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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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