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The Best 2020 Cars Nissan Has to Offer

Reviewing the 2020 Nissan Lineup

Nissan GT-R50 front 3/4 view

A major partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, the Japanese automaker is currently the fourth largest car brand in the world with over 5 million vehicles sold annually whereas the entire group has been marketing more than 10 million vehicles on a yearly basis for a while now. Nissan’s recent successes stem from company’s proud SUV heritage which comes in handy in today’s market. Actually, SUVs and crossovers account for around 45 percent of Nissan’s total global sales which confirms the previous statement. What does the future have in store for the Japanese brand and how will the 2020 Nissan models fare is something we’ll focus upon in this particular article.

Although a number of important markets haven’t exactly been kind to Nissan in 2018, increased presence on the Chinese market has helped offsetting any significant loss of sales. The U.S. market has traditionally been one of Nissan’s major bastions in terms of sales, but even here the Japanese brand has struggled throughout 2018. Compared to 2017 when the brand had marketed 1,440,049 vehicles in the U.S. and achieved 8.35 percent in market share (their best U.S. result to date), 2018 sales have fallen by 6.6 percent to 1.344.597 units in total. Nissan’s hold on the market has also loosened since overall market share has now dropped to 7.76 percent.

2020 will be an important year for the brand as Japanese have to find a way to stop the bleeding in the like of rapidly declining passenger cars sales. SUVs and crossovers will continue to be Nissan’s bread and butter, and a fully redesigned Frontier pickup is finally expected to arrive during MY 2020 as well. Electrification will be another point of interest for the major Japanese automaker which already sells close to 15,000 Leaf EVs per year.

Let’s now take a closer look at how the Nissan lineup will stack up in 2020 while simultaneously paying respects to some of the coolest Japanese cars ever built.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Nissan Lineup

07. 2020 Frontier

The most outdated pickup truck on the market is finally getting a long-awaited overhaul. Introduced way back in 2004, the current-gen Nissan Frontier used to share roads with the likes of Saturn Ion, seventh-gen Pontiac Grand Prix, and even Oldsmobile Alero for a brief moment. I only mention this in case you somehow failed to grasp the severity of Frontier’s archaic underpinnings.

In spite of that, the mid-size truck has had its steady consumer base all these years. Almost 80,000 new units were sold in 2018 which is more than Frontier’s managed to achieve during its inaugural year when 70,000 buyers decided to take one home. While the overseas version of the truck called Navara went through a generation shift back in 2014, the next-generation Frontier waits for the second half of 2020.

It’s safe to say that the Japanese have milked the second-generation Frontier to a full extent, and it turns out this decision was a right one from sales perspective. Now that the mid-size truck market is getting much more competitive with the return of Ford Ranger and the introduction of Jeep Gladiator, the Japanese simply cannot afford to continue dragging on any longer.

The 2020 Nissan Frontier will be built upon a new platform more closely related to the full-size Titan than the overseas mid-size Navara, but will sport the latter model’s design cues. It’s also expected to get a price hike considering how current entry-level models start from under $20,000. The new models will start from the other side of the mentioned mark.

Arguably the Frontier’s biggest issue – its gas-guzzling V6 powertrain is expected to be replaced with a more contemporary option. It’s still not known whether that option will be based on an all-new design or if it’ll just be an upgrade of an already available V6.

The outgoing Frontier’s 2.5L 4-cylinder is expected to carry over as a base choice. Its 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque are also expected to receive a boost in ratings. Finally, there’s also a possibility of a diesel engine joining the lineup. After all, Frontier’s Navara counterpart offers a number of oil-burning options throughout the world. We’ll find out more sometime during early 2020.

Overseas Nissan Navara Trek-1° spec limited edition pictured

06. 2020 Sentra

The Japanese are working on revitalizing their sedan lineup and the next-gen Nissan Sentra is the first of redesigned Nissan cars to hit the roads during MY 2020. The compact sedan dates back to late 2012 and prior to makeover, was seriously outdated compared to its numerous competitors despite a mid-cycle facelift it received for MY 2016.

Moreover, as already mentioned above, the passenger car sales have been affected by the crossover craze, yet the Sentra has managed to stay on its feet by pushing 213,046 units during 2018. The 2020-year models can only be expected to keep that trend intact.

The next-gen Sentra is longer, wider, and lower than the outgoing units. What’s more, it’s also very pleasing to the eye, but all that still might not be enough in this crossover age. Active safety features list has been expanded compared to the outgoing units and new Sentra now offers automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning from the get-go – courtesy of the Nissan Safety Shield 360 package.

The new Nissan Sentra relies on a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine and a CVT transmission as only available choices across the board. They generate 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, and provide up to 33 miles to the gallon combined. All figures showcase an increase compared to previous years.

The new car is available as of January 2020 and starts from $20,000 which is around $1,200 more than what its predecessor used to cost.


05. 2020 Maxima

The full-sized Maxima is arguably the best of all Nissan’s family passenger cars money can buy at the moment. Recently refreshed for MY 2019, Maxima now offers a well-rounded package in a stylish frame that’s worth keeping an eye on.

Where it excels over competition is its athletic handling which you usually don’t get in flagship sedans. A sport-tuned suspension is, however, an optional piece of equipment. A number of driving aids and tech features including a forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, or Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are all standard from the get-go, on the other hand. As of 2020, so are automatic high-beams or blind-spot monitors.

The base Nissan Maxima S starts from just under $35,000, while the Platinum trim costs at least $42,000. The latter, however, includes premium upholstery and a number of additional features.

The Nissan Maxima can only be had with a powerful 3.5L V6 engine that’s paired with a mandatory CVT gearbox and a front-wheel drive configuration. The engine is good enough for 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of twist, while the CVT helps it achieve above average fuel economy ratings for its class of 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Sadly, the Maxima doesn’t come in a hybrid from which means that fuel-economy-oriented buyers tend to look elsewhere. Despite getting up to 40 mpg combined from the Toyota Avalon hybrid, for instance, none of them will get the sportiness and overall package of the Maxima sedan – especially from the sporty $40,000 SR version.


04. 2020 Murano

Despite being introduced back during MY 2015, the mid-size Murano is still a strong seller for the company. With 83,547 units sold in 2018, Murano has almost equalized its record-breaking year in terms of sales, 2016 when it’s found 86,953 new owners. After giving it a substantial interior overhaul for MY 2018 and now a minor exterior facelift for MY 2019, the mid-size crossover carries over virtually unchanged into MY 2020.

Although it’s expected to be the third-generation Murano’s penultimate model year at best (maybe even the ultimate), the 2020 Murano is expected to retain the sales momentum it’s been enjoying in recent years. The latest models don’t only sport revised front and rear fascias, new rims, and color options, but a number of advanced safety features like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking available even in entry-level models as part of the Nissan Safety Shield package. Rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control are also standard as of 2020. The new Murano starts from just under $32,000 and works its way up from there.

Like before, the Nissan Murano only offers one powertrain combination. A 3.5L V6 with 260 horses and 240 pound-feet of rotational force is more than adequate in moving around 4,000 pounds of Murano’s weight around the city and open highways alike. Thanks to a standard CVT transmission, it’s also adequately efficient, managing to return up to 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway in front-wheel drive configuration. Of course, an all-wheel drive upgrade is available for $1,600 extra without sacrificing the base model’s above average fuel economy ratings.

With no major changes, some of Murano’s issues carry over as well, and by issues we mean CVT droning and not overly enthusiastic steering. Also, a hybrid version is still nowhere to be found.


03. 2020 Rogue

In spite the fact the 2020 Nissan Rogue will be the ultimate second-generation model prior to an extensive overhaul scheduled for MY 2021, the compact crossover is still recording excellent results sales-wise. For two consecutive years, it’s been the second best-selling vehicle in the U.S. behind the Toyota RAV4. Not counting the undisputed big trio of full-size pickup trucks, of course. After selling 403,465 Rogues in 2017, the Japanese have managed to market 412,110 of them in 2018. These results owe a lot to Rogue’s mid-term facelift which served as a catalyst behind them.

The facelifted Rogues aren’t only sharper-looking than their predecessors, but better equipped as well. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard across the board, and so are advanced safety goodies like lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and high-beam assist. The previously optional third row hasn’t been available for a while now which has a slightly negative impact on Rogue’s practicality. Considering it was designed for kids or extremely petite adults, maybe its phaseout isn’t that big of a deal.

The Nissan Rogue is available with a single conventional powertrain choice considering how the Japanese decided to axe the hybrid option going into 2020. The conventional Rogues make do with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine capable of raising 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of twist. Tied to a mandatory CVT gearbox, the inline-four does its best to provide close to 30 mpg combined regardless of conditions. Off course, an intelligent all-wheel drive system is also available but its combined efficiency figure drops by 2 points to 27 mpg.

The base models start from a little over $26,000 while the range-topping SL trim warrants slightly over $36,500. There’s also the optional Premium Package which adds LED headlights and a panoramic moonroof. The Premium Package is also available with a mid-range SV trim, but instead of LED headlamps, here it offers a Bose premium audio system which is standard higher up.


02. 2020 Kicks

The subcompact Kicks is an all-new crossover introduced as a replacement to the funky Juke which went into retirement after seven, more or less successful years. The Nissan Kicks already looks like a right move for the Japanese automaker considering it’s found 23,312 new owners in just little over six months of 2018. The Juke, on the other hand, has never been that successful.

Apart from their size, two crossovers have very little in common. The Juke was a funky subcompact with emphasis on turbocharged performance while the Kicks is anything but. The new model puts comfort and utility in the first place and its performance suffers greatly for it.

Still, the Nissan Kicks manages to offer a nice package for just over $19,000 with automated emergency braking standard from the get-go. Upgrade to the $20,000 Kicks SV and you’ll also get blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and Apple and Android integration. Finally, the range-topping SR trim is available for under $22,000, and throws in an around-view monitor among other features.

In trading Juke’s turbo four, Nissan Kicks has practically shot itself in the foot. A 1.6L naturally aspirated four is good enough for only 125 ponies and 115 lb-ft of torque. An unimaginative theme carries over to the rest of its powertrain configuration as only a CVT gearbox and a front-wheel drive system are offered. At least the city commuter is fuel-conserving considering it returns 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

The Nissan Kicks, however, might not be able to provide the kicks you’d require from a quirky little crossover. That’s because the Kicks isn’t intended as a pacey subcompact, but a practical family city car with plenty of space for both the passengers and their cargo, and a little bit of ground clearance as an added bonus.


01. 2020 GT-R

Despite sporting precious few changes in design since its introduction for MY 2008, the GT-R will always find a place under the cool section of Nissan vehicles. The way we see it, the 2020 Nissan GT-R could have gone two ways – it might have remain unchanged as the R35’s ultimate model or it might have evolve into the next-gen model that’s already been touted as the next “fastest super sports car in the world.” At least if Nissan’s design chief Alfonso Albaisa is to be trusted. Of course, the Japanese decided on the former, but not without providing some improvements at the same time.

There’s no need to doubt the next-gen GT-R is already in the works, but it’s still unclear how far have the Japanese gone with it and will the all-new model be ready by the end of 2020. Our guess is it won’t, but a prospect of a mighty electric-assisted supercar with the Japanese seal of approval is something we simply have to pray for to arrive as soon as possible.

Considering the GT-R has been all about the latest technology since day one, even the current car won’t be as outdated as some other would be after more than 10 years on the market. However, the $110,000 sports car with a supercar-like performance isn’t exactly without issues either.

The GT-R is currently powered by a 3.8L twin-turbo V6 that cranks up at least 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of twist. Opt for an expensive $212,000 Nismo upgrade (used to be $175,000 a year before) and see the ratings soar to 600 horsepower and acceleration figures shrinking to 2.7 seconds for 0 to 60 mph. Still paired with a somewhat outdated 6-speed dual-clutch transmission, the all-wheel drive-exclusive grand tourer performs better than a number of its more contemporary counterparts.

While this setup remains in place for MY 2020, the GT-R’s potential successor is still something we can only imagine at this point. Maybe the recently revealed Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo or the ItalDesign’s 720-horsepower GT-R50 prototype from the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed are the cars we should be turning our attention to. Then again, we might end up getting something different altogether.

The only thing that’s certain is that the Nissan GT-R will always be one of the coolest cars money can buy – especially while it’s still a supercar bargain which it might cease to be when the next-gen models finally arrive. New for model year 2020 is the 50th Anniversary Edition which starts from a little over $120,000 prior to destination fee and gas-guzzler tax.

ItalDesign Nissan GT-R50 prototype pictured

What’s Not in the New 2020 Nissan Lineup

03. 2020 Altima

Nissan’s mid-size sedan has definitely seen better days. After selling more than 300,000 units on the U.S. market alone for four consecutive years and hitting the all-time high in 2014 with 335,644 units, Altima’s sales have dwindled in such a fashion that only 209,146 units got delivered in 2018. It’s evident that the mid-size sedan market is giving way to in-demand crossovers, but this is beyond worrying.

The intermediate was only recently redesigned in late 2018, but that still hasn’t yielded expected results. The sixth-generation Altima is a better car than its predecessor, though – that much is evident. Without a hybrid version in its lineup, however, it still feels incomplete. Despite that, the new Nissan Altima sports a host of standard safety and tech features at affordable prices starting from just under $25,000. The most expensive Platinum and Platinum Turbo models will set you back by $33,000 and $36,000 respectively.

The mentioned Turbo grade makes do with a powerful Infiniti QX50-sourced 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which cranks up 248 hp and 280 lb-ft of rotational force. It replaces the outgoing V6 option and provides up to 29 miles to the gallon combined, but comes exclusively in front-wheel drive form.

Most people will end up with a standard 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that’s good enough for 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. It can be had with both a front or all-wheel drive, and is tied to a mandatory CVT transmission, just like the turbo option. Although it won’t win any races, the naturally aspirated four returns either 31 mpg combined with the front or 30 mpg combined with the all-wheel drive. The exception are the SR models which get larger 19-inch wheels and a 1 point penalty in overall fuel economy ratings.


02. 2020 370Z

Last few years haven’t exactly been kind to the beloved Z car. The 370Z is now in its teen years having been introduced back in 2009. The next-gen model is not in sights, however, even though the company has been fiddling with the aging sports car lately. The Project Clubsport 23 version from the 2018 SEMA show might provide an answer  or two about the future of the Z car.

That future, however, won’t arrive in time for MY 2020. The Nissan 370Z for 2020 is being carried over once again and there’s no use updating the 2-door now. Although boasting a somewhat aged design, the Z car’s cues are actually timeless and they’re certainly the least of its problems.

Not exactly comfortable or well-appointed interior and outdated technology features are what’s weighing heavily on what was once a popular affordable sports car. To top it all, only 3,468 units have been sold in the U.S. in 2018 – fewest since the 370Z’s inauguration. The starting sticker of more than $30,000 doesn’t exactly help either, and knowing that Nismo version can easily top $50,000 is just an additional problem.

Although the above mentioned Project Clubsport 23 version of the car sports a 400-horsepower 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 mill from the latest Infiniti models, the current Nissan 370Z still clings to the old but proven 3.7L V6 engine. It’s good enough for 332 horsepower in base forms or 350 ponies if a certain Nismo badge is involved. Power goes to the rear via a proper 6-speed stick, but a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic is also offered.

The 370Z’s handling is sharp as ever, but comfort isn’t one of Fairlady’s strong points – especially on higher-trim models which is quite ironic but understandable given the fact they sport larger 19-inch wheels.

All in all, the Nissan 370Z is definitely not a car it once was, but it’s also far from being a bad one either. The fact that there aren’t too many alternatives still works in its favor to some extent, but a major redesign is practically a necessity at this point.


01. 2020 Pathfinder

The fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder dates back to 2013 which makes it one of the more outdated options on the market. A mid-size crossover, as of that very same year, the Pathfinder trades off some of its traditional off-road capability in favor of more on-road comfort.

Sadly, the Pathfinder handles bigger than most of its competitors and its driving dynamics leave a lot to be desired. It’s also got a smaller boot than most of its competitors which negatively impacts its utility scores.

After the mid-term facelift for MY 2017, the Pathfinder has received standard automatic emergency braking in 2018 and rear parking sensors in 2019. Despite this obviously welcome addition, the Nissan Pathfinder still trails its competition in terms of available tech. For around $32,000 which is the entry-level model’s price tag, the Pathfinder still manages to offer a solid value for your money.

There’s only one engine under Pathfinder’s hood. A 3.5L V6 that’s rated at 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque is a capable performer even when hauling more than 4,650 pounds of SUV’s weight. Paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission, the three-row crossover can be had in both the front and four-wheel drive configurations.

Another point in which Pathfinder excels is its towing capability as it’s capable of pulling up to 6,000 pounds of trailer. Fuel economy, however, isn’t one of its strong suits despite the fact it’s paired with a CVT gearbox. 23 mpg combined is the most you’ll get from a Pathfinder, with all-wheel drive imposing a single point penalty. What’s more, the SL model’s optional 20-inch wheels will skim another point off of Pathfinder’s already mediocre ratings at best.


About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!