Sedans

2020 Nissan Versa priced from $14,730, nets up to 40 mpg

Nissan's dramatically improved subcompact looks to step out of the bargain basement.

The 2020 Nissan Versa looks nothing like its predecessor. (Huzzah!).

Nissan

The all-new 2020 Nissan Versa is moving slightly upmarket, at least enough to give up its crown as America's least-expensive new car. With a just-announced starting MSRP of $14,730 plus $995 destination, the Versa will remain one of the most affordable ways to score a set of new wheels. However, it's no longer the lowest-priced new car in America -- that marketing badge of honor(?) will henceforth fall to the tiny Chevrolet Spark hatchback, which starts at $13,320 (plus $875 delivery).

One look at Nissan's third-gen Versa subcompact shows where a lot of that extra money has gone: It's been put to work designing a much more expressive, modern vehicle that's longer, wider and lower than its frankly awkward predecessor. The new 2020 Versa is styled very much in the mold of Nissan's new and updated sedan range, including the recently refreshed Maxima, new-last-year Altima and the forthcoming Sentra compact. If anything, Nissan's sedan range is quickly getting a bit homogenous, but at least it's a modern aesthetic.

The Versa's hatchback sibling, known as the Versa Note, is not being reprised for the new model year - if you want a 2020 Versa, it's four-door sedan or nothing.

On the plus side, the 2020 Nissan Versa includes a boatload of features and standard equipment, including a raft of safety gear that wasn't even offered on the outgoing generation. For starters, even the base S model (complete with a five-speed manual transmission!) includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear auto-brake, lane-departure warning and high-beam assist. Blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear door alert tech and a basic driver monitor are offered on midrange SV and above trims, and adaptive cruise control and heated seats are bundled together in a modest $300 option package.

On the inside, the old Versa's rounded, bubbly looking and discount-feeling cabin has been banished in favor of a much more streamlined "Gliding Wing" dashboard and better materials. Standard features include a 7-inch touchscreen audio system, 7-inch multi-mode digital gauge cluster readout and pushbutton start. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will come on the mid-grade SV trim ($17,640 plus delivery, including mandatory Xtronic continuously variable transmission), as well as the sporty-looking SR ($18,240 plus delivery, including compulsory CVT). 

The new Versa's cabin looks to be a monumental improvement.

Nissan

All models get Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free and a hands-free message assistant, and the top-shelf SR model gets a range of additional features including six-speaker audio and remote engine start.

Under the hood, all 2020 Nissan Versa models will be powered by a fresh version of Nissan's 1.6-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder. The engine is tuned here to deliver 122 horsepower (+12% versus last year) and 114 pound-feet of torque (+7%), improvements that should yield quicker acceleration. 

EPA fuel economy estimates check in at 32 miles per gallon city, 40 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined on CVT-equipped examples. It's worth noting that base five-speed stick-shift models don't fare nearly as well in terms of efficiency, netting just 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. That's an atypically large penalty for going with a manual gearbox, and while the CVT is rather costly at a $1,670 premium on base S models, the Xtronic's marked efficiency improvement may provide something of a salve to cost-conscious shoppers.

Versa sits 2.3 inches lower and features 0.8-inches less wheel gap than before, helping its stance immeasurably.

Nissan

While the outgoing Versa started at a lowest-in-the-industry price of just $12,460 plus ($895 delivery) and the new generation is a not-insubstantial 15%+ pricier to start, thanks to its myriad new features, improved performance and more contemporary looks, the new 2020 Nissan Versa may well prove to be a better value.

The 2020 Versa hits Nissan dealers shortly, where it will square off against segment rivals like the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mitsubishi Mirage, as well as Chevrolet's Spark and Sonic.