At $18,000 the all-new Nissan Versa SV is basic transportation. But when I checked it out, I found that it's a bit more.

Mathew DeBord/BIA nice set of wheels!
  • Nissan has revamped the Versa for the 2020 model year.
  • I enjoyed a short drive around NYC in a Nissan Versa SV, priced at about $US18,000.
  • The Versa SV comes with a peppy yet fuel-sipping 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower.
  • The subcompact sedan is also handsomely designed.
  • Nissan has included a nice suite of safety and driver-assist features.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In case you were wondering, it’s still possible to buy an entire new car in the US for less than $US20,000. In fact, it’s possible to buy one for less than $US15,000, if you can swing a manual transmission.

That’s thanks to Nissan, which has revamped the Versa for the 2020 model year (it first appeared in the mid-2000s). The subcompact market is obviously entry-level, but the new Versa proves that it doesn’t have to be depressingly barebones.

I was reacquainted with this fact recently when I took a short first-drive spin in a 2020 Nissan Versa SV, negotiating New York City traffic. I came away impressed. Very impressed.

Read on to find out why:


Yes, the 2020 Nissan Versa SV is pretty basic transportation, with a sticker price of about $US18,000. But it’s a sharp set of wheels.

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The small-sedan segment isn’t what it used to be, but Nissan continues to take it seriously. The Versa can be had in three trim levels: S, SV, and SR.

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The design of the Versa is what I’d call crisp and clean, with just enough character lines and chrome to liven up the modest package.

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The fastback roofline is a nice touch.

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The Versa isn’t a hatchback …

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… It’s a proper sedan with a trunk. And that trunk …

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… Is plenty roomy, with a nearly 15-cubic-foot cargo capacity, quite good for the segment.

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The cabin isn’t especially fancy, but the two-tone treatment for my Versa SV was handsome.

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Legroom in the rear isn’t great. But it should be OK for short jaunts.

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Part of me finds an unpretentious interior to be appealing, and the Versa’s doesn’t come off as cheap.

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The mutlifunction steering wheel is what most drivers would expect from a modern car.

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The seven-inch infotainment screen runs Nissan’s capable if not exactly stupendous system. It’s up to industry standards, however, with easy device pairing and connectivity. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.

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The Versa offers a single engine option: Nissan’s 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder.

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This rather basic motor makes an adequate 122 horsepower and respectable fuel economy. The automatic transmission serves up “32 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined,” according to Nissan. The 5-speed stickshift gives up “27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined,” Nissan says.

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The Xtronic transmission is a CVT unit, which helps with the fuel economy. Some folks don’t like CVTs (I’m not one of them), but the Versa’s performed well for me and wasn’t overly noisy.

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My drive took me to Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighbourhood where I took the opportunity to explore some art.

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Richard is pretty far from basic sculpture.

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And the Nissan Versa isn’t basic transportation! Here’s the verdict.

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I’ll subject the Versa to a longer review at some point in the future, but after driving around for an hour, I was impressed. This a darn good cheap car!

It looks good, it drives good, and it offers reasonable versatility as well as excellent fuel economy. It was also a breeze to manoeuvre through the New York City streets.

Nissan has also crammed the new Versa with safety features, including emergency braking, lane-departure warning, a blind-spot warning (depending on trim level). At this price point, that represents stunning value.

If you simply need a car and aren’t interested in doing hours of research, the Versa is definitely worth a look. It checks off all the boxes for basic transportation but throws in a commendable suite of extras that should keep owners so satisfied that they might decide to skip an upgrade.

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