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In April, I entered into an informal transaction that a whole bunch of hundreds — if not tens of millions — of Individuals will discover acquainted. I walked as much as an airport rental automobile counter, signed some papers and walked out with a set of keys to a Nissan Versa. For a complete cocktail of causes, that have is more likely to get loads much less widespread due to the automobile seen right here. It is the all-new 2020 Nissan Versa, and it appears to be like and feels completely in contrast to its fleet-favorite predecessor.

This can be a good factor. In reality, my early Might rental expertise was completely unremarkable. The outgoing Versa was positively large inside, it featured easy-to-master controls and the automobile drove, turned and stopped obediently and effectively. In a vacuum, the outdated mannequin was a wonderfully acceptable motoring proposition. Drawback is, for those who had been a small automobile shopper, the Versa did not exist in a vacuum, and nearly the whole lot else in its class was extra trendy, compelling and substantial-feeling, from the Hyundai Accent to the Kia Rio, Chevrolet Sonic and Honda Match. After a day’s drive on this new 2020 Nissan Versa, I am happy to report that is not the case. 

A part of the explanation the outdated Versa was such a rental-counter staple was due to its ultra-low value. For years, Nissan ensured it was the least-expensive new automobile offered in America, beginning at simply $12,460 (plus $895 supply payment). For 2020, nevertheless, this new technology begins at $14,730 (plus supply), a not-insignificant value hike of simply over 15%. The excellent news is, the brand new Versa appears like 100% extra automobile.  

All of it begins with a completely trendy exterior. The 2020 Nissan Versa is longer (+1.6 inches), decrease (-2.Three inches ) and wider (+1.eight inches) than its predecessor. Simply as importantly, the brand new automobile additionally sits zero.eight inches decrease on its wheels. (The outdated Versa’s homeliness was partly a perform of its unusually ethereal wheel wells.) Like a type of profitable geek-to-chic actuality TV makeovers, the 2020 Versa sits on the a lot the identical underlying framework as earlier than, but you’d by no means understand it, as a result of it is a wholly convincing transformation. The brand new mannequin is much extra modern trying, polished and — dare I say it — upscale. 

The highest-trim 2020 SR ($18,240 plus supply) that I drove for many of my testing day in and round Nashville, Tennessee, options 17-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting and a rear spoiler, together with a brace of signature Nissan design cues shared with all Versa fashions, together with a distinguished V-Movement grille and floating roofline. It is a fairly good-looking automobile. 

If something, the Versa will be accused of trying too acquainted — all of Nissan’s lately redone 4 doorways, from the newest Altima and facelifted Maxima to the corporate’s forthcoming Sentra appear and feel a bit homogenous, like they’ve taken to coronary heart 1980s BMW’s “one sausage, three sizes” styling philosophy. If that is the worst criticism that may be leveled towards this design, although, so be it — the brand new Versa’s look is worlds extra convincing than the awkwardly rounded, tiptoe-stanced look of the outdated automobile.

Versa is 2.Three inches decrease general and rides a helpful zero.eight inches decrease on its wheels than final yr.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

If, like me, you had been fearful about how the 2020 Nissan Versa’s modern new appears to be like may take a toll on the outdated automobile’s positively cavernous inside and trunk area, concern not — the information is usually good. Whereas headroom up entrance takes a slight zero.Three-inch shave, a 2.7-inch enhance in legroom to a class-leading 44.5 inches greater than makes up for any shortfall, and there is significantly extra hip and shoulder room, too. 

In again, rear-seat headroom is once more shaved by zero.Three inches, however it’s rear seat legroom that basically takes a success, down a full 6.zero inches. That is an enormous comedown, however in reality, second-row cabin area remains to be class aggressive, it is simply that the outdated mannequin’s gawky, upright proportions actually lent themselves to offering freakishly NBA-spec legroom. Substantial enhancements in rear seat hip and shoulder space likewise means it does not really feel tight or claustrophobic again there. Cargo room is mainly unchanged at a beneficiant 14.7-to-15 cubic toes, relying on mannequin trim.

What that tape-measure hairsplitting does not inform you is how a lot nicer and extra trendy the 2020 Nissan Versa’s inside feels. It is as dramatic an overhaul as this sedan’s outdoors. Gone is the bubbly, rounded and discount-plastic-intensive cabin of the 2019 mannequin. As a replacement is a slimmer “Gliding Wing” dashboard, extra substantial-feeling supplies and a complete host of latest options. A brace of ordinary objects consists of pushbutton begin, a seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster display, racy-looking flat-bottom wheel and an up to date seven-inch show audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all fashions save the price-leading S trim. Embedded navigation is unavailable, however ergonomics are a powerful swimsuit, with easy, easy-to-decipher infotainment, HVAC and steering wheel controls. 

It is genuinely tough to overstate how a lot of an enchancment this cabin is during the last Versa.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Like this automaker’s different current efforts, the Versa options “Zero Gravity” entrance seats, which proved to be accommodating over my hours of driving. My taller copilot did categorical some discomfort as our day wore on, nevertheless, so be sure that for those who’re purchasing round, that you just take time to correctly assess consolation. 

A doubtlessly bigger concern looms across the Versa’s aforementioned HVAC system. Our launch occasion happened within the wilting late-July Tennessee warmth, with temperatures hovering round 90 levels paired with greater humidity. By the top of our drive, our 2020 Nissan Versa’s air-conditioning system felt fairly effectively maxed out. We weren’t uncomfortable, however with the automated local weather management set to its lowest diploma setting, it merely did not really feel like we had been getting the air temperature that readout promised. When you dwell in a persistently sizzling a part of the nation, that is one thing you may need to check out.

We have come all this manner with out spending a phrase speaking about what powers the 2020 Nissan Versa. That is largely as a result of the brand new Versa is outlined extra by its dramatic inside and exterior adjustments than it’s by what’s below hood. Pop the bonnet and you will find Nissan’s new “Gen3” HR16DE engine, a 1.6-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder. Tuned right here to comprehend 122 horsepower (+12%) and 114 pound-feet of torque (+7%), this front-wheel-drive financial system automobile is accessible with both a five-speed handbook or a repeatedly variable transmission. The latter figures to be the much more widespread alternative, and Nissan says its Xtronic CVT has been strengthened with strengthened belts to permit for a 12% decrease gear at 25 miles per hour, together with up to date shift logic that yields each smarter throttle response and higher general effectivity.

Sadly, no manual-transmission fashions had been out there for testing.

This absolutely loaded SR price $20,040 delivered. Nonetheless a good worth, it is treading near class-above fashions just like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

The Versa’s up to date driving expertise feels a number of orders extra polished than earlier than, with the powertrain being appreciably quieter and fewer thrashy than final yr’s mannequin. Nissan’s Xtronic transmission unit obliges little or no of the stretched-rubber-band RPM swoon that could be a widespread blight on the likability of CVTs, and general noise, vibration and harshness is effectively managed.  

Having stated that, at the least when geared up with the CVT, the Versa remains to be not significantly entertaining to drive, merely competent. Rivals just like the Honda Match and Mazda-sourced Toyota Yaris sedan really feel each extra energetic and light-weight on their toes, although they commerce away some refinement within the discount. On the hilly, winding roads outdoors of Nissan’s adopted hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, it was simple to understand dealing with enhancements made attainable by adjustments to the automobile’s steering, suspension and construction. Nonetheless, even with my Versa SR’s surprisingly premium 205/50R17 Continental ContiProContact all-season rubber, the Versa’s chassis and throttle response nonetheless did not really feel as sprightly as Nissan’s personal new Kicks crossover. 

The reality is, most individuals won’t ever want or need to toss one thing just like the Versa down a rustic street, so it is most likely good that Nissan has as an alternative chosen to emphasise general trip high quality and low noise ranges as an alternative of driving verve. Even nonetheless, in mild of how Nissan has managed to bake-in a shocking quantity of fun-to-drive DNA in its equally powered, equally chassis’d (and really inexpensive) Kicks SUV, it is a slight disappointment to seek out that the Versa is not extra full of life behind the wheel.

Vary-topping SR fashions are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Gasoline effectivity metrics are inside a hair of the outgoing mannequin’s scores, and that is no dangerous factor contemplating these new fashions weigh round 200 kilos greater than their forebears due to the aforementioned enhancements in measurement, tools and robustness. EPA estimates name for 32 miles per gallon metropolis, 40 mpg freeway and 32 mpg on the mixed cycle for Xtronic-equipped fashions. Base 5-speed handbook fashions fare considerably worse, registering ho-hum 27/35/30 scores. You might have to pay a whopping $1,670 extra to get a CVT within the base S mannequin (all different Versa trims come normal with two pedals), however the effectivity good points ought to make that surcharge simpler to swallow.

Entry-level automobiles just like the Versa are more likely to be bought for younger drivers by dad and mom or by cost-conscious seniors, so security options are significantly necessary on this class. To that finish, the brand new Versa contains a ton of latest superior driver-assistance techniques, together with some tech that is not out there on opponents. Automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection is normal, as is rear auto brake and lane-departure warning. Even automated high-beam headlamps are normal throughout the road. 

A 1.6-liter 4 with 122 hp and 114 pound-feet of torque powers all 2020 Versa fashions.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

On mid-level SV trim ($17,640 plus supply) and above, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are added, together with a primary driver consciousness monitor and rear door alert, an alert system designed to stop drivers from by accident leaving folks or issues within the again seats. These are uncommon options at this value level, as is the SR’s distant begin functionality. Adaptive cruise management is accessible for $300 as a part of an choice bundle with heated entrance seats.

General, the brand new 2020 Nissan Versa is vastly improved. It not appears like a commodity automobile, a purchase order shoppers and rental-fleet consumers resign themselves to easily as a result of the outdated mannequin was America’s most cost-effective new automobile. This new mannequin is directly extra enticing, higher to drive and extra cohesive general. Regardless of a not-insubstantial MSRP hike, the 2020 Versa remains to be very competitively priced, and most significantly, it appears like a a lot better worth than earlier than — particularly on mid-range fashions that do not have backside traces that tread intently towards class-above fashions just like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. 

In fact, this automobile’s new, greater price ticket will nearly actually imply you may see fewer Nissans lining the heaps at Hertz, Enterprise and Alamo. Like the brand new Versa itself, although, effectively… that is no dangerous factor.

This is much better geared up to battle Hyundai’s Accent, Honda’s Match and Toyota’s Yaris.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Editors’ notice: Journey prices associated to this function had been lined by the producer. That is widespread within the auto business, as it is extra economical to ship journalists to automobiles than to ship automobiles to journalists. Whereas Roadshow accepts multi-day car loans from producers as a way to present scored editorial opinions, all scored car opinions are accomplished on our turf and on our phrases.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s editorial group are our personal and we don’t settle for paid editorial content material.

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