Nissan stages the debut of the ’20 Versa subcompact sedan today at a Ft. Lauderdale, FL, music festival.
The debut comes days after Nissan confirmed rumors the car’s hatchback version, the Versa Note, is being discontinued following the ’19 model year.
While sales of cars in any segment have been declining in the U.S. as consumers shift to utility vehicles, the B-car segment especially has been under pressure.
Sales of models in Wards Intelligence data’s Lower Small group fell 17.6% last year.
Nearly every model in the group posted hefty losses in 2018, including the Versa, which saw volume drop 29.0% to 75,809 sales from 106,772 in 2017.
Versa sales also declined in 2016 and 2017, and in the first quarter of 2019 fell 67.0%, Wards Intelligence data shows.
Nissan doesn’t provide sales per body style, but Wards Intelligence data shows 79% of all ’18 Versas built were sedans with only 21% hatchbacks.
Nissan follows in Toyota’s footsteps in discontinuing its smallest hatchback. Toyota announced in January the hatch version of the Yaris, which it calls the liftback, also is going to the automotive graveyard at the close of the ’19 model year.
Meanwhile, Ford has killed the Fiesta in the U.S. and General Motors is rumored to be shelving the Chevy Spark.
Wards Intelligence data shows the Chevy Sonic being discontinued in 2020 and the Honda Fit departing in 2021.
Hatchback cars are under pressure from a new wave of small CUVs – essentially lifted hatchbacks – such as Nissan’s own Kicks subcompact CUV that entered the U.S. market last summer.
Nissan, which touts the Versa sedan as the best-selling subcompact sedan in the U.S. in media materials, promises the ’20 Versa 4-door will have a new level of refinement, dramatic design, and technology and will be available at a “price fitting buyers in the segment.”
Most U.S. subcompacts start around $15,000, although Nissan has been one of the lowest-priced entrants in the group, with the ’19 Versa sedan beginning at $12,360.
Details are scant on the ’20 Versa, but Nissan says the nameplate will continue to be powered by a 1.6L 4-cyl., albeit a next-generation version of the engine and making 122 hp and 114 lb.-ft. (155 Nm) of torque. Those figures are up from 109 hp and 107 lb.-ft. (143 Nm) in the 1.6L 4-cyl. ’19 Versa sedan.
The 1.6L continues to be mated to either an Xtronic CVT or 5-speed manual transmission.
Nissan says the new third-generation Versa is lower, wider and longer than the second-gen sedan it replaces and has the same “Emotional Geometry” design language as the recently redesigned Nissan Altima and Maxima sedans.
Nissan’s V-motion grille, boomerang-shaped headlamps and taillamps and floating roof all will be present on the Versa.
“This third-generation Versa design is all about the proportion and stance…the wheels are pushed out, there’s an imposing grille presence, everything about it says lower, wider, longer,” says Giovanny Arroba, program design director-Nissan Global Design Center at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
The interior (pictured below) also has the same gliding-wing instrument panel as the Altima and Maxima and Nissan says the cabin overall will have an “up-level quality” due to harmonious materials and colors, as well as the horizontal architecture of the IP. In photos, one Versa appears to have a black and orange interior color scheme, similar to that of the Kicks.
The ’20 Versa sedan will get Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite (lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection) as standard, with several advanced-driver-assist-system (ADAS) technologies, such as adaptive cruise control and blindspot warning, being listed as optional.
Nissan says standard creature-comfort technologies include remote keyless entry, push-button start and power windows, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as heated front seats, are options.
The new ’20 Versa sedan goes on sale this summer in the U.S.