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William Maley

Review: 2014 Nissan Versa Note SL

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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.

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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

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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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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.

Yep!

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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

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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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      Make: Mazda
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      Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
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      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/27/23
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      Exterior
      Mazda’s design team believed evolution would be the right approach for the second-generation CX-5’s design and we have to agree. Taking the first-generation model, designers added more curves to the body, widened the front grille, and angled the front LED headlights. In what is becoming a very crowded class, the CX-5 stands tall, especially when wearing the optional Soul Red paint.
      Like the Atlas, the Volkswagen Tiguan’s shape can be explained as  “looking like a bit of a square, but a posh square.” Little details such as the three-bar grille, LED daytime-running lights, and slightly bulging fenders help give the Tiguan a touch of class. The optional Habanero Orange Metallic paint color on my test vehicle does show Volkswagen is willing to step outside of its comfort zone. In terms of dimensions, the Tiguan is six inches longer in overall length and rides on a wheelbase that is 3.6-inches longer than the CX-5. 
      Interior
      The Tiguan’s interior follows Volkswagen’s ethos of keeping it functional in terms of the design. It features simple dash and design touches such as a silver finish for various trim pieces. Volkswagen does make up for the boring design with an excellent layout of controls. For example, the climate control system is slightly angled upward to not only make it easier to reach, but also make it less of a hassle to look down and see the current settings. Material quality is average for this type of vehicle with a mix of hard and soft plastics.
      The front seats in the Tiguan SE offer a power recline and manual adjustments for fore/aft and height. I really liked the seats in the Tiguan as they provided excellent comfort and firmness for any trip distance. But the Tiguan really surprises in the back seat with head and legroom similar to what you’ll find on a full-size SUV. Passengers sitting back here can also move the seats back and forth, and recline to make themselves more comfortable. The long length of the Tiguan allows for a third-row seat. The seat is standard on front-wheel drive models and optional for all-wheel drive variants. The third-row should only be used for small kids as there is a minuscule amount of legroom. Another downside to the third-row is cargo space. The third-row causes a significant reduction in cargo space. With the third-row folded, it offers 4.6 cubic feet less than the two-row variant (33 vs. 37.6). Fold the second-row and the reduction becomes larger - 7.8 cubic feet. I would recommend skipping the third-row option if you opt for an AWD Tiguan.
      Like the exterior, the CX-5’s interior stands out. The dash shows Mazda’s effort on trying to make their interiors feel more like a luxury vehicle with sculpted contours, brushed aluminum, soft-touch plastics with a grain texture, and stitching on certain trim pieces. Compared to the Tiguan, the CX-5’s control layout is more spread out, making it somewhat difficult to find and reach certain controls. 
      The Grand Touring tester featured power adjustments for both front seats. The seats will feel a bit too firm for some passengers, but I found them to be just right. It would have been awesome if Mazda provided ventilation for the front seats to bolster their premium ambitions. The CX-5’s back seat offers a decent amount of headroom for those under six-feet. Legroom is somewhat lacking when put against the competition. I found that my knees were almost touching the back side of the front seat. Cargo space is right in the middle with 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.6 when folded.
      Infotainment
      A seven-inch touchscreen featuring the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a rotary knob controller is standard on all CX-5s. Grand Touring models get navigation as standard, while the Touring gets it as an option. Mazda Connect is a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look somewhat old due to the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Also, trying to figure out which parts of the system are touch-enabled becomes quite tedious as there is no way to tell except through trial and error. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, but I’m hoping the 2019 model will get it.
      For the Tiguan, Volkswagen offers three different infotainment systems ranging from 6.5 to 8-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. The current Volkswagen infotainment system is one of the best thanks in part to snappy performance and a simple interface. You can do various smartphone gestures such as swiping to move around the system. One disappointment is the lack of any sort of haptic feedback when touching any of the shortcut buttons sitting on either side of the screen. We would also recommend keeping a cloth in the Tiguan as the glass surface for the infotainment system becomes littered with fingerprints.
      Like in the Atlas I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Tiguan experienced an issue with Apple CarPlay. Applications such as Google Music or Spotify running in CarPlay would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to unfreeze the applications unless I restarted the vehicle. Resetting my iPhone solved this issue.
      Powertrain
      Under the CX-5’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet (up one from the 2017 model). Mazda has added cylinder deactivation for the 2018 model that allows the engine to run on just two cylinders to improve fuel efficiency. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. For the Tiguan, Volkswagen has dropped in a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive complete the package.
      With a higher torque figure and being available between 1,600 to 4,300 rpm, the Tiguan should leave the CX-5 in the dust. But at the stoplight drag race, the CX-5 bests the Tiguan thanks to a sharper throttle response and a steady stream of power. The Tiguan’s turbo-four gets hit with a double-whammy of turbo-lag and a somewhat confused eight-speed automatic transmission, making it feel anything but eager to get off the line. As speeds climb, the story changes. The Tiguan’s engine feels more willing to get moving whenever you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway. The CX-5’s engine runs out of steam and you’ll need to really work it to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      The EPA says the 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD will return 24 City/30 Highway/26 Combined, while the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan AWD returns 21 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. Both models returned high fuel economy averages; the CX-5 return 28.5 while the Tiguan got 27.3 mpg during my week-long test. Both models were driven on mix of 60 percent city and 40 percent highway.
      Ride & Handling
      When I reviewed the 2017 Mazda CX-5, I said that it carried on the mantle of being a fun-to-drive crossover set by the first-generation. Driving on some of the back roads around Detroit, the CX-5 felt very agile and showed little body roll. The steering provides sharp responses and excellent weighting. The sporting edge does mean a firm ride, allowing some road imperfections to come inside. Not much road or wind noise comes inside.
      Volkswagen took a different approach with the Tiguan’s ride and handling characteristics. On rough roads, the Tiguan provides a very cushioned ride on some of the roughest payment. This soft ride does hurt the Tiguan when cornering as there is slightly more body roll. But that doesn’t make the Tiguan a bad driving crossover. The chassis feels very willing when pushed and the steering provides a direct feel.
      Value
      The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE AWD begins at $30,230. This particular tester came to $31,575 with the optional Habanero Orange Metallic and fog lights. But the 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring comes with more equipment such as radar cruise control, lane departure warning, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, and power adjustments for the driver for only $2,175 less than the Tiguan SE’s base price. You can add navigation, Bose audio system, and sunroof as part of $1,200 Preferred Equipment package. When it comes to the midlevel, it is no contest as the CX-5 walks away.
      The script flips however when you put the 2018 CX-5 Grand Touring under the microscope. The AWD version begins at $30,945 and with a few options such as the Soul Red paint and Premium package, the vehicle seen here comes to $34,685. But you can get into the Tiguan SEL AWD that adds adaptive cruise control, power liftgate, and navigation for only $2,295 less than our as-tested CX-5. While the CX-5 does offer more of a premium interior, the larger interior and slightly better infotainment system give the Tiguan a slight edge.
      Verdict
      It feels weird to describe the verdict between the two compact crossovers as a decision to satisfy your desires or needs. The 2018 Mazda CX-5 falls into the former as it boasts a handsome look that very few models can match, luxurious interior, and handling characteristics that make you feel like you’re driving a sports car. As for the Tiguan, it falls in the latter camp by offering a spacious interior, smooth ride, and a better infotainment system. I consider these two to be the best-in-class. But deciding which one is better will ultimately come down to deciding whether to give into your wants or needs.
      Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: CX-5
      Trim: Grand Touring AWD
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/30/26
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $30,945
      As Tested Price: $34,685 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Package - $1,395.00
      Soul Red Crystal Paint - $595.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Plates - $400.00
      Retractable Cover Cover - $250.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Tiguan
      Trim: SE 4Motion
      Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 16-Valve DOHC TSI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 4,400
      Torque @ RPM: 221 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,858 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
      Base Price: $30,230
      As Tested Price: $31,575 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Habanero Orange Metallic - $295.00
      Front Fog Lights - $150.00
    • By William Maley
      Many automotive journalists have been flummoxed by the popularity of the Toyota Camry. The model trails the pack in a number of key areas such as design, handling, and performance. But I know the reason why the Camry is beloved by many; it is a no hassle midsize sedan that will go the distance. 
      But there is a change that endangers many midsize sedans. Buyers who previously brought sedans are now trending towards crossovers and SUVs as they offer a number of traits such as a higher ride height and a large area for people and stuff. Automakers find themselves in a difficult spot as to whether they should drop their sedans to focus on utility vehicles, or put more effort into making them more appealing. Toyota has chosen the latter option with the 2018 Camry. Let’s see if they made the right call.
      Previous Camrys have tended to play it safe with their exterior designs. The new model drops the safe attitude and goes for something very extroverted. For the XSE, this includes a different front end with a smaller lower grille and large cutouts in the bumper. The side profile shows off a pronounced character line and a set of 19-inch machined-finish alloy wheels. Move the back to find a faux diffuser and a set of quad tailpipes. I actually prefer the look of the XSE to the other Camry models as it loses out on the gaping maw that is the lower grille.
      Compared to the jumbled-together look of the previous Camry’s interior, the new model features a flowing and modern design. The unique shape of the center stack and contrasting trim pieces for the passenger really help the model stand out. Controls are laid out in a very logical fashion and have easy-to-read text. Material quality is very impressive with exposed stitching, metal trim, and a lot of soft-touch plastic. 
      The XSE features leather seats with eight-way power adjustments for driver and passenger. I found the seats to be on the firm side and provide decent support on short trips. But on longer trips, my lower back started to ache. I couldn’t tell if I design of the seat just didn’t work with my back or if I had too much lumbar. On paper, the Camry has the smallest amount of rear legroom. But in reality, I found that I had more than enough to feel comfortable. Taller passengers will need to duck as headroom is quite tight due to the optional sunroof.
      Toyota has installed the latest version of their Entune infotainment system in the 2018 Camry. The new version comes with an updated look that retains the ease of use that we have liked on the older systems. Performance is about average for the class as it takes only a few milliseconds to get to the various functions. I do like the array of physical buttons that provide an easy way to move around the system. There is still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But considering the 2019 Avalon does have Apple CarPlay, we hope the Camry will get it as well.
      XSE models get a heads-up display as standard. However, I found the display to be more of a hindrance as the image was blurry. I think this is a problem with Toyota as I experienced the same issue in the LC 500 coupe I drove late last year.
      For its polarizing character, you might be expecting the Camry XSE to have either a turbo-four or V6 under the hood. While a 3.5L V6 is available, this XSE featured the standard 2.5L four-cylinder engine producing 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It was a bit disappointing to find this engine under the hood considering the vehicle’s character. Around town, the Camry doesn’t feel as fast as the Hyundai Sonata due to most of the power being available only at higher rpms. On the highway or needing to make a pass, the four-cylinder comes alive with enough shove to get you moving at a decent clip. Disappointingly, Toyota forgot to quiet down the engine during acceleration as there is a fair amount of buzz coming inside the cabin. But the engine quiets down to a murmur when cruising. The new eight-speed transmission pairs well with the engine, delivering unobtrusive and quick shifts.
      Fuel economy figures for the 2.5 are 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week landed around 32.6 mpg in mixed driving.
      The Camry is the latest Toyota model to move on to the TGNA modular platform and it makes the model somewhat fun to pilot. On a curvy stretch of road, the XSE feels well-mannered as there isn’t excessive body motion and the steering proving a direct and well-weighted feel. Despite its sporting nature, the XSE’s ride is well-controlled with only a few bumps making their way inside. One disappointment is the large amount road and wind noise that comes inside when driving on the freeway. 
      The Camry XSE sits as the flagship trim with a starting price of $29,150 for the four-cylinder and $35,100 for the V6. With a number of options, the as-tested price of this XSE comes to $35,333. That is quite the poor value considering for a few hundred dollars more, you can get into a loaded an Accord Touring complete with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 252 horsepower. For a couple thousand dollars less, the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T and Kia Optima SX offer similar driving dynamics and more luxury touches.
      Toyota knew it had to take a big gamble with the new Camry considering the growing demand for crossovers. In certain respects, Toyota has done it. The Camry is not a wallflower in terms of its looks and handling. Additionally, the interior blends a distinctive design with ease of use. But there are some problems that put the Camry in a tough spot. The four-cylinder engine needs a bit more low-end punch for around-town driving. Some more sound deadening would go a long way in making the Camry a good long-distance cruiser. The biggest issue is the value argument as other sedans offer much more equipment for similar or less money than the Camry. Toyota is likely banking on the name equity of model to justify the higher price. This would be ok if we weren’t in a time where more and more buyers are moving to crossovers and utility vehicles. The 2018 Toyota Camry is a much better car from the one it replaces, but the high price tag may be its downfall.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Camry
      Trim: XSE
      Engine: 2.5L Twin-Cam, 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 206 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32
      Curb Weight: 3,395 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
      Base Price: $29,000
      As Tested Price: $35,355 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Audio Package - $1,800.00
      Driver Assist Package - $1,675.00
      Panoramic Sunroof - $1,045.00
      Special Color - $395.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Enhancements - $299.00
      Carpet/Trunk Mat Set - $224.00

      View full article
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