With three good friends flying into town for a long weekend of San Francisco sightseeing, I was concerned the car on my schedule -- a 2014 Nissan Versa Note -- wasn't going to handle our ambitious plans. The Bay Area is a big place, and tackling everything we wanted to do meant we'd spend a lot of time on the road.

Price-wise, the Nissan Versa Note is about as entry level as it gets (base price is $13,990). Conventionally, this means a poor ride, cramped interior, loud cabin and sparse features. That's not exactly the combination you want when you're supposed to be lugging around three adults for four straight days of touristy goodness. Upon picking up the car, I braced for the worst.

To my astonishment, I was wrong to doubt this car. After we all piled inside and headed on our way, I found few of those assumptions held true. The Versa Note performed admirably, comfortably housing each passenger and safely and efficiently getting us where we needed to go. It has some faults, which is to be expected at this price point, but this skeptical auto writer found himself pleasantly surprised as the little hatch shouldered that nasty burden of having friends in town for an extended stay.

Fuel efficient, versatile, comfortable and, of course, inexpensive, the Nissan Versa Note is a solid entry hatchback capable of tackling the daily grind and, as I found out, even visits from friends and relatives. Read on for more.

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Sticker Price: $13,990 - $15,990

?Invoice Price: $13,646 - $15,590

As Tested Price: $19,545

??Engine: 1.6-liter I4

??Transmission: Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)

??Performance: 109 horsepower, 107 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds (estimated)

??Fuel Economy: 31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway??

Seating: Five people??

Cargo Capacity: 38.3 cubic feet

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Calling this car the Versa Note is simply Nissan's way of distinguishing it from the Versa sedan. Essentially, Note = Hatchback.

Like every single car in Nissan's line, the Versa Note looks good from some angles, and quite bad from others. I rather like the car's fascia, with its angular headlights and understated grille. But, the car's proportions make it look awkward when viewing from the side and the rear is downright dull as mud.

This is actually one of the more conservatively-designed vehicles in the Nissan stable and, for the most part, it works. It's firmly in the middle of the pack as far as design goes. Competitors like the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic are more attractive vehicles, but this is far from being a total dog. 

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The Versa Note has a straightforward interior that, frankly, is not very strong. There are a lot of places where cost-cutting has taken an obvious toll. For instance, my tester did not have a pad on the door-side armrest. The dials on the center console look cheap. The seats and steering wheel seem like they cost pennies to manufacture (though the front ones are heated, unlike a couple BMWs I've recently driven). The overall aesthetic is drab as an overcast day in Soviet Stalingrad.

There are some redeeming qualities in the cabin, a few of which we'll get to in later slides. Surprisingly, the Versa Note's interior is actually rather quiet. For a few years now, automakers such as Chevrolet and Toyota have focused heavily on sound dampening in their lower-priced cars. It seems that the Versa Note has received that same treatment. Even at highway speeds (assuming you're on a smooth-ish road), this hatchback is much quieter than you'd ever expect, with muted road and wind noise.

The interior serves as a reminder that the base price of the Versa Note is less than $14,000. But, as I mentioned, there is more to this little hatch than the cheap gray plastics.

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Passenger room is where the Versa Note really shines. The car treats both front and rear seat passengers to oodles of head room, courtesy of its high, domed roof. Shoulder room is great all around the car. Leg room is fantastic in the rear seats. I had two tall adults ride in the back seat over the course of several days and there was never a complaint about being cramped. There is actually more room back there than in a midsize luxury car.

Cargo room is quite good, too. Because it has a hatchback and the rear seats fold down, there is more than ample space for storage. The trunk allows for transport of several medium-sized suitcases, even when the seats are up.

The Versa Note comes with way more room than you would think, making it quite the versatile vehicle. It's more than capable of tackling daily needs of commuting (heck, even carpooling) and running errands.

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Driving the Versa Note is unremarkable. It doesn't have a lot of power, so acceleration onto the highway can be a bit dicey, especially if you have more than one adult or a bunch of cargo on board. The CVT, which comes on the SV trim I drove, keeps the ride smooth, but it comes at the expense of any shred of sportiness. Handling is light and unresponsive.

To be fair, this is not intended to be a sports car. The powertrain is designed to provide a smooth and, most importantly, fuel-efficient ride. Nissan has been successful in doing so here. The Versa Note achieves a solid 35 mpg in combined city and highway driving. While behind the wheel in both of those scenarios, the Note is stable and polished, which is great for daily commuting whether you're spending an hour on the freeway or braving the stop-and-go traffic of the cities.

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The Versa Note's technology suite is the other redeeming quality to the interior. Without it, I'd actually call my tester grossly overpriced at $19,545 (including destination). The tech package is an $800 option that includes a 5.8-inch touchscreen complete with voice recognition, navigation, weather, Google Send-to-Car Compatibility and Bluetooth streaming audio, among other things. 

The best aspect of the tech package is the Around View Monitor, which uses cameras and sensors to display the car's location in relation to the surrounding area on the center touchscreen. It's fantastic for parking in tight spots.

Other tech features that came on my tester included push-button start, Nissan's Easy Fill tire alert system (which is the most brilliantly simple automotive innovation in recent memory) and SiriusXM Radio. That's a pretty solid list.

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The group had a great time touring the Bay Area and we emerged from the Versa Note after several days no worse for the wear, save perhaps some unneeded extra pounds courtesy of dining out all the time.

I was thoroughly impressed with the Versa Note after a week behind the wheel. No, it's not a mind-blowing feat of engineering nor is it a study in artistic automotive design. Rather, it's a little hero that contains much more room, versatility and opportunity than you'd think you're getting for the price.

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