2014 Nissan Versa Note: Message to Small Car Buyers

By Sue Mead, January 1st, 2013

The 2014 Nissan Versa Note Seems like a long name for a small car -- at least on paper. Call it "the Note" as they do in other markets around the globe, and you'll get acquainted with a straightforward, family-friendly small people-hauler with some nice features, notable options and helpful technology under the hood.

The attractively-designed, five-door, five-passenger hatchback is especially cargo friendly for its size and is value-priced starting at $13,999. It's the lowest-priced hatch in its segment. The 2014 Versa Note is available in S, S Plus and SV trims.

The Versa Note moves to the same platform as the Versa sedan, which cuts 6 inches from its front and rear bumper and fascia, but it rides on the same 102.3-inch wheelbase and has the same rear-seat legroom of 38 inches, which Nissan says is the best-in-class. This hatchback's fuel economy is 31 city/40 highway for an overall of 35 mpg.

On the outside, the Note looks very much like the versatile little hatchback it is: a snubbed nose, relatively tall roofline and snipped rear end, with four wide doors in between, give it the appearance of a modern, shrunken minivan. In the best way.

Designers penned its profile with an energetic "squash" character line, an increased windshield rake and a V-groove roof and comment that the Note is like the racket used in the fast-paced game of squash, based on power and movement. Its co-efficient of drag (Cd) is an inspiring 0.298, which bests many sports cars.

Sharply angled headlamps and a wide-toothed grin (thanks to a split front grille and air dam) smirk a friendly hello; rear hatchback glass is wide for better visibility with taillamps that are inspired by Nissan's 370Z and Juke.

The cabin is surprisingly roomy, but for long trips would be a better four-passenger model. Of note, the Note holds a surfboard with room leftover to stow gear, as well. There's also a nifty new stowage system, called Divide-N-Hide, an adjustable floor in the rear cargo area that hides clutter and creates a flat cargo floor.

Interiors are finished in cloth only, though a higher-end cloth is available on higher Note trims and can be heated. A four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary jack is standard, as are four-way adjusting bucket seats in the front.

The powerplant for the Versa Note is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 109 horsepower and 107 lb.-ft. of torque. It is mated to either a five-speed manual or a second-generation CVT that is more compact and lighter weight.

We drove the 2014 Note over a course of 150 miles in the San Diego region on roads that included busy city streets, bustling highways and small secondary roadways. Despite its small size, it has the feel of a slightly larger vehicle, with front headroom (40.8 in.), passenger room (94.1 cu.ft.) and cargo volume (21.4 cu.ft.) that are better than its competitors.

The rear has a fold-down armrest with cupholders and there are places to store books, a laptop and other electronic devices, such as phones and nooks, along with cubbies in the front. The Divide-N-Hide adjustable floor is a cool solution for out-of-sight stowage in the rear.

At the wheel, we found visibility good to the front and sides, but we think the outside mirrors are too small and not as confidence-inspiring as we would like -- we had to turn our heads back for a safety check when changing lanes. That said, we appreciated Nissan's Around View Monitor that allows visibility in a 360-degree view, when reverse is engaged, as well as the large 5.8-inch touchscreen that comes with the Tech Package.

This Versa hatch feels light on its feet and steady on the road. It corners and takes pavement transitions well, set up with an independent strut with stabilizer bar set up for the front, matched with a torsion beam rear axle with integrated stabilizer bar at the back. Electric power steering is standard, as are power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes with anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake force Distribution and Brake Assist.

Specifications

Base price $13,990 (as tested: $15,580)
Curb weight 2,412 lbs.
Displacement 1.6-liter
Epa mileage rating 31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 10.8 gal.
Horsepower (net) 109 at 6000 rpm
Motor type 16-valve 4-cylinder w/SMPFI
Overall length 163.7 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 107 at 4400 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD compact hatch
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