Space, the final frontier.
Besides being one of the well known lines in pop culture, it’s a perfect description for the Nissan Versa. When the automaker first introduced the Versa, it promoted that the model had a lot of space for not a lot of money. With this combination, Nissan was able to take a nice chunk of the subcompact marketplace. But as time went on, the subcompact marketplace got more competitive with automakers introducing brand new models that offered more than a low price. However, Nissan is sticking with a lot of space for not a lot money combination with the new Versa and Versa Note. Is this still a viable plan? I spent a week in a 2014 Versa Note SL to find out.
There are two key items you need to know about the Versa Note’s design. One: It follows the general rule in subcompact and compact car design where the hatchback has a bit more style than the sedan. Two: The Versa Note’s overall design either reminds you of a small bread van or a tropical fish. The latter due in part to the tester’s blue color. Some design cues Nissan has applied to the Versa Note include a long, narrow front grille; seventeen-inch alloy wheels on the SL, and a rear spoiler.
Space is the big theme with Versa Note and it begins with the back seat. Stepping back here, you’ll be surprised at the amount of head and legroom available here. Getting into the back for the first time, I felt like I was sitting in a midsize sedan, not a subcompact. For cargo space, the Versa Note offers up 18.8 cubic feet of space with the back seats up. This beats the Infiniti QX80 I reviewed the week before.
Another selling point Nissan is promoting with the Versa Note is the amount of tech. On this particular model, it came equipped with a 5.5-inch color touchscreen with NissanConnect and navigation. The new system’s interface looks a little bit dated, but its easy to navigate thanks to large touch points and hard buttons on either side to move to different functions. It also comes with the ability for you to send points of interest and directions from Google. The system allows you use certain apps such as Facebook when your phone is hooked up. Sadly, I didn’t get chance to try either feature out. What I did try was Nissan’s Around View Camera system which uses four cameras (one in the front, the back, and under each side view mirror) to provide a 360 degree view of the view when backing up or getting into a tight parking space. It may seem a bit odd to have this feature in subcompact hatchback with excellent visibility all around, but I was very appreciative of this feature when I was trying to get the Note into a tight parallel parking spot.
The rest of the interior is well, very dull. While many subcompacts are being somewhat interesting with their interiors, the Versa Note sticks on the boring side. Materials are mostly of the hard plastic variety, which is the standard for the class. Build quality is excellent.
For Driving Impressions, See Page 2
Powering the Versa family is a 1.6L four-cylinder with 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. Base models get a five-speed manual as standard, while higher trim models such as the SL get a CVT. With a 0-60 MPH time around 11 seconds, the Versa Note is one of the slowest vehicles on sale. But oddly, it doesn’t feel that slow in certain situations such as leaving a stop. In others such as merging onto the freeway, you find yourself wanting a bit more oomph and less noise from the engine and CVT. The upside to the slowness is EPA fuel economy ratings of 31 City/40 Highway/35 Combined. During the week I saw an average of 34 MPG. The saying of you win some and you lose some is very apparent here.
The Versa Note feeling like a bigger vehicle also pertains to the suspension. A MacPherson strut/torsion bar suspension setup is used and for the most part, and it was able to cope with most imperfections on the road. It should be noted that large bumps were able to upset the suspension. Out on the curves, the Versa Note isn’t great. The suspension tune is manly focused on comfort which means the Versa Note shows evidence of body lean. Steering feels very rubbery and there isn’t really much feel when you decide to push it.
The subcompact class is filled with many vehicles that have their own distinct advantages for someone to find the right model. Because of this, the 2014 Nissan Versa Note fills a niche. If you’re someone who wants a lot space for not a lot cash, and the availability of a lot technology, then the 2014 Versa Note is one that deserves a closer look. But if you want something a bit more funky; something with a bit more sport; or something with better appointments, you have a wide range of vehicles to choose from.
Cheers: Space, Big Car Ride, Around-View Camera, Infotainment System
Jeers: Could Use A Bit More Power, Dull Interior, Not A Car You Want To Play Around With
Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Versa Note, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: Versa Note
Engine: 1.6L DOHC Inline-Four
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 109 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 107 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 31/40/35
Curb Weight: 2,482 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Aguascalientes, Mexico
Base Price: $15,990.00
As Tested Price: $19,545.00 (Includes $790.00 Destination Charge)
SL Package - $1,700.00
Technology Package - $800.00
Carpeted Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $175.00
Rear Cargo Cover - $90.00