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Entry price: $14,730

Price as tested: $19,465

Likes: New size, low price, looks, standard enhanced safety.

Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, no Apple/Android on entry trim, tight rear seat.  

This week, we’re behind the wheel of the new generation 2020 Nissan Versa, which grows up to near compact class dimensions. Nissan says the name Versa is short for “versatile space,” and meant to imply the spaciousness of the interior and versatile cargo arrangements according to a 2008 Nissan press release.

This third generation Versa has an entry price of $14,730 for entry S trim, and boasts lots of new standard features and sure to be interest from consumers of both the sub-compact and compact class automobiles. Versa’s all-new design also follows the similar design flow of their Nissan siblings ala Sentra, Altima and Maxima.  

Versa for 2020 sits lower to the ground, is wider in width and then adds a longer wheelbase length than the 2019 model. These upgrades stretch Versa to over 103 inches in wheelbase length to near compact class dimensions.   

Outwardly, the new front “v-design” grille lets everyone know this new Versa is indeed a Nissan class automobile. Better yet, every 2020 Versa now protects its passengers with surprising high tech active safety features including rear safety camera, lane departure warning, collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high beam assist and reverse emergency braking. This is a lot of high-tech safety equipment that is standard  even on the $14,730 entry S.

Three distinct 2020 Versa trims are available in S, SV and top class SR. The good news for 2020 is that for those who still like to shift manually, a 5-speed manual is still available on the S, while the SV ($17,640) and the SR ($18.240) come with a CVT automatic as standard fare. If you want the S with the CVT, it starts at $16,400 and also adds a 60-40 split rear seat that the SV and SR also feature.   

The new interior features a redesigned dash and gauge layout, cloth seating and an SV leather-wrap steering wheel. Surprising for this class is tilt and telescopic steering, another feature that most competitors lack. There’s also more room inside thanks to a two-inch longer roofline and everyone inside will notice that the new Versa is quieter inside, too. The SR arrives on 17-inch tires and nice five-spoke alloy wheels that assist in delivering a better ride all around

Under the hood sits a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that delivers 122 horsepower and 114 lb. ft of torque. Although not big numbers, the little Versa isn’t heavy resulting in some initial pep on lower RPM acceleration. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) imitates step-gear automatics but in the end it’s still a CVT with one gear basically taking care of all forward motion. Expect zero to 60 mph in about 10.8 seconds. Fuel mileage is very good as this is one area where the CVT outperforms the five-speed manual. The CVT delivers 32 city and 40 highway while the manual is listed at 27 city and 35 highway.

Although we’re really praising the new Versa and rightfully so, there are some low-priced vehicle drawbacks that are common to all sub compacts. No power seats are available across the line and the rear quarters are still a bit tight. The braking system is full ABS, but Nissan decided to continue using front discs and rear drums even on top trim SR.

Still,  the top line SR ups style and safety moves upwards thanks to a rear spoiler, LED headlamps and taillights, fog lamps, Nissan Intelligent Key® with Remote Start, daytime running lights, intelligent driver assist, rear cross traffic, hill start assist and much more. 

Our SV tester featured a $300 Convenience option that adds intelligent adaptive cruise and heated front seats.  This option is not available on the entry S, and the only other item of note I find unavailable on the low priced Versa is Apple and Android compatibility. 

If ever there was a reason to visit your Nissan dealer, it’s to see and drive the new generation Versa “compact/sub-compact” if shopping small cars. 

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.


Auto Bits

Remote drivers could be coming in the near future

The days of human drivers may be numbered once fully autonomous vehicles hit the road, but we aren’t there just yet. The technology is making its way into our cars, but this is a process that will take time. One step in the process could be virtual drivers.

Designated Driver, based out of Portland, Oregon, has developed technology that lets a human driver pilot a vehicle remotely. If you think this sounds sketchy, how about proof that it works in the form of a video where Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. drives one of these vehicles?

This car doesn’t look like other cars, notably for having a wrap that covers not just the usual parts but also the windows. This makes it a somewhat disconcerting experience for Gittin, who takes a ride in the car before he attempts to drive it from afar.

The system uses a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and a Samsung VR headset enabled by Vodafone’s 5G network. When it’s time for Gittin to pilot the car remotely, it looks for all the world like he’s sitting down to play a video game rather than drive an actual car complete with steering wheel and pedals. On the other end of these controls, however, is a real car.

Nicole Wakelin/BestRide.com


Did You Know

Volvo announced it will be limiting all its vehicles to a top speed of 112 mph starting in 2020.