Nissan’s all-new 2020 Versa Sedan –
“The sedan is the middle finger *”
* The above ‘analysis’ is attributed to Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa, in an article by trade publication Automotive News
By Dave Boldt, Contributor, Car-ED.com | November 2019
Although the sedan may be DOA in Detroit – and is most certainly dead in Lordstown, Ohio – there’s still a 4-door pulse in Asian boardrooms; of course, having charted their rise in the U.S. with a commitment to competent sedans, you can’t blame Honda, Toyota and Nissan for riding this horse for as long as its upright. Recent research from the folks at Nissan, however, suggest that the 4-door sedan, long ignored by Boomers and their offspring, might be enjoying a revival in the 18-34 age group. And as Mr. Albaisa suggests, the historically prosaic sedan might be evolving into a generational statement relative to the folks’ SUV, crossover or minivan.
To underscore its commitment, Nissan has recently unveiled redesigns of its midsize Altima and compact Versa, with a new Sentra waiting – probably breathlessly – in the wings. The recently driven Altima might finally be a reasonable alternative to those that reflexively shop Accord or Camry. While its mix of style, accessibility and efficiency doesn’t necessarily beat the Honda or Toyota, it’s now a viable alternative to those hoping for an alternative. I wish its turbocharged engine could be had with the available all-wheel drive, but to channel our buddy Mick (Jagger), you can’t always get what you want.
What is this vehicle?
In shorthand, the new Versa is a smaller, more affordable Altima, and in 2020 A.D. that’s certainly not a bad thing. Back in the day, when the Versa was available as both a hatchback and sedan, I liked the hatch for its urban-friendly proportions, while dismissing the sedan as something a cabbie might operate in Mexico City…and nowhere else. Sure, you could argue it was affordable transportation – between $15K and $20K – for lower income households, but I could argue that you can get one h*lluva lot of pre-owned Accord or Camry (or Civic or Corolla) for that same money. And I’d go for the pre-owned Accord or Camry.
But that was then, this is now, and Nissan’s reinvention of the Versa is pretty darn compelling. Atop a footprint that is longer and wider (natch), Nissan adds sheetmetal with an almost-mature proportion and expressive folds. In short, Mexican cabbies will take notice, while Uber customers will find it easy to spot at (name your airport) Baggage Claim.
Inside, there’s more goodness. To be sure, some of the plastics seem on that side of ‘hard’, but seats are comfortable, controls – like the Altima – remain intuitive, and there’s reasonable room in the back seat, great storage in the trunk. And for its $22K, the Versa SR throws more safety, security (keyless entry!) and infotainment than you can shake the proverbial stick at. For the oft-distracted urban commuter – or teen driver – the nanny aids might just come in handy, and their presence on an entry-level subcompact suggests ‘trickle down’ economics might actually be working. Somewhere.
Under the hood is a 1.6 liter DOHC four boasting 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. Putting that, uh, power to the front wheels is Nissan’s Xtronic CVT; a 5-speed manual is standard on the Versa, but you’ll have to select the relatively bare-bones Versa S to buy it. With that, know you’ll enjoy decent throttle tip-in, and relatively relaxed highway cruising.
Notably, the Versa doesn’t provide the over-the-road maturity given to you by the Altima, and you could probably buy a basic Altima for the same monies as this upscale Versa SR. But I liked the nimble, tossable feel of the Versa – something the Altima was missing, at least with AWD and the base engine. You pay your money and take your choice, but for over the road I’ll take the Altima – and for running around town I liked the Versa. (And if they still offered a Versa hatch, like could turn to love.)
As it sits, there’s a lot to embrace in this newest Versa. And to once again reference Nissan’s Alfonso Albaisa, it’s the middle finger you can drive with pride.
Who is this vehicle for?
The Versa – in Sedan or other bodystyles to come – is for that first new sedan purchaser. Those wanting the most affordable product with Japanese-expected quality. If a NEW car is wanted versus a used car – this is one to consider. Also, given its smaller size, this is the vehicle that many commuters or city-dwellers may find fits their needs.
Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?
The 2020 Nissan Versa is significant in that you can get almost every available safety and driver-assistance technology available in the marketplace. That is something for an entry-level vehicle/platform and entry-level price points. All are possible to have – which is what many families want for the first vehicle for their children or why manner search for a NEW car instead of a used one.
Interesting facts about this vehicle!
According to a Nissan press release in 2008, “versa” is short for “versatile space” meant to imply the spaciousness of the interior and configurable cargo arrangements.
With the Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmissionOpens in New Window (CVT), the EPA estimates that Versa can achieve 32 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/35 mpg combined.
Segment and Competitors:
2019 Toyota Yaris
2019 Honda Fit
2019 Hyundai Accent
2019 Kia Rio
While sedans are being de-emphasized by the traditional domestic brands, that leaves the Asian manufacturers to continue on offerings for these entry level platforms with sedans and most likely other bodystyles as well.
Pricing and Availability:
The Versa will come in four models:
- Versa S 1.6 5MT (with a 5-speed manual transmission), starting at $14,730;
- Versa S 1.6 Xtronic, starting at $16,400;
- Versa SV 1.6 Xtronic, starting at $17,640;
- Versa SR 1.6 Xtronic, starting at $18,240.
Add $895 to each for Destination and Handling fees.
Available at dealerships now!