Car Reviews

2020 Nissan Versa First Look: Moving Past Basic

Smallest Nissan sedan evolves into an attractive little runabout

Smallest Nissan sedan evolves into an attractive little runabout

The outgoing Nissan Versa defined basic transportation. It was one of the last cars you can get in a bare-bones model, and convenience features were few and far between, requiring you to spend extra by moving to a higher trim. For the third-generation 2020 Versa, Nissan aims to change the way we see A-to-B transport, which explains the new model’s substantial makeover and generous equipment list. For 2020, the Nissan Versa will only come as a sedan. The Versa Note hatchback goes out of production after the 2019 model year, with the Kicks serving as an indirect replacement.

Sporting Nissan’s latest design language, the 2020 Versa looks more appealing and has better proportions than its predecessor. It gains the automaker’s V-motion grille, floating roof motif, and thin headlights and taillights, giving it a mini Altima look. Unlike its larger siblings, the 2020 Nissan Versa has a rounded shape, and the swept back A-pillar makes the roofline appear lower. Moving inside, you’ll immediately notice an interior that’s essentially a carbon copy of the one found in the Kicks subcompact crossover. Higher trims like the SR model shown in the photos should feature a partial digital cluster featuring a 7.0-inch display alongside an analog speedometer.

Under the hood, an updated 1.6-liter I-4 produces 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque. Sound familiar? It’s because that’s the same mill powering the Kicks and a number of other Nissan small cars across the globe, including the Micra in Europe. Unlike the Kicks, the Versa comes with either a CVT or a five-speed manual, the latter likely only offered on the base trim. Nissan hasn’t disclosed if the 2020 Versa’s underpinnings are all-new, but we suspect that the car still rides on the same V platform as the outgoing model and the Kicks. Considering a sedan’s lighter curb weight, the 2020 Versa should offer excellent fuel economy and could easily meet or exceed the 40-mpg (5.9 L/100 km) highway mark.

Nissan’s move away from no-frills transportation suggests that it’s making a different value play with the 2020 Versa. Standard active driver assist features include forward collision warning, front and rear automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning. Roll-up windows are a thing of the past, as power-operated ones now come standard along with keyless entry and start. Other available features include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Declining subcompact car sales have led to other automakers backing out of the segment. Nissan has pulled out all stops to ensure it gets a bigger slice of the entry-level pie and bring more consumers into the brand. The Japanese automaker also sees sedans remaining a crucial market because of their popularity among millennials and consumers in other smaller demographics despite the overall trend toward SUVs. Pricing for the 2020 Nissan Versa hasn’t been announced, but because of all the additional standard safety equipment, it probably won’t start at around the same price as the outgoing model.