Entry price: $14,730
Price as tested: $19,465
This week, we’re behind the wheel of the new generation 2020 Nissan Versa, which grows up to near compact class dimensions. Nissan says the name Versa is short for “versatile space,” and meant to imply the spaciousness of the interior and versatile cargo arrangements according to a 2008 Nissan press release.
Previously marketed by Nissan as the least expensive new car in America, the new Versa is so much bigger and better, I’m sure the officials around the corporate boardroom aren’t upset to relinquish this “lowest cost award” to the Mitsubishi Mirage, where for $13,795 you can get into a little three-cylinder sub-compact.
And although Nissan gives up its “least expensive sub-car” crown, this third generation Versa still has an entry price of only $14,730 for entry S trim, and boasts lots of new standard features and sure to be interest from consumers of both the sub-compact and compact class automobiles. Versa’s all-new design also follows the similar design flow of their Nissan siblings ala Sentra, Altima and Maxima.
So, to best explain all of the above (sorry for the long winded wording), Versa goes from being the least expensive sub-compact in America to perhaps the best sub-compact buy in class. (Yes, it’s that much better).
Specifically, Versa for 2020 sits lower to the ground, is wider in width and then adds a longer wheelbase length than the 2019 model. These upgrades stretch Versa to over 103 inches in wheelbase length to near compact class dimensions, all to the benefit of the new Versa consumers. Additionally, Versa might be so popular it could take away some sales from its soon to be released all-new compact Sentra.
Outwardly, the new front “v-design” grille lets everyone know this new Versa is indeed a Nissan class automobile. Better yet, every 2020 Versa now protects its passengers with surprising high tech active safety features including rear safety camera, lane departure warning, collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high beam assist and reverse emergency braking. This is a lot of high-tech safety equipment that is standard even on the $14,730 entry S.
Three distinct 2020 Versa trims are available in S, SV and top class SR. The good news for 2020 is that for those who still like to shift manually, a 5-speed manual is still available on the S, while the SV ($17,640) and the SR ($18.240) come with a CVT automatic as standard fare. If you want the S with the CVT, it starts at $16,400 and also adds a 60/40 split rear seat that the SV and SR also feature.
The new interior features a redesigned dash and gauge layout, cloth seating and an SV leather-wrap steering wheel. Surprising for this class is tilt and telescopic steering, another feature that most competitors lack. There’s also more room inside thanks to a two-inch longer roofline and everyone inside will notice that the new Versa is quieter inside, too. The SR arrives on 17-inch tires and nice five-spoke alloy wheels that assist in delivering a better ride all around
Under the hood sits a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that delivers 122 horsepower and 114 lb. ft of torque. Although not big numbers, the little Versa isn’t heavy resulting in some initial pep on lower RPM acceleration. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) imitates step-gear automatics but in the end it’s still a CVT with one gear basically taking care of all forward motion. Expect zero to 60 mph in about 10.8 seconds. Fuel mileage is very good as this is one area where the CVT outperforms the five-speed manual. The CVT delivers 32 city and 40 highway while the manual is listed at 27 city and 35 highway.
Although we’re really praising the new Versa and rightfully so, there are some low-priced vehicle drawbacks that are common to all sub compacts. No power seats are available across the line and the rear quarters are still a bit tight. Versa is listed as a five-passenger, but four adults fit well as for rear seat room and comfort. The braking system is full ABS, but Nissan decided to continue using front discs and rear drums even on top trim SR.
Still, the top line SR ups style and safety moves upwards thanks to a rear spoiler, LED headlamps and taillights, fog lamps, Nissan Intelligent Key® with Remote Start, daytime running lights, intelligent driver assist, rear cross traffic, hill start assist and much more. Your Nissan dealer will explain all when you visit.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.1 inches, 2,729 lb. curb weight, 15 cu ft. of cargo room and a 10.8-gallon fuel tank.
Our SV tester featured a $300 Convenience option that adds intelligent adaptive cruise and heated front seats. This option is not available on the entry S, and the only other item of note I find unavailable on the low priced Versa is Apple and Android compatibility. Once you move up to SV and SR, Apple/Android is standard, as is Siri Eye and Nissan Connect infotainment, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and three USB ports. S and SV Versas come with a four-speaker stereo while the SR pumps sounds through six speakers. This all adds up to more high spots for the new Versa when comparing standard features versus the competition. Floor mats add $210 and delivery of $895 brings the final retail price to $19,645.
If ever there was a reason to visit your Nissan dealer, it’s to see and drive the new generation Versa “compact/sub-compact” if shopping small cars. It is truly several steps above the many other sub compacts and will be wildly popular with all age groups from 17 to 70 and beyond.
Likes: New size, low price, looks, standard enhanced safety.
Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, no Apple/Android on entry trim, tight rear seat.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: All-new 2020 Nissan Versa
Entry price: $14,730