All of the attention seems to be focused on SUVs and luxury right now. But what about the little guy? Let’s shine a light on the 2020 Nissan Versa, an entry-level sedan that has received a total makeover for the new model year. Not everyone can afford the biggest and most heavily equipped vehicles on the market, nor does everyone need them. Sometimes a compact economy sedan is just right.
What’s New for 2020?
The Versa has received a total redesign for the new model year, with a new exterior design, new interior and revised powertrain. See the 2020 Nissan Versa models for sale near you
What We Like
- Low, low base price and great value
- Improved exterior appearance
- Big trunk for a small sedan
What We Don’t
- Drum brakes in the rear
- Some hard plastic interior details
- Manual transmission only available on the base model
The Versa will come in four models: Versa S 1.6 5MT (with a 5-speed manual transmission), starting at $14,730; Versa S 1.6 Xtronic, starting at $16,400; Versa SV 1.6 Xtronic, starting at $17,640; and Versa SR 1.6 Xtronic, starting at $18,240. Add $895 to each for Destination and Handling fees.
With the 5-speed manual transmission, the Versa is rated to get 27 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving. With the Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the EPA estimates that Versa can achieve 32 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/35 mpg combined.
Standard Features and Options
The Versa comes with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine (122 horsepower/114 lb-ft of torque) and front-wheel drive. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on Versa S 1.6 5MT, while an Xtronic CVT with D-Step logic control is standard on all other Versa models.
The Versa S 1.6 5MT comes with 15-in steel wheels with full wheel covers, front disc/rear drum brakes, independent strut front suspension/torsion beam rear suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars and electric power steering. It gets standard cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, a RearView monitor, rear automatic braking, hill start assist and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS). Standard exterior features include automatic on/off halogen projector headlights, a chrome grille, dual power outside mirrors, black outside mirrors, black door handles and a carbon-fiber look rear diffuser. Interior standard features include air conditioning, power windows with driver’s one-touch auto-up/down, power door locks, remote keyless entry with push-button ignition, manually adjusting tilt-and-telescoping steering column, sun visors with vanity mirrors and extensions, map lights and reading lights, a 12-volt DC power outlet, a 6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat and a 4-way manual adjustable front passenger seat with cloth seat trim, and matte carbon-fiber-look interior door trim. Standard infotainment features include a 7-in touchscreen display with Siri Eyes Free, Google Assistant Voice Recognition and Nissan Voice Recognition for audio, an AM/FM audio system with four speakers, hands-free Text Messaging Assistant, Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming, an auxiliary audio jack, three USB ports, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System.
The Versa S 1.6 Xtronic includes all of the same standard features, and adds a 60/40-split folding rear seat.
The Versa SV 1.6 Xtronic includes all of the standard features of the Versa S 1.6 Xtronic, plus the following additions and upgrades: 16-in aluminum-alloy wheels, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent driver alertness, body color outside mirrors and door handles, heated outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicator, rear door alert, a driver’s seat-mounted armrest, premium cloth seat trim, Prima-Tex-appointed dash trim, chrome interior door handles, an advanced drive-assist display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM radio with 3-month complimentary trial access.
The Versa SR 1.6 Xtronic includes all of the standard features of the Versa SV 1.6 Xtronic, plus the following additions and upgrades: 17-in 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, LED headlights with LED signature Daytime Running Lights, fog lights, a dark chrome grille, black-painted outside mirrors, a body-color rear spoiler, automatic temperature control, Follow Me Home headlights, remote engine start system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and six speakers.
A $300 Convenience Package is available on SR models only, and it includes adaptive cruise control and heated front seats. Eight exterior colors are available, including three "emotional" colors ($395): Electric Blue Metallic, Monarch Orange Metallic and Scarlet Ember Tintcoat.
Each Versa gets Nissan’s Advanced Air Bag System with front air bags, seat-mounted driver and front-passenger airbags and knee air bags, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection. Front seat belts are 3-point with pretensioners and load limiters. A LATCH system is standard, along with child safety rear door locks and power windows lock-out button. A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) with individual tire pressure display and an Easy-Fill Tire Alert is also standard.
Behind the Wheel
Driving an entry-level economy sedan may not be high on your list of thrills, but even some jaded auto journalists get a charge out of exploring the genre. That’s because the 2020 Versa is better than the second-generation Versa that it replaces, and miles better than the first generation (2007 — 2012) Versa. Gone is the quirky exterior, replaced by a longer, lower and wider sedan with attractive proportions and details. Inside, the dash is more elegant and even comes with a stitched and padded detail (on SV and SR models). The 1.6-liter engine is peppier than before, and the Xtronic CVT does a good job of pretending to be a 5-speed with its D-Step logic. We didn’t get a chance to drive the base S model with 5-speed manual transmission, and most buyers probably won’t care anyway, as the Xtronic outdoes it in fuel efficiency and adds just $1,670 to the bottom line. Weighing in at between 2,599 and 2,729 pounds (depending on configuration), the Versa is a relatively light car, and while it is not quick, it has no trouble merging with traffic or scooting down the road. The only time the CVT shows its dark side is on prolonged inclines, where it struggles a little and lets the engine drone. Handling is acceptable, with a basic independent front strut setup and torsion bar rear. We were a little disappointed to note that the Versa gets front disc brakes with rear drum brakes, despite some sophisticated electronic braking technology. Drums lack the stopping power of discs, and can be less effective at shedding the effects of rain, but most of the important braking comes from the front wheels, so it’s not a big concern. The interior of the Versa is comfortable, and the level of equipment is impressive. We wish that a factory upgrade was available for the audio system, which is more suited to listening to podcasts than music.
Other Cars to Consider
The 2020 Nissan Versa proves that buying an entry-level compact sedan doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort, convenience, safety and dignity. The new Versa is a marked improvement over the outgoing vehicle, and a good value. Find a Nissan Versa for sale
To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.