2014 Versa Note New Car Test Drive
The 2014 Nissan Versa Note is an all-new model that replaces the outgoing Versa hatchback. A five-door hatch that seats five, the Versa Note is a roomy, practical subcompact that offers some of the best cargo and passenger space around.
In past years the Versa hatchback and sedan were lumped together as different variants of the same model, but Nissan marketing execs now say they consider the Versa Note its own standalone model, with different attributes aimed at different buyers (although in nearly the same breath, they will tout the Versa as the best-selling entry-level car based on combined sales figures for both body styles).
Practicality is the Versa Note's strong suit. Compared with other subcompact hatches, the Versa Note boasts the most front headroom, rear legroom and cargo space. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Its styling doesn't scream for attention, yet it's not boring, either. It does just what it's supposed to do: carry lots of stuff at a reasonable price while achieving good gas mileage.
When measured against the outgoing Versa hatchback, the Versa Note is about six inches shorter, although the length of the wheelbase stays the same. The difference is in the overhangs, where Nissan chopped both front and rear to improve handling while maintaining, and in some cases even increasing, interior space.
Powering the Versa Note is the same engine found in the sedan: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for a modest but effective 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on the base model, while an all-new continuously variable transmission (CVT) comes on higher trim levels. Significantly, this revised CVT uses a secondary set of gears on the low end to help reduce the sluggish, rubber-band feel from which most CVTs suffer. As a result, the Versa Note has adequate oomph at lower speeds, and most people won't even notice they're not driving a regular automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is another major selling point for for the Nissan Versa Note, and is improved by 17 percent over the outgoing hatch thanks in part to a weight reduction of nearly 300 pounds, plus added technology such as dual fuel injection. Additional aerodynamic enhancements also help to make the Versa Note more slippery. The result is an impressive EPA-estimated 31/40 mpg City/Highway with the CVT. The base manual doesn't fare as well, earning 27/36 mpg City/Highway.
Rear cargo space is an impressive 21.4 cubic feet, the most of any small hatch currently on the market. Rear seats fold down 60/40, and an optional folding cargo floor on upper trim levels adjusts to create a completely flat load surface.
Although its low starting price will attract many to the Nissan Note, there are also plenty of new features and options for anyone looking to soup up their hatch. Fully loaded, the 2014 Versa Note surpasses the $19k mark including destination for the top-of-the-line model with navigation and a 360-degree parking monitor (the latter of which is a first in a Nissan vehicle). But Nissan expects their $16,000 SV model to be the most popular choice, equipped with the CVT and a few tech features like Bluetooth. For the truly budget-conscious, it's important to note that maximum fuel economy comes only with the CVT, which starts at $1,200 more than the base price.
Entry-level hatchbacks such as the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris compete with the 2014 Nissan Versa Note. Of all these, the Note offers the most rear cargo space and rear legroom, making it ideal for those who want maximum roominess for the money.
All 2014 Nissan Versa Note models are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque.
Versa Note S ($13,990) comes equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission and includes manually operated air conditioning, cloth interior, four-way manually adjustable front seats, telescoping steering wheel, manual roll-down windows, manual door locks, a trip computer, audio system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack and 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers.
Versa Note S Plus CVT ($15,240) gets the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) plus cruise control and aerodynamic enhancements like an active grille shutter.
Versa Note SV models ($15,990) get upgraded cloth upholstery, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, cloth door trim, Bluetooth handsfree phone connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, a driver's seat arm rest and silver-toned interior and exterior trim. A Convenience Package ($540) adds a folding rear seat armrest with cup holders, an adjustable cargo floor, rear parking monitor, USB audio port, satellite radio capability and a 4.3-inch audio display screen.
Versa Note SL ($17,690) adds everything on the Convenience Package plus pushbutton start, heated front seats, variable intermittent windshield wipers, front fog lights, a tire-filling alert feature, engine immobilizer and 16-inch alloy wheels. A Tech Package ($800) adds navigation with the NissanConnect interface, a 360-degree parking monitor and heated side-view mirrors.
Safety features on all 2014 Nissan Versa Note models include front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted side curtain airbags, antilock brakes (ABS), traction control, stability control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and brake assist.