Car Review: 2020 Nissan Versa moves from has-been to competitive subcompact sedan

A few years back, the last time I tested a Versa, I had to think hard to find something nice to say. It was cheap and the driving experience left much to be desired. But the Nissan Versa has been reworked for 2020, much for the better.

The body on the top-of-the-line SR trim-level Versa looks a bit sporty, with flashy Monarch Orange, large 17-inch wheels and a trunk mount spoiler. Inside there are fewer hard, cheap plastics than before and soft touch materials are placed in a few high visibility areas.

Tech is also improved with a 7-inch touch screen with Nissan Connect. The addition of Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto makes using your phone for navigation easy.

While the Nissan Versa SR looks sporty, there isn’t much power, so don’t expect neck-snapping performance. The 1.6-liter four-banger and CVT transmission means it gets a bit buzzy at higher revs.

However, the Nissan Versa SR handles much better than most of the other subcompact sedans. It likes curves and back roads, and does surprisingly well on the highway, making the sedan a slow-mo for a somewhat hushed cruiser with limited road and wind noise.

Cost: $18,240; as tested, $21,885

MPG: 32 mpg city and 40 mpg highway; I managed 36.5 mpg in 212 miles of mixed driving.

Safety: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection; rear automatic braking; intelligent cruise control; lane departure warning; high beam assist; blind spot warning with RCTA

Options: $395 premium paint; $300 convenience package; $210 carpeted floor mats and trunk mat; $300 center armrest with storage; $855 electronic package; $690 lighting package

Things to know: The 2020 Nissan Versa SR moves to the head of the subcompact sedan class. With a nifty tire-fill alert, the car will give you a toot of the horn when the tires are filled with the proper pressure.

Pros:

  • Handsome style; looks like a higher-dollar car
  • Comes packed with safety equipment and technology
  • Stingy with gas; you can see over 40 mpg on the highway

Cons:

  • Slow acceleration with the CVT transmission; it gets loud at higher rpm
  • Pricey when options are added
  • Back seat is tight for taller riders

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