Automotive futurist Syd Mead dies at 86

Syd Mead, car designer turned artist known for looking far into the future, and the visionary behind such movies as “Blade Runner,” “Aliens” and “Tron,” died December 30. He was 86.

Mead was a graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and worked for two years in Ford’s advanced design studio. He left to do illustrations and in 1970 started his own design company in Detroit.

1967: Future Rolls Royce | Syd Mead art courtesy CarArt.us

Much of his automotive artwork focused on the future, or as he termed science fiction, “reality ahead of schedule.”

In 2017, Mead received the lifetime design achievement award at the 30th EyesOn Design car show at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, an event widely known as the car designers’ concours.

This article, written by Larry Edsall, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.

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engine swap, junkyard gem, pontiac fiero

Junkyard Gem: 1984 Pontiac Fiero with supercharged 3800 V6 swap

Like the Corvair, the Vega, and the Citation, the Pontiac Fiero was a very innovative machine that ended up causing General Motors more headaches than happiness, and Fiero aficionados and naysayers continue to beat each other with tire irons (figuratively speaking, I hope) to this day. The General has often proved willing to take the occasional big gamble and huge GM successes in engineering prowess (including the first overhead-valve V8 engine for the masses and the first real-world-usable true automatic transmission) and marketing brilliance (e.g., the Pontiac GTO and related John DeLorean home runs) meant that the idea of a mid-engined sporty economy car (or economical sports car) got a shot from the suits on the 14th floor. Sadly, the Fiero ended up being the marketplace victim of too many issues to get into here, and The General pulled the plug immediately after the 1988-model-year suspension redesign that made the Fiero the sports car it should have been all along.

But what if the plastic Pontiac had never suffered from the misery of the gnashy, pokey Iron Duke engine and had been built from the start with a screaming supercharged V6 making way better than 200 horsepower? The final owner of today’s Junkyard Gem sought to make that very Fiero, by dropping in one of the many supercharged 3.8-liter V6s installed in 1990s and 2000s GM factory hot rods.

The first Fieros came out in 1983 for model year 1984, and the only engine available that year was the Iron Duke 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which generated its 92 horsepower with the full-throated song of a Soviet tractor stuck in the freezing mud of a Polish sugar-beet field. The 2M4 badging stood for “two seats, mid-engine, four cylinders,” just as the numbers in the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 once represented “four carburetor barrels, four-speed manual transmission, dual exhaust.”

This car is a top-trim-level SE model, which listed for $9,599 (about $24,200 today). The no-frills Fiero cost just $7,999 that year, making these cars far cheaper than the only other reasonably affordable new mid-engined car Americans could buy at that time: the $13,990 Bertone (aka Fiat) X1/9. The Toyota MR2 appeared in North America as a 1985 model with a base price of $10,999 and promptly siphoned off the car-buying cash from a bunch of potential Fiero shoppers. (Competition from affordable front-wheel-drive two-seaters such as the Honda CRX and Ford EXP didn’t help matters for Pontiac, despite the Fiero’s prominent placement in the hugely successful “Big Bam Boom” tour of Hall & Oates.)

I was in my senior year of high school in 1983-1984 (driving the world’s sketchiest ’58 VW Beetle, a basket-case ’67 Pontiac GTO, and a staggeringly frumpy Toyota Corona sedan, all of which were purchased for a combined $213, which comes to $538 after 35 years of inflation), and I recall having just about zero interest in the Fiero at the time. The combination of Chevette front suspension, Citation rear suspension, and Soviet tractor engine turned me off (what I really wanted around that time was a new Mitsubishi Starion, even after the Fiero got an optional 2.8-liter V6 and became— in the eyes of Pontiac’s marketers— college-student cool). Anyway, the idea of any new car to take to college was as far out of my financial reach as a working ICBM-defense system was to Ronald Reagan that year, and I ended up ditching the three dangerous hoopties for a reasonably well-sorted Competition Orange ’68 Mercury Cyclone with a 351 Windsor engine swap.

Still, and perhaps in part because I didn’t destroy all of my early-1980s teenage car ideals by actually owning a real-world Starion, I retain a great deal of affection for the Fiero, so much so that I try to photograph discarded examples when I find them during my junkyard peregrinations. In fact, I used my influence as the wise and fair Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of Lemons Supreme Court to help get the much-sought-after 2019 Coppa di Bondo season-championship award into the hands of a team that runs two Fieros in the series. When I saw this fairly intact ’84 in a Colorado yard a bit south of Cheyenne, I headed right to it with my camera ready. When I went to shoot the Iron Duke in the engine compartment, imagine my surprise when I saw this Eaton M62 blower, sitting atop a 3800 V6.

Even though GM never put any member of the 90-degree Buick V6 family (itself descended from the engine that evolved into the Rover V8) into a production Fiero, plenty of engine-swappers have taken advantage of the cheapness of both project-grade Fieros and junkyard supercharged Buick V6s to make this combination a reality. While the 3800 takes up more room than the 60° V6 that went into many 1985-1988 Fieros, it’s still a pretty compact engine (and Fiero swappers manage to get V8s into these cars without too much difficulty, too).

I’m not sure how far along this car’s last owner got with the swap, but I must assume that a manual transmission was an important part of the long-term plan. Yes, the original purchaser of this car opted for a slushbox to manage all 92 of those Iron Duke horses.

The blower has been partly disassembled, though I can’t tell whether that happened before or after the engine went into the car. I can see from this cut-up wiring harness that the wiring ended up being the tallest stumbling block with this project. Wiring a car is tough, as I know all too well, and getting a modern computerized engine to work in a car that started life with a completely unrelated carbureted engine… well, we get in over our heads in a hurry with this stuff. Maybe an angry landlord or spouse demanded the removal of a non-running car, and that phone call to the local U-Wrench yard happened soon after.

You’ll see so much optimism in the early Fiero advertising.

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The Week in Tesla News: First China-Made Model 3 Sedans Delivered (Sort of), When Your Phone Tells You Your Model 3 Won’t Drive and Another Fatal Crash | News from Cars.com

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Tesla Model 3

Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The final week of 2019 has been a mixed bag for Tesla. The good: Its Shanghai Gigafactory is so close to making production cars for one of the largest electric-vehicle markets in the world. The bad: Another Tesla has crashed into an emergency vehicle parked on a highway, this time killing a passenger and seriously injuring the driver, and a Model 3 leased by Car & Driver magazine experienced a catastrophic failure that left it undrivable.

Related: Which 2019 Electric Cars Have the Greatest Range?

Made in China

All Tesla models sold in China have thus far been imported, but with the company’s Shanghai Gigafactory nearly up and running, Bloomberg News reports that 15 employees have received China-built Model 3 sedans. Sourcing Tesla officials, the Global Times China reports the factory assembles more than 1,000 cars every week, with deliveries to non-employees beginning sometime in early January 2020 (which, by the way, begins tomorrow).

Per Bloomberg, the China-built Model 3 also qualifies for exemption from a 10% vehicle-purchase tax by the Chinese government, and it qualifies for a government purchase subsidy of up to the equivalent of $3,600, as well. It’s unclear which variants get the subsidy, but Tesla has reportedly said earlier that the China-built Model 3 would start at the equivalent of roughly $50,000.

Fatal Crash

In Indiana, a firetruck parked and responding to a single-vehicle crash was reportedly struck by a Tesla, killing the passenger in the Tesla and seriously injuring the driver of the electric car. Investigators have not yet determined whether Autopilot was active at the time of the crash; according to the Detroit News, the driver said he used it often, but “due to the impact of the accident he cannot recall whether or not he had it on at the time of the accident.”

If Autopilot were engaged, it would be at least the second time in a month that a Tesla using Autopilot struck a parked emergency vehicle, though, in the separate crash — on Dec. 7 in Connecticut — no one was reported as seriously injured.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas … ‘Cuz My Car Broke

Car & Driver magazine reports its company-leased Model 3 became suddenly undrivable on Christmas Day. The magazine reports that the only hiccup prior to the failure — which a staff photographer evidently learned about via push notification at his parents’ house in suburban Detroit — was a lower charging rate than usual.

The car is now at a Tesla service center, and early reports from Car & Driver are dim. The failure occurred on Christmas Day, and a tow truck arrived within 30 minutes, but Tesla offered no loaner car or even Uber credits at the time — though offers for both came a few hours after the story was published. During the holiday week, it took a few days to learn from Tesla about the problem (“issues with the rear drive unit, the pyrotechnic battery disconnect, and the 12-volt battery,” C&D reports). Car & Driver updated the story today to report that parts are on the way and the Model 3 should be repaired by Thursday.

More From Cars.com:

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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Suzuki Swift Sport Has Weird Drag Race Against Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S

It’s practically the end of the year, so let’s end 2019 with an absolutely absurd drag race. Here is a Mercedes-AMG GT63 S going up against Suzuki Swift Sport, but there’s a twist. To make things a little fairer, the Suzuki starts at high speed, but the Mercedes is at a complete stop when the run begins.

The Suzuki Swift Sport is a hot hatch that packs a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces  138 horsepower (103 kilowatts) and 170 pound-feet (230 Newton-meters) of torque. A six-speed manual drives the front wheel. The factory specs indicate the vehicle requires 8.1 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour). While these figures aren’t earth-shattering, the Swift Sport has a good reputation as an entry-level hot hatch, particularly for its base price in Germany of 21,400 euros ($24,020 at current rates).

Save Thousands On A New Mercedes-Benz AMG GT

MSRP $ 99,995

MSRP $ 99,995

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The Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S sedan is a completely different machine than the little Suzuki. Underneath its four-door coupe shape, there’s a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 making 630 hp (470 kW) and 664 lb-ft (900 Nm). A nine-speed automatic sends the output through both axles, and Mercedes quotes the acceleration to 60 mph (96 kph) in 3.1 seconds. Prices start at 167,016.50 euros in Germany and $161,200 in the United States.

The question that this race raises is how fast the Swift Sport needs to go so that the GT 63 S can’t keep up. There’s no doubt that the Mercedes has a higher performance threshold, but watch this clip to see whether it’s enough to beat the Japanese hot hatch.

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BMW News, F97, Tuned, Videos, X3 M

2020 X3M – Bootmod3 S58 OTS Stage 1 +100whp 551WHP 93, 579WHP E30 = 630-667HP (Crank)

2020 X3M – Bootmod3 S58 OTS Stage 1 +100whp 551WHP 93, 579WHP E30 = 630-667HP (Crank)

@protuningfreaks Bootmod3 – S58 – OTS Stage 1 beta map results on this 2020 X3M.
Gains are awesome and show some really amazing potential on this new platform!


STOCK 93: 459whp 429wtq

STAGE 1 93: 551whp 532wtq

STAGE 1 E30: 579whp 572wtq

Thank you to @aimperformancenj for having fun with us testing out #bootmod3 software👊👊

+100whp on just a reflash on Stage 1 93 octane so far

+120whp on Stage1 E30

2.96 0-60mph time with 0 slope on @dragy_motorsports GPS device Verified

I’ll be posting my friend’s new 2020 X3 M40i (B58-T0) result in a different thread next.

Last edited by FSociety; 12-18-2019 at 08:01 PM..

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Pick of the Day

Boldly styled 1974 AMC Javelin coupe restored to performance specs

AMC was in the midst of its Trans Am racing years when the second generation of the Javelin coupe came along in 1971, with styling deeply influenced by the race series. 

Designed by AMC’s innovative Dick Teague, the Javelin continued his reign of creating a car unlike anything else on the road – think Gremlin, Pacer and AMX.   While some found the body design over the top, many loved its uniquely flowing shape accented by boldly uplifted fender bulges that helped it stand out from the pony-car crowd.


The Pick of the Day is from Javelin’s final year, a 1974 AMC Javelin coupe that has been fully restored to its original high-performance specifications, according to the Elgin, Oregon, private seller advertising the car on ClassicCars.com

Javelin was bought in 1995 with 87,000 miles on it; I am the 3rd owner,” the
seller says in the ad. “Car is considered stock, clear title, NO Bondo or

The Javelin came from the factory as a performance version, the seller says, and is loaded with such features as the 360/220-horsepower V8, 3-speed automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, air conditioning, Tic Toc Tach (a combo clock and tachometer), AM/FM radio and Rally wheels. 

While the engine
does suffer from the horsepower malaise of the era, it is an excellent and
long-lasting V8, the seller notes.

engines used cast crankshafts, connecting rods and aluminum pistons,” the ad
says. “Parts availability and interchangeability is very good with other AMC
and Jeep vehicles. The high nickel-content metal used in all period AMC V8
blocks makes them very robust and able to withstand high mileage without

The coupe is equipped with the desirable Go Pack of performance components, which include front disc brakes, dual exhaust and heavy-duty suspension.  The car was repainted a few years back in Deep Metallic Blue with replacement carpet and floor mats, new upholstery and tinted windows.


original AMC stock color in 1995, did not replace body stripe, but retained the
chrome trim which had outlined the vinyl roof (which was removed),” the seller

Looking very nicely refinished in the photos with the ad, the Javelin seems like a bargain at $22,000.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Cars, Kia, Local News

Kia Seltos teased on local social media pages – B-segment SUV to be launched in Malaysia next year?

Based on a recent post on Kia Malaysia’s official Facebook and Instagram pages, it appears the Seltos is set to make its local debut next year. The B-segment SUV was first revealed back in June 2019, and competes against models like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur and Nissan Kicks.

Design-wise, the Seltos has a very close resemblance to the SP Signature that previewed it, retaining a lot of the concept’s angular lines, sharp creases. Among the design highlights include a two-tier LED headlamp assembly, with the lighting signature at the front being loosely replicated for the taillights.

Inside, the Seltos appears to draw inspiration from the larger Telluride, with a large touchscreen display dominating the dashboard above the central air vents and climate controls. The list of available features includes a 3.5- or seven-inch digital multi-info display, a wireless charging tray as well as an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system.

In India, the Seltos is offered with three engines, two being petrol and one diesel. The former includes a 1.5 litre naturally-aspirated engine with 115 PS/144 Nm and a 1.4 litre turbocharged unit with 140 PS/242 Nm. As for the diesel, it is a 1.5 litre unit that serves up 115 PS/250 Nm.

Meanwhile, the US-spec Seltos is available with a choice of two petrol engines, with the first being a 177 PS/264 Nm 1.6 litre T-GDI turbocharged mill, while the other is a 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated unit offering 149 PS/179 Nm. It isn’t known which of the two will come our way, but it is likely the US-spec offerings are the more viable candidates. Interested?

GALLERY: 2020 Kia Seltos (US-spec)



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30 percent of Mustang Mach-E First Edition buyers opt for GT range-topper

Ford started accepting orders for the 2021 Mustang Mach-E following the electric crossover SUV’s reveal in November.

And just like the muscle car it’s named after, the Mustang Mach-E comes in various grades, including a special First Edition.

Ford on Monday said that build slots for the First Edition were all gone. This model has a few special touches including three exclusive colors: Carbonized Gray, Grabber Blue Metallic and Rapid Red.

The exact number of First Editions isn’t known as Ford only said that production will be extremely limited, however the automaker has revealed some details of what buyers are opting for.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

For example, almost 30 percent of Mustang Mach-E First Editions were ordered in range-topping GT grade. This one comes with 459 horsepower and will sprint to 60 mph in the mid-3.0-second bracket.

More than a quarter of all the orders have come from customers in California, while the split between rear- and all-wheel drive was about 45:55. Most buyers, around 80 percent in fact, were opting for the bigger battery option, in this case a 98.8-kilowatt-hour unit.

Oh, and the most popular color? Carbonized Gray at 38 percent. It’s followed closely by Grabber Blue Metallic at 35 percent and Rapid Red at 27 percent.

Deliveries of the Mustang Mach-E will commence in 2020 and further down the track we could see more potent models added to the range, including a possible Shelby.

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mazda mx-30

Mazda explains why the MX-30 has a small battery and low range

Mazda’s first production-bound electric car, the MX-30, relies on a 35.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack for power. That’s relatively small, but the Japanese firm argued it’s exactly what the model needs to let motorists drive electric while keeping their environmental footprint in check.

Christian Schultze, head of Mazda’s European research and development center, told Automotive News Europe the MX-30’s battery is responsibly-sized. He explained engineers took a variety of factors into account when debating kilowatt-hours, including how much energy is required to build the pack, how much electricity is needed for a full charge, and the environmental impact of replacing the battery, which Mazda expects could be necessary after the MX-30 has covered about 100,000 miles.

Sticking with a smaller pack yields total CO2 emissions on par with a turbodiesel-powered Mazda3. In contrast, using a 95-kilowatt-hour battery (which is close to what Tesla’s bigger models use) would have increased the MX-30’s life-long CO2 output considerably by requiring more energy to build, and needing far more electricity to achieve a 100% charge.

We’re not quite sure that math or battery longevity assumption hold up under scrutiny. In any case, small is the direction Mazda decided to go. The trade-off is that the MX-30 (pictured) is expected to drive for about 124 miles between charges, and that figure was achieved on the hugely optimistic WLTP testing cycle; real-world mileage will be lower. That’s hardly a jaw-dropping number, and the crossover doesn’t qualify for the coveted long-range label, but Schultze told British magazine Autocar it’s more than enough to cover the daily transportation requirements of the average European motorist, which stands at a total of 31 miles. That’s significant, because Europe will be one of the MX-30’s key markets.

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in early 2021. Mazda hasn’t announced whether it will sell the MX-30 in the United States, or if it will wait until it has a longer-range electric car to enter the segment.

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2020 Nissan Versa Review: Not as Cheap, Much Better Value | News from Cars.com

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2020 Nissan Versa

Cars.com photo by Fred Meier

Verdict: The redesigned 2020 Nissan Versa is no longer the least expensive new car in America, but it’s a much better car that’s still cheaper than most.

Versus the competition: The Versa delivers value at every trim level versus rival subcompact sedans and similarly priced used cars. Its stiffest competition, though, might be a case of sibling rivalry: Nissan’s Kicks small hatchback isn’t a lot more money.

The fully redesigned 2020 Nissan Versa is cuter, techier and a bit more powerful than the outgoing model — and also more expensive. Its previous claim to fame was the lowest price tag in the U.S. for a new car — but it looked and drove like it. Nissan says the Versa remains an important entry product even as some automakers have abandoned small cars, but it’s shifted its focus to offering more value in a car you might actually want.

Related: Nissan Versa Sedan Returns for 2020 to Fight Entry-Level Exodus

With that in mind, Nissan has given the Versa desirable, even unexpected, features and safety tech that gets sweeter as you climb from the base S through the SV and new SR trim levels. And though up from 2019’s used-car-like $13,355 to $15,625, the 2020 base price is still at the lower end of the class (all prices include an $895 destination charge). The base price does reflect a manual transmission, though, and realistically most buyers will want the pricey $1,670 automatic, making the ante $17,295. The SV and SR have the automatic standard.

The Versa’s competition includes subcompact survivors such as the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris. While the Rio and Yaris can be had as either a sedan or hatchback, the Versa Note hatchback has been retired; Nissan’s spunky SUV-like Kicks subcompact hatch is the de facto replacement.

To see if the Versa delivers on the promise of better value, I drove both a base Versa S and a top-of-the-line SR trim level (just under $20,000). The short answer is that while there is a price bump, it’s also a much better car.

Scaled-Down Altima Looks

The formerly lumpy Versa sedan now wears a scaled-down version of the new Altima’s lines, with a deep V-Motion grille stretching into sleeker headlight assemblies that include boomerang-shaped daytime running lights. The sloped roofline extends into a short trunk lid with an upturned lip and boomerang-shaped taillights. There’s a hint of a “floating roof,” with a back pillar divided by black trim, but the Versa doesn’t offer a contrast-color roof option, nor some of the other color personalization options that give the Kicks a dose of fun. At least the Versa’s paint palette includes some bright colors, including Electric Blue Metallic and Monarch Orange Metallic.

Compact-Car Roomy

The 2020 Versa is slightly bigger than the last generation — 1.6 inches longer and 1.8 inches wider — and continues to offer almost compact-car passenger room, including a backseat that fits actual adults. I had plenty of legroom in back to sit behind my 6-foot-2 self in front, though that sleeker roofline is 2.3 inches lower than the 2019’s, which left my head brushing the rear ceiling. Trunk space is better than in most compact cars, at 14.7 cubic feet (the 2020 Toyota Corolla has 13.1 cubic feet), and expands via a standard 60/40-split, folding backseat.

The front and rear seats were comfortable, though both cars I drove needed more padding in the seat cushions. The front passenger can enjoy stretch-out-your-legs space thanks to the seat’s extended travel, which almost reaches the rear-seat cushion. The cloth upholstery was more interesting on the SV and SR, with contrasting colors and stitching, but the base cloth had a decent feel (if a duller look).

Kicks Style Inside and More Tech

If you like the interior design of the Kicks, you’ll like the new Versa’s cabin layout. It sheds the Soviet drabness of the old car, picking up the Kicks’ sculpted and upswept dashboard design, with a 7-inch center touchscreen on all models and better-looking door panels. SV and SR trim levels also have a 7-inch configurable screen in the instrument cluster — an unusually upscale touch for a subcompact — as well as a swath of soft-touch stitched vinyl across the face of the dash. The center screen is flanked by volume and tuning knobs, along with shortcut buttons that have a quality feel. The SV and SR add Nissan Connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio capability, steering-wheel controls and voice recognition.

The Versa’s features-per-dollar ratio peaks in the new SR, which has standard LED headlights and daytime running lights, remote engine start, automatic climate control and leather wrapping on the D-shaped steering wheel and shift knob. Heated front seats are optional. But even the base model gets Bluetooth streaming, remote keyless entry and push-button start. All trim levels have USB and 12-volt ports under the dash in a generous phone cubby, plus two more USB ports at the rear of the center “console,” which is really a hard plastic tray with a couple shallow cubbies and cupholders, but no covered bin to supplement the stingy interior storage. You can add a small covered storage space to any trim level with a $300 armrest.

Along with the console, other cost-cutting is apparent inside, even if the many features and tech do offset it. As expected in this price range, there’s plenty of hard plastic, particularly in the S. The driver’s seat gets a fold-down inboard armrest only on the SV and above. The front passenger goes without both an armrest and seat-height adjustment.

Driving Dynamics Improved, But Not a Lot of Kicks

While no one expects a lot of driving fun in a budget subcompact, I was looking for a bit more than I got in the Versa. My expectations came because it now shares a platform with the Kicks, whose nimbleness is among the reasons it’s a favorite city car of mine.

The new Versa does, however, deliver a combination of acceptable handling and decent ride for the price. Cornering brings minimal lean, and the chassis isn’t busy or floaty on the highway. Pushing it brings body roll and more tire-scrubbing understeer, but why would you push it? The SR’s 17-inch alloy wheels and wider rubber improve agility noticeably over the S, with its 15-inch steel wheels and skinnier tires. Steering is light and numb, but crisp, while braking feel is a little soft, but predictable (there are discs in front, drums in back). Meanwhile, the Versa delivers a comfortable ride. There’s some choppiness when the pavement gets rough, but it was never harsh.

More comparable to the Kicks is the Versa’s low dose of go power. The 2020 Versa uses the same 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine as the Kicks, which puts out a mere 114 pounds-feet of torque. That does represent a much-needed pinch more zip, however, than the 2019 Versa’s woeful 109 hp and 107 pounds-feet. The engine is paired with a five-speed manual (in the base S only) or a continuously variable automatic that’s reasonably well behaved in terms of CVT drone and rubber-band feel. The modest powertrain is enough for the light sedan (the Versa weighs about 2,600 to 2,700 pounds, depending on trim level) to feel peppy in city traffic. Floor it, however, and it bogs for a couple of beats off the line before gathering momentum with more buzzy noise than urgency.

As important — maybe even more important for budget-car buyers — is fuel economy, and the 2020 Versa is EPA-rated a respectable 32/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined with the CVT. That’s a mile better in each category than the 2019. You’ll pay for DIY shifting: The manual comes in much lower, as it did for 2019, at just 30 mpg combined. By comparison, the automatic Yaris, Rio and Accent deliver up to 35, 32 and 32 mpg combined, respectively.

Big Safety Tech Bundle for Small Spenders

They aren’t the sexiest features, but standard safety tech is essential to good value, and the Versa delivers. Even the base S includes front automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection up to 37 mph, reverse automatic braking up to 9 mph (unusual for this class), a lane departure warning system, and automatic headlights and high beams. The SV and SR add blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, a driver alertness warning, adaptive grid lines for the backup camera and a rear door alert that signals if you opened the door at the start of a drive but don’t check the backseat again after you park.

A $300 option for the SR adds adaptive cruise control — another unusual upscale feature for a  subcompact. You couldn’t find any of this safety and assistance tech on the old Versa, and the Yaris, Rio and Accent offer fewer such features, or restrict them to fewer trim levels. You can compare their features here.

Low-tech but also a key safety feature is the Versa’s visibility, thanks to a beltline that dips low and side mirrors that have been relocated lower on the door. The sight lines over the shoulder and to the rear are also good.

This car could appeal to young families, and it got an excellent report card in Cars.com’s 2020 Nissan Versa Car Seat Check for fit and ease of use for our four types of child-safety seats. It scored nearly all A’s — unusually high for a subcompact sedan — with the lone B coming on the booster seat check; its floppy rear seat belt buckles could be hard for a kid to use alone.

The Versa had not been crash-tested as of this writing. When available, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety scores for 2020 will be found here.

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2020 Nissan Versa

Cars.com photo by Fred Meier

Overdelivering on Value

While light on driving fun, the 2020 Versa hits the right notes on value for a wide range of shoppers. The footprint suits city streets and parking. The styling, interior design and tech now require no apologies. And the combination of safety and practical space could also attract small families or make you feel OK putting a young driver in it.

While it’s no longer America’s cheapest new sedan, the 2020 Versa manages to overdeliver on space and features for a starting base price that still slightly undercuts its rivals, the Accent and Yaris, though Kia has a cheaper 2019 Rio (with automatic). Its modern safety equipment and media tech also raise its value versus an older used car going for a similar price.

Beyond the base model, the price tag is still a starter-car low $18,535 for the SV, which adds more safety technology and a lot of desirable features, including padded dashboard trim, nicer seats, an upgraded media system and 16-inch alloy wheels. Even an SR with heated front seats and adaptive cruise control is still a hair under $20,000.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.


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