Ace of Base: 2020 Nissan Versa S Five-speed

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
ace of base 2020 nissan versa s five speed

A few days ago, on the Official TTAC Slack Channel(TM), our bearded car reviewer was carping about the MSRP of a Nissan Versa he happened to be testing that week. “Too expensive!” he grumbled into his facial shrubbery, before extolling the virtues of several terrible French cars.

This got your author thinking: on sale now for the better part of a year, and recently refurbished from “Beirut taxi” to something resembling an actual car you’d want to drive, how does the base S model stack up against its bucks-deluxe brother which found itself on one of our doorsteps in Ohio?

We last visited this model about a year ago but, at the time, did not have the level of detail about equipment and trim that is available today. Like most other base Nissans, the Versa’s entry-level model is called S, which definitely does not stand for “sport.” It does, however, in a fit of driving practicality and maybe even a bit of fun, some standard with a five-speed manual transmission. This alone qualifies it for Ace of Base consideration.

Under the hood is a 1.6-liter inline-four with four valves per cylinder and 122 horsepower. This is more than it sounds, particularly when control of the thing is wielded through a stick instead of a soul-sucking CVT. Those 15-inch tires will keep a lid on costs come replacement time, though they do cover lowly drum brakes in the back. Nissan is not alone in this cost-cutting sin for this segment, though.

Despite bearing a sticker price of just $14,730, the Versa S incorporates a raft of driver assistance technologies that are surprising to find at this price. Automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and rear automatic braking are all standard equipment. As someone’s first car, it beats the hell out of the look-at-them-and-they’d-lock binders on your author’s clapped-out Ford Escort. Cruise control is included, too.

Air conditioning is standard, as it is in more and more rigs these days, but the push button ignition and tilt/telescope wheel can be chalked up to economies of scale. Windows and mirrors are powered, though the latter are painted black and will advertise your flinty ways to anyone paying attention. Jazzy shades including this Electric Blue Metallic are available at no charge.

Infotainment is handled by a 7-inch touchscreen which isn’t anything to write home about but at least includes some form of voice recognition. There are three USB ports, a feature worth noting in a segment where one lonely unit seems to be the norm. Don’t expect Apple CarPlay, so use the Bluetooth connectivity for your tunes instead.

This year’s base model Versa definitely wins the award for Most Improved. How about the rest of it? And do the addition of items like automatic temperature control and LED lights justify a price hike? You’ll have to wait for Chris’s review to find out.

[Images: Nissan]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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2 of 40 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Apr 02, 2020

    The oldest member of my extended family daily-drives a close-to-base 2000 Camry. I have the genuine pleasure this week of doing some cosmetic clean-up on it. It has been well-maintained mechanically and is really nice for what it is. If you took good care of this 2020 Versa S, it would have a better chance of still being on the road in 2040 than many of the other vehicles we see in these pages.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 02, 2020

    I'm shocked at the value in this segment. This thing is a screaming deal. Apparently the Koreans will sell you something similar too, with more power in the bargain. And the king of this segment was the old-model strippo 1.4 turbo Jetta--a bargain, easy on gas, AND legitimately nice to drive--but I think that's gone away now with the much-improved new Jetta, yes?

  • VoGhost So, it's a slow, expensive, cramped Plaid with less range?
  • Dukeisduke Why the hell doesn't Farley just resign? Why hasn't Bill Ford fired him? I lay all this at Farley's feet.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the livestream (I'm a MT+ subscriber), but after 15 minutes of jawing by the presenters, I got bored and turned it off. I may watch it this weekend, when I can fast forward through that stuff, to get to the reveal.
  • Dukeisduke Electric power steering, I assume. First-gen Chevy Cruzes can suffer from similar issues, usually traceable to a flaky battery negative cable, a $10 OEM part. Weird, huh?
  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.