A new $20,000 car isn’t as spartan as you might think.

It’s a return to basics, but also to a form of realism. For the price of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, our review last week, you could afford 22 Nissan Versas! One will suffice, perhaps you will conclude in the light of this essay.

The fingers of one hand are enough to identify the number of vehicles that are displayed at less than $20,000. And even. The consumer will still have to pay a few thousand dollars more for taxes, transport and preparation. In other words, taking into account all the costs associated with its use, this Versa represents an annual expense of some $7,000. Now, we leave it to you to imagine what it costs to drive a Rolls-Royce.

The Versa is what you might call a geographically distinctive car. More than 50% of its buyers reside in Quebec. “She’s been a big part of that for us,” said Steve Millette, president and CEO of Nissan Canada. It ensures our presence in a segment where we have a loyal customer base [50% of customers of the defunct Micra now opt for a Versa] and sensitive to the price it pays. »

With the Versa, Nissan takes a counter-current discourse of generalist brands. These all aspire to “upscale” and in doing so eliminate “cheap” models from their catalog.

Unsurprisingly, the entry model (S) is more stripped down than the others (SV and SR) in this area. However, with the exception of blind-spot sensors combined with cross-traffic alert (handy in the shopping center parking lot), there’s no real reason to feel helpless. Even the ugly lane change system is standard across the range.

Were you planning to use a Versa to deliver pizza or provide taxi service (the Versa qualifies)? If so, the S version will do just fine. Otherwise, it’s better to aim higher and benefit from some comforts of modern life (heated seats, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, etc.). And with a less sinister presentation, as is the case with the version that illustrates this report.

Archi-traditional, the three-volume silhouette tries not to upset anyone. To be honest, the Versa does not place great importance on aesthetics. The cutting of sheets (and plastics) had to remain simple, which excluded complex shapes. The priority given to habitability also did not allow its designers to worry too much about aerodynamics and subtle plays of light on the bodywork.

That said, this Nissan claims to accommodate five occupants without difficulty, notably by offering them first-rate headroom. True, but the conditions under which the unfortunate (or the unfortunate, it depends) is relegated to the center of the back seat, however, is a challenge. To travel a little more relaxed, it is better to limit access to four people. As for the trunk, it easily defies that of compact sedans. With a capacity of 416 L (425 L for the SV and SR), therefore greater than that of a Nissan Sentra or a Mazda3, this luggage compartment is one of the strong points of the Versa. Too bad, all the same, that only the most expensive versions allow the rear seat backs to fold down.

The slightly elevated driving position adjusts perfectly thanks to a tilting and telescoping steering column, but the seat provides little support and does not invite very long trips.

At the wheel, the heading “floats” a bit, the steering always feels numb and the soundproofing is perfectible.

The relaxation of the suspensory elements causes jolts on damaged cobblestones. It even happens to him to heel sometimes. But on a properly dressed roadway, the Versa strives to make the ride comfortable. There is no need to worry, in steep curves, that the attitude of the vehicle will be disturbed by this too relaxed suspension.

In addition, the braking is progressive, easy to modulate and rather resistant. And the presence of rear drums also reduces maintenance and repair costs.

Compatible with the anti-pollution standards in force, the engine that drives it lacks breath and discretion (during strong acceleration), but is sufficient for the task given the low weight of the car. The five-speed manual transmission’s guidance lacks precision, but helps to make the ride more engaging. As for the continuously variable transmission (CVT), it still gives this impression of “pedaling in a vacuum”, but it has the merit of reducing the otherwise disappointing consumption of this vehicle. Indeed, even some urban utilities currently show a more moderate appetite for hydrocarbons. This is an invitation to SUV detractors to qualify some of their comments and to potential Versa customers to redo their calculations.

From $18,298 to $22,798


7.4 L/100 km (winter conditions with CVT)

Simplicity of controls Predictable behavior Trunk volume

High sound level Unattractive base version (S) Disappointing fuel consumption for the displacement and size

The economy is only a facade.

Its debut dates back to 1957, but we had to wait for the release of the third generation before meeting it. We are in 1973, in the midst of an energy crisis, when the Datsun B-210 (marketed elsewhere under the name Sunny) lands on our land. Unsurprisingly, it immediately ranks among the most fuel-efficient cars in its class. It would top the charts in 1978, becoming the first vehicle to consume less than 5 L/100 km (40 mpg), according to the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA).

Nissan considers the Versa to have its loyal following, but Steve Millette, president and CEO of the brand in Canada, agrees that the Kicks (pictured) is attracting more new customers to its dealerships. We can understand why. The cost of ownership associated with Nissan’s small urban utility is slightly higher ($7270.70 compared to $7105.95 for the Versa). On the other hand, the Kicks currently benefits from a better interest rate and a higher residual value after 60 months ($8217.67 compared to $6895.36 for the Versa). Ultimately, by opting for the Kicks instead of the Versa, you’ll save $498.56 over a five-year term.

La Presse will soon publish the test of the following vehicles: BMW 2 Series, Buick Encore GX, Ford Mustang, Subaru Solterra and Toyota Prius Prime. If you own one of these vehicles or are considering one, we would love to hear from you.