Nissan’s publicity strategy hit the nail on the head: they managed to get us excited about trying their entry-level Versa Note. I was the lucky one who got to sit behind the wheel for a week.
Excitement creates expectations, which can backfire on the most well intended. The design was a bit of a letdown, but the equipment level truly is impressive. I’ll even go as far as to say that that Nissan has set the bar at the subcompact level.
What is a Nissan Versa Note?
The Nissan Versa Note is a modern and affordable 5-door subcompact that has been completely redesigned. Just don’t expect a comfort level in the intermediate or even compact vehicle range. We are talking about a small-budget car. Nonetheless, the available equipment list is worthy of mention. A rear backup camera in a vehicle that sells for under $16,000! Enough said.
2014 Nissan Versa Note Price and Specs
The 1.6L 4-cylinder engine produces 109 hp and 107 lb-ft torque. If I wanted to play devil’s advocate, I could point out the fact that the 1.5L Honda Fit produces 117 hp… Notwithstanding, acceleration in the 2014 Nissan Versa Note remains quite reasonable.
The biggest surprise was the fast engine rpm. At 60 km/h in third gear the gauge indicated 3,500 rpm. Same thing at 117 km/h in 5th gear. This is high, but I did manage to average 7.3L/100 km while driving 50% of the time in city conditions.
When we take a closer look at the 2014 Nissan Versa Note’s price, things become really interesting. The base S model, starts at $13,348. The 1.6 SV has a MSRP of $14,998.
My SL test model starts at $16,998, which includes smart key entry, pushbutton start/stop, adjustable cargo floor, center-console cup holders… And the list goes on.
The CVT transmission, which will help you stretch your fuel budget, will set you back another $1,300.
Driving the 2014 Nissan Versa Note
Don’t kid yourself: The Nissan Versa Note drives like a subcompact, albeit a solidly built subcompact, which only sells for $15,000. At this price we shouldn’t expect top-quality fit and finish or amazing comfort.
The torsion beam rear axle brought this fact to my attention. Body lean is quite noticeable, and our notoriously imperfect roads made their presence felt quite convincingly. It takes a little time to get used to.
The rear drum brakes performed without a hitch, as the 2014 Nissan Versa Note responded well to my input. As for the manual transmission, it closely resembles the Yaris gearbox, with its long throws. Same principle; you’ll get used to it.
I really liked the front and lateral visibility. Did I mention that I really liked the rear backup camera?
Inside and Out the 2014 Nissan Versa Note
The Versa Note has a new, modern design, but I’m not in love. I think it tries too hard to look like a Honda Fit with its small, triangular side windows, and steeply angled hatch.
My personal tastes aside, the front headlight units that surround the front grille give the 2014 Nissan Versa Note a modern feel. As for the uniquely shaped taillights, I’ll let you be the judge.
Once seated, you immediately notice the firm seats and cheaper materials, which is what you’d expect in this type of vehicle.
On a more positive note, the instrument panel was a risky, but highly rewarding gamble. They offer great ergonomics and are simple and efficient -- I loved using it. The only caveat is the low-end Bluetooth system.
The steeply raked windshield opens the horizon in the 2014 Nissan Versa Note. I also loved the numerous cubbyholes and compartments. Rear cargo capacity is impressive. What’s more, my model was equipped with the Divide-N-Hide adjustable floor, which consists of a removable tray that helps organise and hide rear cargo.
Finally, after enjoying all the technological goodies usually reserved for compacts and midsize vehicles, one wonders why the steering column isn’t telescopic, which would go a long way in improving the driving position.
Comparing the 2014 Nissan Versa Note
The subcompact category is hotly disputed. It’s all about price. However, once we go beyond the MSRPs, we need to properly assess the quality and the value. A look at the Versa Note’s competitors helps relativize the debate.
The Honda Fit is a little more powerful, but offers less equipment for the extra $1,500. The Mazda2, which only produces 100 hp, doesn’t offer satellite radio or a backup camera. The Toyota Yaris offers numerous technological tidbits, but sells for $3,000 more.
Finally, the Chevrolet Sonic is the competitor that is the Note’s closest rivalin terms of equipment list. However, no backup camera. It develops more power, but you need to dish out an extra $1,500 for a model that closely resembles the SL.
In summary, Nissan has done their homework. They offer more for less. If you want to have a host of goodies without ruining the budget, go for the SV model with the Convenience Package.