Review: 2020 Nissan Versa proves entry-level is heating up
What if I told you that you could buy a premium-level car for well under US$20,000? A brand new, premium-level car. Seem unlikely? Well, so far, we have looked at several sub-$20k cars with top-shelf comfort, quality, and amenities. Here’s another one in the 2020 Nissan Versa.
The Versa underwent a complete overhaul for this model year and it’s all for the better – with one exception. The improved exterior design, much more comfort-oriented interior, and high number of safety features were a really good start. Adding a more powerful engine to match the car’s needs was even better. Sadly, though, the Versa Note hatchback model will be no more. It had versatility almost unmatched at the price point, so we think that was a mistake. Still, the 2020 Nissan Versa is now one of a flock of really well done, low-cost sedans on the market today.
The Versa’s main selling point up to now has, almost literally, been that it was the cheapest car available. For the past two generations of the subcompact, it had the lowest price tag on the entry-level market. For the new 2020 Versa, however, that changes as the little car sheds the “cheap” and goes with “low cost” instead. That’s a good thing, even if it does mean the starting price is now $2,000 over last year’s lowest point of entry.
The 2020 Nissan Versa starts at $14,730 and tops out at just over $18,000 before shipping. The Versa is a bit lower, a touch wider, and a little longer with this redesign. Adding 1.8 inches (45.7mm) in width and 1.6 inches (40.6mm) in length means that the Versa now has more interior space. Yet the new design is also over 2 inches (50.8mm) shorter, a result achieved through changes in the chassis design that also contributes to a more sporty stance and build for the new-look Versa.
These combine with the new body styling, which accentuates the widening of the body and adds the “floating roof” look of other Nissan models like the Sentra and Murano. Under its hood, the 2020 Versa gets a new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 122 hp (91 kW) and 114 lb-ft (154.5 Nm) of torque. That’s about 13 hp (9.7 kW) more than the 2019 model and it helps that the Versa is now lighter (despite the size gains) thanks to greater use of advanced materials.
Unlike the previous generation of the Versa, the new 2020 model comes standard with basics like power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, push-button start, and a 7-inch touchscreen interface with Bluetooth. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking (forward and reverse), lane departure warning, and automatic headlights are also standard equipment. A far cry from the bare bones base model of 2019.
The Versa’s new engine is mated to a five-speed manual transmission as standard on the base model and can be upgraded to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as an option. The CVT is standard with either of the other two trims above the base. In fact, at just over $18,000, our top-end 2020 Versa SR had a lot of things unheard of in entry-level cars just a couple of years ago. Automatic climate control, remote engine start, LED headlamps, heated front seating, and adaptive cruise control were all included.
The Versa has never driven like a sports car or luxury sedan, of course, but it’s far more driveable in its new 2020 rendition than it’s ever been before. The interior is quieter on the highway than the previous-gen model, it handles a bit better in everyday situations, and the engine is peppier and more interested in propulsion than the fuel-sipping-is-priority of previous models. Surprisingly, the 2020 Versa is comfortable to drive, even for someone over six feet (1.8 m) in height. Achieving 40 mpg (5.88 l/100km) on the highway (not difficult with this car) is also a no-brainer upside.
Like the other compacts we’ve driven recently, including the Kia Forte and Mazda3, the 2020 Nissan Versa is a far more upscale vehicle than its low price of entry would indicate. As the segment heats up with premium-level entries like this, today’s “cheap car” will take on a whole new definition. And we’re good with that.
Product Page: 2020 Nissan Versa