5 things to know about the 2020 Nissan Versa

2019 Nissan Versa SR 38.JPG
2020 Nissan Versa SR (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

Nissan is redefining the entry-level segment with the launch of its all-new 2020 Nissan Versa. The base price increases by about $2K, but Versa also gets more technology, power and materials.

Here are five key things to know about this third-generation vehicle.

4 key safety features are standard

This is a show stopper. Nissan adds automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, lane departure warning and automatic reverse braking to every model in the Versa lineup.

That last item is a huge deal because there are several automakers that don’t even add it as an option.

There are also two additional safety features that become standard starting at the mid-level SV trim: blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The SR trim makes adaptive cruise control available as a part of a $300 Convenience Package.

Among the competitive set, only the Toyota Yaris offers a form of automatic emergency braking as standard, and neither Yaris nor the Hyundai Accent offer automatic reverse braking at all.

It’s safe to say, no other entry-level vehicle currently has this level of safety tech.

Base price is still under $14K*

Even though the Versa’s base price has increased by more than $2K, it’s still less than the Yaris ($15,600) and the Accent ($14,995).

I will say the base Yaris and Accent look better on the outside than the base Versa, but the interior of the Versa is more upscale, and the added safety technology is a huge win over its competitors.

Pricing for the three Versa trims are as follows:

  • S: $14,730 (MT)/$16,400 (CVT)
  • SV: $17,640 (CVT)
  • SR: $18,240 (CVT)

*The caveat here: The base price is $14,730 before the $895 destination fee. Including the fee makes the bottom line $15,625, which is still a good deal considering the Yaris and Accent base prices change to $16,700 and $15,925, respectively, with destination fees added.

One interesting note, however, is the Yaris base price includes either the manual or automatic transmission, whereas both Versa (+$1,670) and Accent (+$1,000) charge more for that luxury.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard at SV trim

I was a bit bummed to learn Apple CarPlay/Android Auto aren’t standard on the base model. With all the extra goodies, why not make this bump as well?

I suppose it’s to push people toward the even better-equipped mid-level SV trim. Key additions include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, steering wheel controls and a driver seat-mounted armrest.

Since most people will likely be opting for the continuously variable transmission anyway, I’d make that $1,240 leap to the SV trim. On a 3-year loan, it only adds about $34/month to your payment.

Plus, the SV trim looks nicer.

Power increases, but Versa is still wimpy

The 2020 Versa gets the new Gen3 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. This is a 12 percent power increase and a 7 percent increase in torque over the previous Versa engine.

Thankfully, the extra power doesn’t ding the fuel economy. EPA estimates you should get 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. In combined driving during our one-day test, we were averaging around 37 mpg.

However, even with the power boost, the Versa is not a powerhouse. It struggles on hard off-the-line accelerations, in passing maneuvers and up hills. It gets the job done, it’s just not effortless.

A hatchback version is unlikely

During the press briefing there was no discussion of a hatchback version of the Versa. The obvious lack sparked a question during the Q&A, and execs basically confirmed the Versa Note will not continue when its life cycle is complete.

The prevailing thought is anyone who would have wanted the 5-door version would move over to the compact crossover, Kicks, which has a base price of $18,995. That’s an interesting supposition considering the base price of the current Versa Note is $15,650.

The Bottom Line

Nissan has done a great job packing many safety and quality upgrades into the entry-level 2020 Versa.

It beats the competition in many important ways – namely in the safety arena. Plus, it has decent ride and handling, and as long as you don’t go for the base S model, it’s attractive inside and out.

For my money, I’d beeline straight to the SV trim for the Waze compatibility alone.

For more information, be sure to check out our full first-look review.