The Nissan Versa subcompact sedan has a history as the cheapest new car you could buy in the U.S. — but no longer. With its 2020 redesign, the Versa gets a slight price bump, but it also comes with a major bump to quality.
Related: 2020 Nissan Versa Review: Not as Cheap, Much Better Value
Competing with other subcompacts like the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris, the Versa now has more than just a low cost to offer budget-minded buyers. The 2020 Versa boasts more technology, style and power than the previous generation, though some features still come across a little cheap.
Need to know everything about the Versa? Click through the related link above for Cars.com’s Fred Meier’s full review. For the quick hits (and misses), here are some things we like, and some things we’re averse to, with the 2020 Nissan Versa:
Things We Like
1. Sleeker Exterior and Interior Design
The outgoing model of the Versa suffered from a chunky, lumpy body design. For 2020, the Versa gets a fresh new look with styling cues (like the V-shaped grille) from the Altima. The narrower, boomerang-shaped headlights look fierce. There’s even a faux “floating roof” created by a strip of black trim on the back pillar. Gone is the boring interior, as well; instead, the Versa takes on the modern, upswept dashboard of its platform partner, the Kicks.
2. Improved Drive
The Versa handles quite well, taking corners with minimal lean. On the highway, the chassis doesn’t feel floaty. Steering is light but crisp, braking is soft but predictable, and while there’s a little choppiness when the Versa encounters a rough patch of road, the overall ride is pretty smooth.
3. New Tech
All new Versas have a 7-inch touchscreen on the dash, and the upper SV and SR trim levels also have a 7-inch configurable screen in the instrument cluster. The multimedia screen on the dash gets volume and tuning knobs, as well as shortcut buttons for ease of use. NissanConnect, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity come in the SV and SR, as does satellite radio, steering wheel controls and voice recognition.
4. Roomy for a Subcompact
The backseat is adult-sized, and it also fits child-safety seats well. (Check out our 2020 Nissan Versa Car Seat Check for more.) Trunk space, at least by Nissan’s measuring, is better than in many compact cars: The Versa has 14.7 cubic feet of space, while the larger 2020 Toyota Corolla only has 13.1 cubic feet. You can expand this space with a 60/40-split, folding backseat.
5. Essential Safety Features
The safety features may not be what you’d get in a much more expensive car, but they do make up a fairly comprehensive suite. The base S model gets lane departure warning, front automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection up to 37 mph and reverse automatic emergency braking up to 9 mph, which is rare for this class.
The SV and SR trims add a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, a driver alertness warning, adaptive grid lines on the backup camera and a rear door alert that sounds if you opened a door at the start of the drive but forget to check the backseat after you parked. Adaptive cruise control can be added to the SR for $300.
6. CVT Gas Mileage
Fuel-economy figures are important to many subcompact buyers, and Nissan delivers in this area. The 2020 Versa gets an EPA-rated 32/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined with the continuously variable automatic transmission. In comparison, the Yaris gets up to 35 mpg combined, while both the Rio and Accent get 32 mpg combined.
7. Great Value
The 2020 Versa — though more expensive than it used to be — offers a lot of bang for your buck. Its base price of $15,625 (all prices include an $895 destination charge) puts it at the lower end of its class. Even the line-topping SR trim with optional fixings including heated seats and adaptive cruise control comes in at less than $20,000.
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Things We Don’t
1. Cost-Cutting Apparent in Interior
The Versa may deliver a lot for the low price, but it’s still missing several interior features. The “console” is not so much a traditional console as a hard plastic tray with some shallow storage areas and cupholders. Storage is lacking throughout the interior, though a small covered storage space can be added to any trim with an armrest for $300 extra. Hard plastic is prevalent, especially in the base S model. A driver’s seat fold-down inboard armrest is only available in the SV trim and above, while the front passenger seat doesn’t get an armrest or seat-height adjustment in any trim.
2. Unpadded Seats
The seats in the Versa are comfortable enough, but both the front and rear seats could use more padding in the cushions.
3. Powertrain Lacks Urgency
The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 122 horsepower and just 114 pounds-feet of torque. That’s more power than the Versa had in 2019, but while it’s enough pep to get this lightweight subcompact around city streets, it does lag a bit when you really floor it — arguably when you need power the most.
4. Manual Gas Mileage
The CVT version of the Versa touts great fuel-economy figures, but the manual comes at a cost: just 30 mpg combined.
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