Nearly everything about the 2020 Nissan Versa has gotten better, and we can finally call it a contender in the fast-shrinking subcompact car segment. The 2020 sedan is lower, wider and longer, it alos inherited some styling cues from the larger Altima sedan and technologically it is completely up to date. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine has a little more grunt than last year at 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, but it’s still achingly slow. It adds an annoyingly buzzy soundtrack and a meh CVT to the equation, and acceleration becomes a painful process.
The SR trim is the most expensive and top-tier version of the Versa. Features like 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, remote engine start and sport cloth seats are tacked on above the mid-grade SV trim. The starting price tag is $19,135 which is not brutally expensive, but it is a far cry from the $15,625 base price of the S trim. The Convenience Package is the most important option to add, as it brings heated seats and adaptive cruise control for just $300. The $855 Electronics Package and $690 Lighting Package mostly focus on adding cool but unnecessary lighting features. The Lighting Package does a lot to improve first impressions inside with the ambient lighting — and out with the ground lighting below the doors. The external ground lighting is Fast and Furious-esque, but there’s hardly any point in a Versa. The Electronics Package adds, among other things, illuminated kick plates and a frameless auto-dimming mirror. The best part is that spending that extra money to gussy up the Versa is a genuine upgrade. Both the SV and SR have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability on the seven-inch screen standard, and the instrument cluster has a large, customizable digital display in it, too.
The 2020 Nissan Versa is fairly plucky, and holds its own on the highway. The steering is devoid of any of that light, disconnectedness some cars have as a sort of facsimile for “premium” feel, and it responds well to inputs and bends itself pleasantly around corners.
The 2020 Nissan Versa is fairly plucky, and holds its own on the highway. The steering is devoid of any of that light, disconnectedness some cars have as a sort of facsimile for “premium” feel, and it responds well to inputs and bends itself pleasantly around corners. the 2020 Nissan Versa It’s more expensive, but it’s also a car you genuinely enjoye spending time in. The change is so radical in the positive direction that a new name would serve it well because the name Versa leaves a bad taste.
As the number of subcompact competitors shrinks in America, it’s great to see Nissan putting such a strong foot forward. The market is losing the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic and Fiat 500, and the Honda Fit is likely to follow at some point. That leaves the bottom of the new car market barren of choice, and the Versa is stepping up right when it needs to. Now, Nissan just needs to put a powertrain in it that doesn’t actively sap happiness from one’s soul at full throttle.
It is important to note that while this is a good car, it is not a fun car. The 1.6-liter engine makes only 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, and it shows. Accelerating down on-ramps or squirting through city traffic will demand uncomfortably long stints of flooring the throttle. And while it has a refined ride and solid steering, there’s a fair amount of body roll, not much grip, and lots of understeer. It has clearly been tuned to be safe and comfortable in corners, not engaging. And that’s perfectly fine! Not everyone needs a road rocket. But for those who do want one, they should probably look at a different subcompact.