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The third-generation 2020 Nissan Versa SR is shown in Monarch Orange. / Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy

For 2020, Nissan's small Versa sedan has gotten a full makeover.

The Japanese automaker points out that 5 million consumers in the United States still buy sedans each year, and that the Versa's target customers are "Gen X, Millennials and multicultural customers."

Unsaid, is that economy cars such as the Versa find their main competition from gently used, off-lease mid-size cars. Anyone who is looking at a 2020 Versa is probably also eyeing a two- or three-year-old Nissan Altima, and comparing features.

For that reason, the Versa in top SR trim packs on lots of options for modest money. Nissan has also punched up the compact with more expressive exterior styling. The new Versa is longer, wider and, dare we say, meaner-looking than the outgoing model.

Versas are available locally at Nissan of Chattanooga East and Mountain View Nissan. Late this week, the dealerships together had 37 Versas in digital inventory.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2020 Nissan Versa SR CVT

* Exterior color: Monarch Orange

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder

* Horsepower: 122

* Transmission: CVT

* Fuel economy: 40 mpg highway, 32 mpg city

* Local Dealer: Mountain View Nissan, Nissan of Chattanooga East

* Price (as tested): $21,885

 

WHAT IS IT?

The Versa is a small, five-passenger sedan that competes with the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra. It has a 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine and a CVT (gearless) transmission.

 

WHAT DOES IT COST?

Our tester, provided for a one-week test drive by Nissan, is a top-of-the-line SR model with a host of options that bump the sticker price up to $21,855. On the low end, you can get in a Versa S model with manual transmission for $14,730.

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The 2020 Nissan Versa SR trim level includes a leather-covered steering wheel. / Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy

 

WHAT WE LIKED

Our logbook's list of likes included the heated seats (yippee!), LED headlights, puddle lights and handsome alloy wheels.

 

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

The engine, while improved, still lacks punch.

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Seventeen-inch wheels are an option on the 2020 Nissan Versa SR. / Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy

 

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Versa is easy to drive and maneuver in traffic. The limited horsepower comes into play in passing and merging. A turbocharged engine would be a nice option. On the other hand, fuel economy is impressive with 32 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

 

STYLING AND COMFORT

The new design is edgier and may appeal to younger customers. The interior, while basic, seems to be snapped together with quality materials. The cloth seats are comfortable, but be prepared for manual adjustments even on the top trims.

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The new 2020 Nissan Versa SR is longer and wider than than before. / Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy

 

OPTIONS TO CONSIDER

Our tester came with a $300 convenience package (heated front seats and cruise control), which we would consider essential. The electronics package for $855, on the other hand, seems a bit pricey for some extra interior lights, kick-plates and frame-less mirrors.

 

BOTTOM LINE

If you really want a new car, and you're shopping for a serviceable small sedan, the Versa should be on your list. Our tester, assembled in Mexico, has not yet been crash tested by the government.

In the market for a new vehicle? To access hundreds of Mark Kennedy's Chattanooga Test Drive columns visit www.timesfreepress.com/testdrive.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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