2020 Nissan Versa vs. 2019 Fiat 500

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Versa are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Fiat 500 doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Versa SV/SR are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The 500 doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Versa has standard Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The 500 doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Versa has standard Rear Automatic Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The 500 doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Versa’s lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The 500 doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

To help make backing safer, the Versa SV/SR’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 500 doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Versa SV/SR’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The 500 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Versa and the 500 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights and blind spot warning systems.

Warranty

Nissan’s powertrain warranty covers the Versa 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Fiat covers the 500. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the 500 ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are almost 3 times as many Nissan dealers as there are Fiat dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Versa’s warranty.

Reliability

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Versa’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the 500’s camshaft. If the 500’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 15th in reliability. With 112 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 31st.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Versa gets better fuel mileage than the 500:

MPG

Versa

Manual

1.6 DOHC 4 cyl.

27 city/35 hwy

Auto

1.6 DOHC 4 cyl.

32 city/40 hwy

500

Manual

1.4 Turbo 4 cyl.

28 city/33 hwy

Abarth 1.4 Turbo 4 cyl.

28 city/33 hwy

Auto

1.4 Turbo 4 cyl.

24 city/32 hwy

Abarth 1.4 Turbo 4 cyl.

24 city/32 hwy

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Nissan Versa uses regular unleaded gasoline. The 500 requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Transmission

The Versa offers an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The 500 doesn’t offer a CVT.

Tires and Wheels

The Versa has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The 500 doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

The Versa has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the 500; it requires you to depend on roadside assistance and your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling

The Versa has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Versa flat and controlled during cornering. The 500 base model’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Versa’s wheelbase is 12.5 inches longer than on the 500 (103.1 inches vs. 90.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Versa is 4.1 inches wider in the front and 4.9 inches wider in the rear than the track on the 500.

The Versa’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (59.7% to 40.3%) than the 500’s (64% to 36%). This gives the Versa more stable handling and braking.

For better maneuverability, the Versa’s turning circle is 2.8 feet tighter than the 500’s (34.8 feet vs. 37.6 feet).

Chassis

The design of the Nissan Versa amounts to more than styling. The Versa offers aerodynamic coefficients of drag from .288 to .319 Cd (depending on bodystyle and options). That is significantly lower than the 500 (.352 to .362) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Versa get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Versa a Compact car, while the 500 is rated a Subcompact.

The Versa has standard seating for 5 passengers; the 500 can only carry 4.

The Versa has 13.4 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 500 (88.9 vs. 75.5).

The Versa has .6 inches more front headroom, 3.8 inches more front legroom, 3.1 inches more front hip room, 3.7 inches more front shoulder room, .7 inches more rear headroom, 7.5 inches more rear hip room and 7.2 inches more rear shoulder room than the 500.

Ergonomics

The Versa SR has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 500 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Versa has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The 500 doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The Versa’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children from operating them. Fiat does not offer a locking feature on the 500’s standard power windows.

The Versa’s driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths. The 500’s power windows’ switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully.

The Versa’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 500’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

The Push Button Ignition standard on the Versa allows you to start the engine without removing a key from pocket or purse (Versa SR’s Intelligent Key will also allow unlocking the driver’s door and trunk without taking your keys out). The Fiat 500 doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The Versa has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The 500 doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the Versa detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The 500 doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Versa has standard extendable sun visors. The 500 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Versa SR offers an optional Intelligent Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The 500 doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

Recommendations

The Nissan Versa outsold the Fiat 500 by over 14 to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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