Hereditary: 2020 Nissan Versa Is Unmistakably Nissan, Less Entry-level Than Before
Regardless of which angle it’s viewed from, Nissan’s next-generation Versa stands atop a box and screams “Nissan!” for all to hear. From the side, you’d be forgiven for thinking someone shrunk the Maxima. Looking at the upward-sweeping character line and upstairs/downstairs door handles, its identity could be that of the new Altima. Head-on, a pedestrian might think they were being run down by a Leaf.
Yes, the 2020 Versa keeps it in the family in terms of design, donning a corporate grille and styling flourishes borrowed from its larger siblings. Perusing the car’s specs, it seems that — flat-bottomed steering wheel aside — its mission hasn’t changed one iota.
Nissan sprung the 2020 Versa on an unsuspecting world at Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale late Friday, no doubt causing beachgoers to bolt from the surf like Amity Island residents in that scene from Jaws.
The new Versa rides atop the same V platform as before, but Nissan’s designers made sure it actually looked comfortable doing so. Gone are the awkward proportions of its predecessor, replaced by a body that’s “lower, wider and longer” than before. Nissan promises an unexpectedly roomy cabin and trunk, which happens to be the previous-gen Versa’s strong point. Power, of course, was not the old Versa’s strong point, and Nissan has made headway on that front, too.
No longer bearing a 1.6-liter engine making 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque (a trade-off to buying a car that stickers below $13k), the 2020 versa sees a slightly more potent 1.6L mill — this one making 122 hp and 114 lb-ft. Modest gains, for sure, but keep in mind the Kicks crossover makes do with 125 hp and 115 lb-ft.
Managing that newfound power is a standard five-speed manual (this could be the last time you hear such a phrase) or Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission.
Inside, a revamped interior sports a “Gliding Wing” dash design that aims to emphasize the cabin’s roominess. Nissan also said something about fostering a sense of togetherness, but honestly, the temperament of your passengers will dictate the prevailing mood in there.
While the previous Versa could boast of being the lowest-priced sedan on the market, Nissan isn’t giving away all the details just yet. All the company would say is that the new model will bear “a price fitting buyers in the segment.” More details will come at its New York Auto Show debut next week.
As it moves forward to capture a bevy of sedan-happy Gen-X, Millennial, and multicultural buyers (Nissan clearly did its demographic homework here), it won’t do it with a hatchback sibling in tow. The Versa Note is dead. Nor will the new Versa make an appearance north of the border — if Canadians want a really inexpensive Nissan, they still have access to the Micra. The Versa sedan bowed out of that market in 2014.
So just how much of a stripper is this thing, you ask? Thanks to economies of scale, few stripped-down vehicles really exist, and the Versa doesn’t fit the bill. Standard on the 2020 Versa are remote keyless entry, push-button ignition, and power windows, while safety features like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, and high beam assist round out the list of standard content.
Those looking to spend more can add heated seats, automatic climate control, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suits of driver assist features (blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent cruise control, etc).
The 2020 Nissan Versa goes on sale this summer.