The 2020 Nissan Versa is revitalized with a comprehensive makeover that has the subcompact sedan looking like a value superstar. Along with a sleeker-looking exterior and a more upscale interior, the Nissan boasts driver-assistance features such as adaptive cruise control and rear automated emergency braking, which are currently not available on any of its rivals. Its four-cylinder powertrain is well behaved but underpowered, and we’re happy to report that the sedan is much better to drive than before. Although it’s no longer the cheapest new car sold in the U.S., the Versa now has the style and substance to compete with the best subcompact cars on the market.
What’s New for 2020?
Nissan gives the Versa a long-overdue makeover for 2020, introducing a new generation that’s much prettier than the last. Although it gives up the title of least expensive new car on the market, its increased entry price is worth the additional standard features and improved technology.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- S: $15,290
- SV: $18,118
- SR: $18,701
The top-of-the-line Versa SR is the one to get. Sure, it’s the most expensive version, but we think it’s worth it for all the enticing standard equipment it provides. Both the SR and the slight-less-expensive SV come with an automatic transmission, and their infotainment systems feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. However, only the SR gets 17-inch rims, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlights, passive entry, and remote start. We’d also add the Convenience package for its adaptive cruise control and heated front seats.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every Versa is motivated by a 122-hp four-cylinder engine that powers the front wheels. A five-speed manual is the default transmission on base models, but a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) can be had on the S, too. The latter comes standard on the higher SV and SR trim levels. While the Versa feels slow when pulling away from stoplights and during highway-passing situations, its CVT helps prevent coarse noises by mimicking actual gearchanges. The Versa we drove had a smooth ride that isolated road imperfections. It also was much better to drive than the version it replaces, providing accurate steering feel and consistent brake-pedal feedback.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The 2020 Versa boasts an EPA estimated rating of 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with the CVT. Those numbers are identical to the fuel-economy ratings of the 2020 Toyota Yaris. The entry-level Versa with the manual has significantly worse fuel economy, achieving 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. We tested an automatic-equipped Versa on our 200-mile route, and it replicated its 40-mpg highway rating in the real world. In the same test, the Yaris fell 5 mpg short of its highway estimate, earning 35 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Versa’s interior no longer looks and feels like a children’s play area. It uses nice materials throughout and has soft-touch surfaces on the doors and dashboard. While Nissan doesn’t offer power-adjustable seats and leather upholstery here, the fanciest model can be had with heated front seats as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The mid-level SV model unlocks some desirable standard features, such as a driver’s-seat-mounted armrest and a digital screen in the gauge cluster, while the top-tier Versa SR brings automatic climate control, passive entry, remote start, and more. The back seat can comfortably fit two adults but has less legroom than the older Versa. The sedan has useful cubbies on its center console, and we managed to fit six carry-on suitcases in its trunk; 17 total with the back seat folded.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Versa features a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with useful buttons and knobs. However, only the SV and SR trim levels have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. During our evaluation period, we found that the CarPlay interface responded better to our inputs than the car’s normal menus did. Every Versa has three USB ports and voice-command capability, but anyone who wants the ability to listen to SiriusXM satellite radio will have to look higher than the base model.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2020 Versa earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the sedan hasn’t been fully evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The lineup comes with a lot of standard driver-assistance technology, including front and rear automated emergency braking, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning. While rivals such as the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Rio sedan offer automated emergency braking, the Nissan’s roster of safety equipment outshines them. Key safety features include:
- Available adaptive cruise control
- Available blind-spot monitoring
- Available rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
While Nissan’s limited and powertrain warranties fall short of the lengthy coverage that Hyundai and Kia provide, its protection plans are comparable with most other rivals. The Versa also doesn’t come with complimentary maintenance like the Yaris does.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance