As of today, when the 2020 sedan goes on sale, the Nissan Versa subcompact has abdicated its throne as America’s cheapest new car at $13,355. The 2020 will cost a lot more, though it still is close to the cheapest new car available, starting at $15,625 with a five-speed manual transmission (all prices here include a still-modest $895 destination charge) and $17,295 with an automatic. But as Nissan doubles down to grab more of the shrinking small-car market, it also has turned the former ugly duckling with a low-rent interior into a far better value.
The new model retains its Versa virtue over more Lilliputian rivals as a subcompact sedan with near-compact car space. But the lumpy shape and bare-bones interior have given way to a car that no longer says to your friends, “I bought the cheap one.” The sleeker 2020 borrows cues from the redone Altima mid-size sedan, as well as a dashboard and interior bits from the Kicks hatchback (my current favorite Nissan) with which it shares a platform. The value cherry on top is that even at the base price, Nissan has loaded it up with advanced safety tech and convenience upgrades that get sweeter — and not a lot more expensive — as you move from the base S to the SV and SR trim levels of this starter car.
Standard safety features on the base S include front automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection (up to 37 mph), rear automatic braking (up to 9 mph), a lane departure warning system, and automatic headlights and high beams. On the convenience list for the base S are a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming, three USB ports and a push-button start.
You can find a cheaper new car in the U.S., but you’ll have to look at the Mitsubishi Mirage, the Ford Fiesta that is discontinued for 2020, and the Chevrolet Spark that also is reportedly on the chopping block. The sweet spot for 2020 Versa value, however, is the midrange SV that adds a whole lot of desirable features for a starting price of $18,535. For starters, the safety tech menu adds a blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, a rear door alert, a driver alertness warning and adaptive grid lines for the backup camera. The total safety tech package at this level is more complete and at a lower price than is available on rivals that include the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris. You can compare the competitors’ features here.
The media system is also upgraded in the SV to Nissan Connect with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio capability and steering wheel controls with voice recognition. The instrument cluster gets a 7-inch configurable screen. The SV also feels and looks better with padded and stitched vinyl dashboard trim, nicer cloth seats and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels that replace the base model’s 15-inch steel wheels with covers.
The top-of-the-line SR still slides home under $20,000 at $19,135 and adds a proximity key with remote engine start, automatic climate control, exterior trim tweaks, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, upgraded cloth seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. A $300 package adds heated seats and adaptive cruise control.
More From Cars.com:
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- 2018 Kia Rio: Our View
- 2018 Hyundai Accent: Quick Spin
- Toyota’s Yaris Hatchback Back for 2020, and It’s a Mazda
While it’s no longer the cheapest sedan of all, the 2020 Versa still manages to overdeliver on space and features for a starting price that still slightly undercuts base rivals from Hyundai and Toyota, though Kia has a cheaper starter 2019 Rio with an automatic. The added safety equipment and media tech also raises its value versus an older used car for a similar price. Nissan says there’s still a market for updated small cars, particularly among younger adults, citing research that says that 78 percent of non-sedan owners would consider one for their next car and that 86 percent of those people are ages 18 to 34.
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