One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Nissan Versa is a budget-friendly commuter car

The redesigned Nissan Versa has come a long way since it's last generation.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2020 Nissan Versa isn't going to knock anyone's socks off as a speedster or wow you with finery. What this new generation Versa needs to do, for its typical buyer, is deliver a lot of bang for the buck housed inside an attractive enough package. It does that and more.

The Versa is a subcompact car that fits in Nissan's lineup at the bottom, sitting below the Sentra, Altima, and Maxima on the cars side of the aisle. The last-generation Versa came in both a sedan and hatchback but the 2020 does not. Nissan is intending for the subcompact Kicks SUV to pick up that slack.

The 2020 Versa comes in S, SV, and SR trim levels. Its pricing structure is designed to keep it among the lowest cost cars out there, but Nissan didn't prioritize the Versa being the cheapest. Instead, the automaker focused on delivering a vehicle for the typical buyer who needs a solid daily driver.

2020 Nissan Versa The Versa has many Nissan design hallmarks you'll see in other models in the automaker's lineup.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

For the 2020 model year, Nissan has completely redesigned the Versa inside and out, giving it many of the characteristics you'll see on the Altima including a V-motion grille front and center, boomerang-shaped headlamps, and a floating roof. The new Versa is lower, wider, and longer than the outgoing generation.

The Versa's new body is significantly more ridged than the outgoing model's. Not only does this help with noise, vibration, and harshness reductions, it makes the vehicle more stable on the road when it encounters crosswinds. The engineering team has also improved the steering shaft's rigidity resulting in a more responsive behind the wheel experience.

Under the Versa's hood is the third generation of the company's 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine. That's the same size power plant as is in the Kicks, only one generation newer. It achieves 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, a 12 and seven percent upgrade over the last generation, respectively.

2020 Nissan Versa A five-speed manual transmission is standard but all other variants come with a continuously variable transmission.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In its base model, the Versa's engine is mated with a five-speed manual transmission, one of the few remaining vehicles on dealer lots with one. All other variants come with a continuously variable transmission.

While the Versa is not fast by any means, it's competent in the city and can hold its own at highway speeds. Where the small car struggles the most is when going uphill at low speed. For daily driving situations in most of America, the Versa is competent.

Climbing inside the Versa, it's immediately apparent that this model sits at the lower end of Nissan's lineup. However, especially in the top SR trim, the appointments are nicer than what you'll find in other small cars. The Versa has good fit and finish.

The list of standard features in the 2020 Versa is long and includes a 7-inch infotainment touch screen, Bluetooth, a 12-volt power outlet, three USB ports, Siri Eyes Free, an AM/FM radio, one-touch up/down driver's window, front door bottle holders, cruise control, keyless entry, push-button start, and a rearview camera.

2020 Nissan Versa The Nissan Versa delivers a lot of bang for the buck, including a standard 7-inch infotainment screen.Photo courtesy of Nisan North America

Buyers can upgrade to a six-speaker audio system, an advanced 7-inch infotainment screen, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, NissanConnect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and satellite radio. SR models also get automatic climate control, Nissan Intelligent Key with remote start, and adaptive cruise control.

The base model Versa comes with cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, high beam assist, a rearview camera, rear automatic braking, and hill start assist. Higher grades build on that also delivering Intelligent Driver Alertness, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot monitoring.

Nissan sells the 2020 Versa in three grades: S, SV, and SR. It starts at $14,730, a nearly $2,500 jump from the outgoing model. With the SV and SR grades coming in at $17,640 and $18,240, respectively, it's easy to see the value proposition in the new Versa.

The 2020 Nissan Versa is on sale now at dealer lots nationwide.

Click here to see a slideshow featuring all the angles of the 2020 Nissan Versa.

Trending News

 
 

The 2022 Frontier gets a brand-new face and updated tech.

Nissan

After 16 years on sale in its current form, the Nissan Frontier is a familiar face on our roads. The truck, which is technically old enough to get a driver's license and drive itself, is being totally overhauled for 2022, and the new look is a big departure from the ute we've seen for so many years. Nissan announced that production has started, so we don't have much longer to wait to see it in action for ourselves.

The new truck's 3.8-liter V6 has already been in action powering the 2021 Frontier. It produces a class-leading 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, and sends its power to either the rear or all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission.


2022 Nissan Frontier Production is underway in Mississippi.Nissan


This is the first new Frontier we've seen in over a decade, so the upgrade in technology is steep over the previous truck. The 2022 Frontier can be optioned with a surround-view camera system with off-road mode that automatically displays terrain around the truck when it's shifted into 4LO. The system displays guidelines and can help the driver navigate tough obstacles on the trail. A host of safety features will be available that includes automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warnings, high beam assist, and more.

Other than its age, there was nothing particularly wrong with the previous Frontier's interior, but the new truck looks to be considerably more upscale and modern. Various trims come with interesting contrasting color schemes and the truck gets Nissan's excellent Zero Gravity seats as standard. New hydraulic cab mounts should help quell vibrations inside, and traditional hydraulic power steering will provide excellent steering feel and feedback.

Nissan is building the new frontier in its Canton, MS facility, while the truck's engine is being built at the automaker's powertrain plant in Tennessee. We'll start seeing the new model on dealers' lots sometime in late summer 2021, and you can find a first drive review of the truck right here in a few weeks.


2022 Nissan Frontier The new trucks will arrive on dealers' lots later this summer.Nissan

Trending News

 
 

The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

Trending News