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Review: 2014 Nissan Versa Note SL


William Maley

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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.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL 2

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.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL 15

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.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL 11

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.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL 6

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

Year: 2014

Make: Nissan

Model: Versa Note

Trim: SL

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)

Options:

SL Package - $1,700.00

Technology Package - $800.00

Carpeted Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $175.00

Rear Cargo Cover - $90.00

William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster


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previous versas were scary to drive. sloppy handling, crap suspension.

lotsa room though.

Seems improved, but not enough to stand out and with the new Fit coming, this won't make waves, it will sell on price alone.

And the Sonic is infinitely better than both the fit and Mersa..I mean Versa.

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Nice review, it would be good to know how that 18.8 cubic ft of space can actually be used. Two full size suitcases, bunch of small box;s or what. I suspect based on the sloping roof line and with the seats tilting back that the space is not as usable as it would seem.

Agree with the others, the Sonic is still way better than this car, but glad to see they are working to update it. Nissan fans will be happy.

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my sx4's were way better to drive than the old versas. even. sad. good luck nissan. 109hp 107 torque yeah baby

As much as it pains me to actually agree with reg on Suzuki... He is actually right.

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here's another one for you it will pain to agree on. A mitsubishi Lancer is more fun to drive.

The Mirage, probably not. The lancer, yes

Don't tell reg, who I love like a brother but would cross the Pacific ocean in a leaky rowboat to harass...but I have had dark and terrible thoughts of a lancer ralliart joining the fleet.

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      Hyundai offers two engines for the regular Sonata; a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6L four. A more potent turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is available on the upcoming Sonata N Line. My tester featured the turbo 1.6 which produces 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in line with some of the base engines found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
      Under the Sonata Hybrid's hood is a system comprised of a 2.0L four-cylinder and electric motor to provide a total output of 192 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata Hybrid feels just as fast as the standard Sonata around town and on country roads. It does struggle slightly on the highway due to the smaller torque figure. The six-speed automatic doesn't stumble when the change over from electric-only to hybrid mode like I have experienced on other Hyundai/Kia hybrid models.

      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
      Fuel economy for both models are as followed,
      Sonata 1.6T: 27 City/36 Highway/31 Combined Sonata Hybrid: 45 City/51 Highway/47 Combined My week saw an average of 29 mpg in the Sonata and 39 mpg for the Sonata Hybrid.
      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00

      View full article
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