The Worst Nissan Versa Model Years You Should Never Buy

Until recently, the Nissan Versa held the distinction of being the most affordable car on the market. Even for the 2022 model year, pricing for Nissan Versa starts at $15,080, making it cheaper than rivals such as the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.

This subcompact sedan may seem like a budget-friendly option, especially if you’re shopping for a used one. Still, one model year of the Nissan Versa has received the most owner complaints. More importantly, there’s another model year that you should avoid entirely because of its major problems. Here’s what you need to know before you buy a used Nissan Versa, with a bit of help from data compiled by Car Complaints.

The 2009 Nissan Versa has the most complaints

A 2009 Nissan Versa compact sedan model with a silver gray paint color option stopped while attempting to turn
2009 Nissan Versa sedan | Nissan Motor Corporation

According to Car Complaints, the 2009 Nissan Versa had 150 problems and 734 complaints – the most of all Versa model years. Almost a third of them (49) related to the car’s suspension system, which also had 178 NHTSA complaints.

Of these 49 problems, 45 were related to broken coil springs. The Versa’s broken coil spring problem earned a severity rating of “pretty bad.” Owners had to pay an average of $570 to have it fixed, and the average mileage when the problem occurred was 70,650 miles.

The rest of the problems were a mixed bag. They ranged from hubcaps falling off to broken door handles to exhaust system failure and more. A relatively few serious issues had high severity ratings. These problems affected the car’s transmission, engine, and fuel pump. Still, only a handful of these problems required expensive repairs or occurred more frequently at lower mileage. For these reasons, Car Complaints didn’t rank the 2009 Nissan Versa as the worst model year.

The 2012 Nissan Versa has the most problems

Several models in the Nissan lineup, such as the 2013 Altima and the 2005 and 2007 Pathfinder, have been plagued with transmission issues. The 2012 Nissan Versa shares this defect. According to Car Complaints, it’s had a total of 708 complaints and 145 problems. Transmission issues were the most reported problem for this model year. 

Of these problems, 69 involved transmission failure. Car Complaints gave these problems a severity rating of “pretty awful.” They typically cost owners $3,590 to repair and occurred, on average, at 72,850 miles. 

Most problems involved CVT transmissions, but a few owners also reported trouble with automatic transmissions. Owners described difficulty with shifting, jerkiness as they drove the car, the tachometer jumping, and the transmission whining. In many cases, the vehicle stopped while it was out on the road, making it frighteningly dangerous for its occupants. This makes a bad case for Nissan Versa reliability.

Getting a new transmission was the most common solution to this problem, with 40 instances reported by owners. Up to 14 drivers said they replaced the failing transmission with a remanufactured one, and 13 owners were unsure of the solution. Sadly, two owners reported junking the car as the solution to transmission failure.

How can you fix the Versa’s faulty transmission?


2022 Kia Rio vs. 2022 Nissan Versa: Subcompact Sedan Comparison

Owners were understandably upset since Nissan was aware of the Versa’s transmission issues. In many cases, the automaker did not cover repair or replacement costs. Adding injury to insult took years for Nissan to address the problem. Car Complaints inserted a special note on its main complaint page for the 2012 Nissan Versa, warning consumers that it has data on the model’s CVT transmission failure for the 2012 to 2017 model years. It reveals that a Nissan CVT class action settlement was reached in late Nov. 2019. 

The settlement covers transmission repairs up to seven years after purchase or 84,000 miles (whichever comes first). Since many owners drive 20,000 miles annually, affected Versa owners may not be covered because of the mileage restriction.

The Nissan Versa sure seems like a cheap transportation alternative, particularly if you’re thinking about buying a used one. However, it’s an option you should approach with extreme caution. The 2009 model year is loaded with problems, and you should probably give it a pass. As for the 2012 Versa, you should take CarComplaints’ “Avoid like the Plague” badge seriously and never buy one.