WHAT IT IS: The all-new 2020 Versa brings a fresh spin on Nissan’s ultra-affordable subcompact car. Like every new generation, the Versa has stretched a little bit bigger at 1.6 inches longer and 1.8 inches wider. While it’s certainly not a full-sized cruiser, the additional interior volume is welcomed. The biggest improvement comes in the form of a new exterior. Inspired by the revised Altima, the Versa appears much sportier. The roof is slightly shorter than the outgoing version and it contributes to the sportier look.
Unfortunately, the Versa is purely sporty in its appearance. The 1.6-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine returns, but it’s been updated to reduce emissions and get slightly more power. It’s now rated at 122 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque. Plenty to do whatever mission you throw at it, but it just won’t be getting there quickly. But speed is not the point of the Versa, of course; it’s about efficiency. The new Versa gets a hefty 32 mpg city and 40 highway.
The interior is modern and comfortable, but the back seat is probably just smaller than most adults would feel comfortable in for a long journey. The extra 1.8 inches in width is well welcomed. The Versa is available in three trims: S, SV and SR. S ($14,730) is your standard basic trim, but still includes some great features like lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking. A manual transmission is standard ($1,670 cost savings versus the CVT) but only on the base S trim. The SV trim is an extra $1,240 and gets you 16-inch aluminum wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment, and all of Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 system. That includes automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and high-beam assist. It’s wonderful to see these safety features in a sub $20,000 car.
The SR trim is an additional $600 and adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, sport seat trim, a rear spoiler, keyless entry with remote engine start, and LED headlights. You usually can’t get features like that for $600 each from most manufacturers. Options include some premium paint colors ($395) and a convenience package which is $300 to add adaptive cruise control and heated seats.
MPG: 32 city/40 highway
PRICE: $14,730 to $18,240 plus $895 destination fee
UPSIDES: Big bang for the buck
DOWNSIDES: Concerns about resale value
WRAP-UP: When I saw people driving this car in the past I cringed a little bit because the Nissan Sentra wasn’t that much more money and was a much better car. Now, you might have a reason to justify the lower price because you are getting a much better car with the Versa. It’s not overly exciting, but it provides great safety features, great gas mileage, and a great price. Does that make it a great car? I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s now competent enough to be on your shopping list.