The 2020 Nissan Versa arrives at dealers with a starting MSRP under $15,000.
A new four-cylinder produces 12 percent more power than the prior generation.
Buyers on a budget will appreciate the new Versa’s strong fuel economy numbers.
The Versa is one of Nissan’s best-sellers, and with the redone and reimagined 2020 model, the Versa gives a clear example of what the company will be hanging a lot of hopes on in terms of design. Nissan went for a more dramatic and expressive exterior while trying to move the interior features and overall quality up a class. Despite this, the 2020 Nissan Versa is inexpensive; and I mean, like, very inexpensive. The new Versa, which just arrived at dealerships, has a starting price of just $14,730 when equipped with a manual transmission.
The Versa comes in three flavors: the S 1.6 (with either a manual gearbox or the automatic Xtronic), the SV 1.6 Xtronic, and the top-of-the-line SR 1.6 Xtronic. These range in price from that low starting point of under 15 grand, up to $18,240 for the full-zoot Versa SR 1.6 Xtronic. Across the board, those are very low prices for a modern car. In all seriousness, the 2020 Nissan Versa is ideal for any first-time buyer or those on a strict budget.
As we’ve come to expect with Nissan products, you’ll get a lot for your money. This is the third generation for the Versa, and the company eagerly points out how it fully embraces Nissan’s new Intelligent Mobility technology. Furthermore, Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, a suite of advanced safety and intervention technologies, is standard on SV and SR grades. Safety Shield 360 includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection; Rear Automatic Braking and Lane Departure Warning; High Beam Assist, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Styling & Design
The new design is a lower, wider, and longer affair that retains Versa’s interior space, according to Nissan. It has all the current family design traits, what Nissan calls the “Emotional Geometry” design language. So you’ll see such things as the new Versa’s V-motion grille; the boomerang-style headlamps and taillights; kick-up C-pillars and floating roof. You get your choice of eight exterior colors although Nissan only tells us of three: Electric Blue Metallic, Monarch Orange Metallic, and Scarlet Ember Tintcoat.
The interior now features Nissan’s “Gliding Wing” instrument panel with a “floating” seven-inch touchscreen display. These elements are complemented by the sporty, D-shaped steering wheel, keyless entry, push-button start, automatic climate control, and the available heated front seats. Other tech and convenience goodies include standard Bluetooth audio and phone capabilities (with steering wheel controls); Siri Eyes Free, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant, and a USB connection port for your iPod.
The latest Versa is powered by the next generation of Nissan’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The small plant puts out 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft. of torque when paired with the Xtronic automatic or the available five-speed manual (Versa S only). Fuel economy is, as you would expect, really good: 32/40 city/highway and 35 combined with the Xtronic automatic. Curiously, the five-speed manual does worse: 27/35 city/highway and 30 combined. Ah, well.
The “high performance” model would be the Versa SR. Nissan says it “adds an extra touch of sportiness,” which makes me cringe. The SR package gets you 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels wrapped in 205/50 R17 all-season tires, and LED headlights and fog lights. There is an optional SR Convenience Package with heated front seats and Intelligent Cruise Control.
No, it’s not a Bentley or even an Infiniti, but it is under $20,000 and you get a lot for that little scratch.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.