Nissan took the 2020 Versa all the way to the Tortuga Muscia Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for its debut.

The New York Auto Show will see more than two dozen new models debut next week. For some automakers, that’s a great place to launch a new product. For others, it’s a problem, as they worry about getting lost in the crowd.

That’s apparently a key reason why Nissan decided to kick out the jams with the introduction of the new, 2020 Versa, and introduce it in Fort Lauderdale today, having the stage all to itself at the Tortuga Music Festival. Okay, not entirely to itself, but having Kenny Chesney and Sheryl Crow as headliners certainly didn’t hurt.

“First impressions are exceptionally important, which is why we are thrilled to introduce the all-new 2020 Versa directly to our customers in such a memorable way,” said Claudia Marquez, vice president of sales operations for Nissan North America. “The Versa is our first impression into the Nissan family. I believe that when customers see this beautiful new car and all the amazing technology that comes with it for the price, they will be part of the Nissan family for life.”

First introduced in 2012, this is the third-generation version of the Nissan Versa and a quick look suggests the Japanese automaker is, indeed, trying to change perceptions. While Nissan is likely to continue promoting the sedan as the most affordable new vehicle on the market – the 2019 model starting at around $13,000, including delivery fees – the goal was to give Versa a more dynamic look and feel and to add more upscale, albeit optional, features.

(Nissan hopes to electrify with IMs Concept. Click Here for the story.)

It also should become a bit more fun to drive, thanks to an engine upgrade. The Versa’s 1.6-liter naturally aspirated inline-four will now make 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, up from a meager 109 hp and 107 lb-ft for the outgoing model. Buyers will have a choice of a five-speed manual or an optional CVT.

The Versa will be offered in just one body style going forward, the Versa Note hatchback going away at the end of the 2019 model-year. That gap will be filled by the new Nissan Kicks.

Visually, the new version of the Versa looks more appealing, with a nice, coupe-like roofline that doesn’t appear to intrude on rear-seat passenger space. We’ll have to wait for the NY Auto Show to see if the new model retains the surprisingly roomy cabin space it was known for.

(Click Here for details about our first drive in the 2019 Nissan Leaf.)

The interior adopts the new design cues already seen on last year’s Altima makeover, with its “Gliding Wing” instrument panel. The new Versa has a fairly solid array of standard features, even in its most base trim package, including a 7-inch touchscreen for an infotainment system that can include both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are also power windows and both keyless entry and a keyless starter.

Add an array of advanced safety gear including automatic emergency braking and rear auto braking as standard gear, though you’ll have to pay extra for some other desirable features, including blind-spot monitoring and active cruise control.

Nissan’s decision to launch a third-generation Versa might generate some controversy considering the overall market shift from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs. But, then again, that might be precisely why it is back in the game, even as competitors like Chevrolet, Ford and others pull back from the segment. (It’s the same for Toyota, which is returning to the market with a new Yaris.)

(For more about Nissan boosting the range for the Leaf Plus, Click Here.)

“As other nameplates exit the field, we see a real opportunity to build our segment-leading market share and nurture this crucial group of new-car buyers,” said Nissan’s Marquez.

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