blind-spot warning, driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, and more.
Both models have also received glowing 5-star reports from the NHTSA for their overall safety under crash test conditions. However, only the Nissan Sentra holds the IIHS “Top safety pick” award.
Those considering the Nissan Versa or Sentra will likely also find themselves considering popular compact cars from Japanese or Korean automakers.
The Nissan Versa is one of the few surviving subcompact cars in the US, and it only really finds itself competing against the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
The Nissan Sentra, on the other hand, faces stiff competition from the immensely popular Toyota Corolla. There are also a lot of other options in the crowded compact sedan segment, such as the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and Hyundai Elantra.
They’re both Nissans and both sedans, and while they share many qualities that are common to Nissan cars like good attention to ADAS and safety features, they also differ in some key ways.
Drivers who want more style from their Nissan sedan will do far better with the Sentra. It has a longer, sleeker, and sportier build compared to the more “progressive” exterior design of the Nissan Versa.
If looks aren’t as important as fuel economy, then the Versa wins out as the cheaper-to-run car. It manages to offer a tiny bit more trunk space with seats up too, though the Sentra does offer better rear leg room, which is probably the more significant difference.
Finally, it’s hard to argue with the price point of the Versa, with all versions being attainable for under $20,000. It’s not that the Nissan Sentra is expensive, because it’s not, but the Versa’s value for money factor is quite remarkable.
|2022 Nissan Versa||2022 Nissan Sentra|
|Engine||1.6L Inline-4 Gas||2.0L Inline-4 Gas|
|Horsepower||122 hp @ 6000 rpm||149 hp @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque||114 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm||146 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm|
|Transmission||5-Speed Manual||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)|
|Drivetrain||Front-Wheel Drive||Front-Wheel Drive|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam||Multi-Link|
|Rear Wheel Size||P195/65HR15||P205/60HR16|
|Front Wheel Size||P195/65HR15||P205/60HR16|
|Turning Diameter (ft.)||34.8||38.1|
|MPG/MPGe - Hwy||35||39|
|MPG/MPGe - City||27||29|
|MPG/MPGe - Combined||30||33|
|Gas Tank Size (gallons)||10.8||12.4|
|Cruising Range - Hwy (miles)||378.0||483.6|
|Size and Weight|
|Max Width (in.)||68.5||71.5|
|Trunk Volume (cu. ft.)||14.7||14.3|
|Front Seat Leg Room (in.)||44.5||44.0|
|Front Seat Head Room (in.)||39.5||38.9|
|Front Seat Hip Room (in.)||50.9||53.5|
|Front Seat Shoulder Room (in.)||53.1||56.4|
|Rear Seat Leg room (in.)||31.0||34.7|
|Rear Seat Head Room (in.)||36.3||36.7|
|Rear Seat Hip Room (in.)||50.1||53.3|
|Rear Seat Shoulder Room (in.)||53.6||54.5|
|HD Radio||Not Available||Not Available|
|WiFi Hotspot||Not Available||Not Available|
|Satellite Radio||Not Available||Not Available|
|Entertainment System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Premium Sound System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Auxiliary Audio Input||Standard||Standard|
|Smart Device Integration||Not Available||Standard|
|Hard Disk Drive Media Storage||Not Available||Not Available|
|Vinyl Seats||Not Available||Not Available|
|Leather Seats||Not Available||Not Available|
|Premium Synthetic Seats||Not Available||Not Available|
|Sun/Moonroof||Not Available||Not Available|
|Leather Steering Wheel||Not Available||Not Available|
|Woodgrain Interior Trim||Not Available||Not Available|
|Rear A/C||Not Available||Not Available|
|Telematics||Not Available||Not Available|
|Seat Memory||Not Available||Not Available|
|Seat-Massage||Not Available||Not Available|
|Keyless Start||Not Available||Standard|
|Multi-Zone A/C||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Liftgate||Not Available||Not Available|
|Climate Control||Not Available||Not Available|
|Head-Up Display||Not Available||Not Available|
|Automatic Parking||Not Available||Not Available|
|Navigation System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Driver Seat||Not Available||Not Available|
|Cooled Rear Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Hands-Free Liftgate||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Rear Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Remote Engine Start||Not Available||Not Available|
|Cooled Front Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Front Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Passenger Seat||Not Available||Not Available|
|Remote Trunk Release||Standard||Standard|
|Heated Steering Wheel||Not Available||Not Available|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||Not Available||Not Available|
|Navigation from Telematics||Not Available||Not Available|
|Universal Garage Door Opener||Not Available||Not Available|
|Steering Wheel Audio Controls||Standard||Standard|
|Night Vision||Not Available||Not Available|
|Rear Parking Aid||Not Available||Standard|
|Blind Spot Monitor||Not Available||Standard|
|Cross-Traffic Alert||Not Available||Not Available|
|Lane Keeping Assist||Not Available||Not Available|
|Tire Pressure Monitor||Standard||Standard|
|Lane Departure Warning||Standard||Standard|
|Knee Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Driver Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Seatbelt Air Bag||Not Available||Not Available|
|Passenger Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Rear Head Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Rear Side Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Front Head Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Front Side Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Basic||3 Years / 36,000 Miles||3 Years / 36,000 Miles|
|Corrosion||5 Years / Unlimited Miles||5 Years / Unlimited Miles|
|Drivetrain||5 Years / 60,000 Miles||5 Years / 60,000 Miles|
|Roadside Assistance||3 Years / 36,000 Miles||3 Years / 36,000 Miles|