Nissan Versa vs Toyota Yaris: Which Is Better?

For drivers looking for a car that is economical in terms of cost, MPG, and size, the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris are two excellent choices. With both costing less than $20,000, these entry-level subcompacts offer considerable amounts of convenience and attractive, if simple, body styles.

Both cars are front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, four-door sedans. In tests conducted by Car and Driver, the Yaris managed to out-accelerate the Versa. The Versa and the Yaris report the same EPA fuel-economy estimates of 32 mpg city, 40 highway, and 35 combined, but the Versa actually reached 40 on the highway consistently. The Yaris’ highway number remained closer to 35.¬†Each comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

The two have similarities, sure, but which car is the better buy?

The Nissan Versa

Ranking at number two for the five most popular cars for women, the 2020 Nissan Versa is much improved from the 2019 version. It held its position as “cheapest car in America” for consecutive years, but now that title comes with impressive added features on even the most basic model. Its relaxed conveyance and cushy ride is popular with a broad spectrum of buyers.

Starting at $15,625, the all-new Versa features driver assistance technology such as rear automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam headlights, lane-departure warning, push-button start with passive entry, and three standard USB ports. It has what Nissan calls Safety Shield 360; a package that adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Optional are automatic climate control, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto functionality.

The Versa features a 1.6-liter 122 hp four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission on the S level. A continuously variable automatic transmission is available and comes standard on the SV and SR trim levels. The SV has a sticker price of $18.535 and the SR costs $19,135.

The Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris ranks high on spunk and overall value. The Yaris is actually sourced from Mazda; it’s a Mazda 2. The well-weighted and direct steering encourages back-road fun. Fine-tuned suspension delivers a well-balanced ride.

Starting at $16,530, the Yaris comes with basic features including air conditioning, cruise control, two USB ports, satellite radio, forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, and steering wheel-mounted radio controls. Complimentary scheduled maintenance for two years or 25, 000 miles is included. Options include leather interior, automatic climate control, 16-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, LED headlights, and rain-sensing wipers on the XLE trim. The base price for the XLE is $19,470. 

A 106 hp 1.5-liter engine with a six-speed manual transmission is standard on the Yaris L; the XLE is only available as a six-speed automatic. Test drivers called this Toyota, “fun to drive.”

The Better Buy 

So, now that we know all the facts, which vehicle stands out at the best purchase? No matter how you look at it, the basic Nissan Versa will definitely cost less than the Toyota Yaris. Both cars offer the same amount of passenger space and good fuel economy. The technically upgraded Versa now has the style and substance to compete with the best subcompact cars on the market. Despite this fresh update, the Yaris offers a better experience for drivers who care about driving.

For drivers less concerned with overall driving experience, the Versa is a solid recommendation. It does have more cargo room, but the Yaris has a snazzier interior. The Versa’s interior is handsome, but mundane, when compared to the Yaris’ better material quality and Mazda-esque styling. 

The final result? It all depends on who’s driving.