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In the fall of 1971, a child is born in a remote village in Norway. He will one day rechristen himself Fenriz, after the Earth-swallowing wolf, Fenrir, who appears in Norse mythology and the Satanic Bible. But for now, he is Gylve Nagell, being raised by his grandmother, spending inordinate amounts of time alone. The pivotal moments of his childhood occur while listening to records, music introduced to him by an eccentric uncle named Stein. Pink Floyd catches his ear; a few songs by the Doors hold his attention; but it’s the English progressive rock band Uriah Heep that blows his mind. He’s entranced by the heavy organ sound, the cryptic lyrics, and the mysterious men with long hair who appear on the album’s cover. He cherishes the triple-fold LP like an heirloom from…

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2020 Nissan Versa Review

LIKES
  • Low price
  • 7.0-inch touchscreen
  • Comfortable front seats
  • Good trunk
DISLIKES
  • Pokey acceleration
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Some strange ergonomics
  • Base version lacks features
BUYING TIP
  • Skip the base 2020 Versa S and start with the SV. There’s better tech there for daily-drivers.


The 2020 Nissan Versa isn't the cheapest car anymore–look to the Chevy Spark or Mitsubishi Mirage for that–and that's a good thing.

The 2020 Nissan Versa is a small car for a small price with a lot of news for this year. 

The Versa is new this year, on a new frame, with a new interior and a sharp new exterior. There’s a lot of “new” if you’re picking up what we’re putting down. 

Also new: the Versa’s old days of the “cheapest new car on sale” are gone. The price is now a couple of thousand dollars more expensive, at least. But before the knee jerk spit-take, hear us out: The new Versa doesn’t want to be cheap. 

Starting at $15,625, every Versa gets automatic emergency braking, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a powertrain that returns at least 30 mpg combined . That’s not cheap, that’s good sense. 

The 2020 Versa gets a 5.6 for now before official safety tests are completed. That’s above average on our overall scale.

There are three 2020 Versas available, but two are more common. The Versa S is the base car and is best left on dealer’s lots—it’s built to a low $15,625 price with a 5-speed manual fuel-economy drag for a transmission. Opting for an automatic transmission, which returns 35 mpg combined, costs $1,670 more. 

The Versa SV is the kind most shoppers will encounter first and it’s good value. Like every other Versa, it’s powered by an overwhelmed 122-horsepower inline-4 and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels only. That’s not the exciting stuff. The Versa SV gets 16-inch alloy wheels, upgraded cloth interior, smartphone compatibility software, blind-spot monitors, and a few exterior touches for $18,535, including destination. That gets our pulses going.

The Versa SR adds a few sporty touches on a car that’s more serious about its low price. 

It’s reasonable around-town transportation for a young couple or empty-nesters, although we wouldn’t put two full-size humans in the back for long unless they’re in-laws or unruly coworkers. 

The 15-cubic-foot trunk is ready for work, with a wide and low opening. 

The price isn’t the only good thing to look at either; the Versa’s new exterior is good-looking too.

Styling
Budget buyers rejoice: The 2020 Versa doesn’t look cheap at all.

We’ve come a long way from the bland boxes of yesteryear. (The outgoing Versa got a paltry 3 for styling last year.)

The 2020 Versa is proof. For less than half of the cost of an average new car, frugal buyers get a body that looks anything but cheap. 

The roofline, the rear roof pillar, and the front grille on the 2020 Versa are uptown. We like it. The interior? It’s not as good, but it doesn’t commit any sins either. The Versa’s a 6.

The new grille is low and wide and bookends the needed nerve farm of sensors and safety equipment for the Versa’s standard automatic emergency braking. The headlights sweep back on the front fenders in a cute, compact car way that helps an otherwise slab-sided profile. 

The Versa’s window line is low, which helps with the blandly styled doors that can look heavy-handed. The roofline gets an on-trend “floating” look thanks to blacked-out trim that visually separates the rear roof pillar. The Versa’s wide rear end is functional—the big trunk opening is useful to small-car owners.  

Inside, the Versa’s tamer but not boring. The V-shaped dash draws eyeballs to the standard 7.0-inch touchscreen. More expensive versions of the Versa add contrast stitching that’s a little better than base versions. 

Performance
The most exciting part of the Versa is its low price.

The numbers that matter to 2020 Nissan Versa owners are the ones in the price, not horsepower figures. 

If you must know, the Versa is powered by a 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes 122 hp. It’s teamed to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels only. A 5-speed manual is standard on base models but will be a rare sight on dealer’s lots. 

Starting from an average score, we say the Versa’s handling is fine but we ring the bell for its leisurely acceleration and power. It’s a 4.
The Versa’s lackadaisical approach to speed has its reasons. Although it shuttles around town nicely between 0-30 mpg, the small inline-4 and CVT combo are built for fuel economy—not performance. Most Versas will return 35 mpg combined, according to the EPA. 

If you must, the Versa takes at least eight clicks to 60 mph, although 0-30 mph is fairly bright. What does that mean? Highway passes between 40 and 60 mph take longer and will require some advance planning due to the Versa’s gearing, which is better suited for slower speeds. 

There is a bright side: The Versa’s stiffer body this year is more responsive to steering. The Versa’s rack isn’t overly fast or nervous, at 16.8:1 it’s entirely reasonable. 

The Versa rides atop MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam in the rear that doesn’t gift it with exceptional handling or road suppression, but it’s fine. The same goes for the brakes, which are front discs and rear drums that are more economical than four-wheel disc brakes.

Comfort & Quality
Grab the keys, or call “shotgun,” early and often in the 2020 Versa.

This year, the 2020 Nissan Versa is new from the lugnuts up, which means the interior is different than the penalty econoboxes you may remember from Versa’s recent history. 

The new sedan’s wheelbase is longer by fractions of an inch but the overall length is up by about 2 inches to 103.1 inches from nose to tail, and nearly 2 inches added to the Versa’s width. That translates to a cabin that’s not any bigger than last year’s version (in fact, it’s incrementally smaller) but it’s wider and more comfortable for big bodies. 

The front seats are the best seats in the Versa. The rear seats are cramped and the cargo space is good—but not great. In the end, it’s a wash. The Versa’s a 5 for comfort.

The standard seats in the Versa are six-way adjustable with height controls, which is an improvement over last year’s seats. Like most Nissan products, the Versa benefits from the automaker’s institutional knowledge of making a comfortable seat that’s not bulky. The Versa’s chairs are mostly comfortable with good leg support and wide bottoms. Only the driver gets two armrests (on most models) but they’re not on the same vertical plane in the car, which is a head-scratcher. 

The rear seats are small but broad, and only the outboard positions will be useful to average-sized adults. The rear door cutouts are bigger, which makes entry and exit easier, but 31 inches of leg room will leave long legs aching for more room. (The real-world foot space feels larger than the tale of the tape would suggest, but the 2020 Versa isn’t exactly palatial.)

In the trunk, there’s room for 15 cubic feet of cargo, which is mostly average for sedans. The room is improved by a wide, low opening; shoveling big boxes with the rear seats folded is a breeze. 

Take the good with the bad on the Versa’s interior materials. The durable cloth upholstery, softer interior materials on touchable surfaces, and impressive tech for a car that costs just north of $15,000 are the highlights. The bad? The driver’s weirdo armrest, lack of interior storage space, and floor carpeting that looks like it came from a can of spray-on hair. The Versa’s built to a budget, and it’s hard to hide.

Safety
The 2020 Versa lacks official safety scores.

Federal and independent testers haven’t crumpled up a 2020 Versa yet in the name of science, it’s too new. 

Without their data, we can’t rate it on our scale. Stay tuned.

Every Versa gets standard automatic emergency braking and mandatory safety equipment such as airbags for belted passengers and a rearview camera. Versa SVs and SLs get standard blind-spot monitors that help. 

Outward vision in the small sedan is mostly good and the 6-way adjustable driver’s seat that’s standard in all models is height adjustable. 

Features
It’s not the lowest priced car on sale anymore, but the 2020 Versa is affordable with good features.

The lightweight Versa goes heavy on shoppers’ main events like its gloves were filled with bricks. 

Most Versas sold on dealer lots will get a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, Bluetooth connectivity, power features, and a USB port. 

The base versions of the Versa get most of that—just not the smartphone software. That omission keeps it from a point on our scale so we land at a 6 for the generous touchscreen.
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This year, the Versa sedan is available in S, SV, and SR trims with increasing comforts. 

The Versa S is spartan. For $15,625 to start, including destination, the Versa S gets cloth seats, 15-inch wheels with hubcaps, keyless ignition, the 7.0-inch touchscreen (but no smartphone software), and not much else. An automatic transmission is a likely, but spendy, upgrade for $1,670.

We’re fans of the automatic-only Versa SV for $18,535, which upgrades to 16-inch alloy wheels, upgraded cloth interior, smartphone compatibility software, blind-spot monitors, and a few exterior touches that separate the Versa SV for rental-spec. 

The 2020 Versa SL costs $19,135 to start and goes all-in with 17-inch wheels, grippy fabric upholstery, semi-sporty accents, a six-speaker audio system (up from four speakers), and fog lights. We don’t see added value for $600 more, and at nearly $20,000 the Versa starts to step on bigger cars like the Sentra that may be better values. 

Nissan infotainment
The standard 7.0-inch touchscreen in the 2020 Versa will be a welcome upgrade for many buyers. On Versa SV and SR models, it includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will appeal to many shoppers. 

Not as appealing: the way the touchscreen washes out in direct sunlight. 

Without a smartphone plugged in, the Versa’s system is easy to use and straightforward. The touchscreen is flanked by redundant hard buttons for tuning and volume, track selection and rearview camera display. The auto contrast and night button is a good one to use, it can help when the screen washes out or is hard to see. 

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Versa is thrifty among affordable city cars.

The good news about the 2020 Versa’s small body and modest engine? It’s a winning recipe for good fuel economy. 

The EPA rates the 2020 Versa at 32 mpg city, 40 highway, 35 combined when equipped with an automatic transmission. That’s a 7 on our scale.

Opting for the base 5-speed manual isn’t advised. The EPA rates those versions at 27/25/30 mpg. 

Among small cars, the Versa is competitive. The Hyundai Accent is rated at 36 mpg combined by the EPA. The Chevy Sonic is rated at 29 mpg combined. 

Asking for any more efficiency requires a hybrid battery pack and bigger price.


View my Flipboard Magazine.

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