I have not really been a small-car driver for many years. In fact, up until my last two cars, I kept getting larger and larger cars. Now I am headed back the other way. Although I may not be ready to drive a compact car full-time I was happily surprised with the 2014 Nissan Versa Note that I was invited to test drive recently.
Compact cars were not something I have thought about in a while because I am a plus size gal. I want space to spread out and be comfortable. I approached the Versa Note and walked around it, peaked inside, and then a bit hesitantly, opened the driver’s side door and got in behind the wheel thinking I would instantly dislike it.
Wait a minute. I wasn’t squished! This little car has got some space inside.
The Versa Note leads its category of cars in front headroom (at 40.8”), rear legroom (at 38.3”), and passenger room (at 94.1”). The driver’s area had plenty of room and the seat was fairly generous for a small car. Even lifting arms up, turning towards the back, and moving around were easy; these tasks were also easily completed in the front passenger seat. In the back, the Versa Note has 21.4 cubic feet of cargo area with the rear split seats folding down flat and the Divide-N-Hide Adjustable Floor gives hidden storage and the ability to stack cargo. The model I drove had power windows but the seat and steering were manual. Also, the steering wheel didn’t feel as hefty in my hands as I would have liked; it had thicker grip areas at the top and but not at the base, making the feel inconsistent.
One nice feature is that Nissan has made the Versa Note class-above in technology, however some of the tech features leave a little to be desired. The stereo had a decent sound with plenty of thump. SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Pandora are available options. Stream your own music into the car via Bluetooth or by plugging into the auxiliary jack right next to the USB port. Nissan Connect serves as the entertainment and navigation hub. The 5.8” display is touch-enabled and the voice recognition and feedback are helpful for hands-free use. The navigation options require an annual update (for a fee) which I feel misses the mark a bit since most of us have free navigation capabilities on our smartphones.
Google Send-To-Car is another feature that allows you to look up things on your phone or other device and send to the car, addresses for example. This service is not quite as intuitive as I would have liked; I am geeky and still had some trouble with this. My favorite feature is the Around View Monitor which provides not only front and rear-facing camera views on the display, but also the side views and overhead. This was a great parking assistance feature and a valuable safety feature.
Nissan let me drive around Southern California and I was pleased with the smoothness of driving in the car. My test model had the available CVT transmission which does not actually shift, but rather ‘varies’ from one gear to another to provide the best power and economy and gives that smooth feeling. I drove in the mountains, curvy roads, straight highways, and stop-and-go city traffic with ease. The Nissan Versa is not a sports car, but it has enough pep that you do not feel like you are going to get run over trying to merge onto the highway. Combined with the CVT transmission, the 1.6 litre DOHC engine had plenty of pep. Another best in class feature is the combined MPG of 35 (that is, 31 MPG city and 40 MPG highway), however on the first leg of my test drive the car averaged 45 MPG. The fuel efficiency has increased in part from the 2012 model due to Nissan reducing the car’s weight by 300 pounds and improving aerodynamics.
This might be the best part: Have you ever heard of a newer year model car costing less than the previous model? Well, Nissan has done just that. The average savings between the 2012 Nissan Versa and the 2014 Nissan Versa Note is about $583 (there was not a 2013 model year). The base model starts at $13,990 which is the lowest base MSRP in its class. Fully loaded with the SL+Tech option is $19,290.
Overall this is an impressive car for this price point. I can see young adults taking it to college, hanging out with friends, camping and going to the beach; even young families with one or two children would be quite happy with the Nissan Versa Note.
Roominess for passengers and cargo in such a small car
35 MPG Combined
USB and auxiliary port
Low rolling resistance tires
Nissan Voice Recognition
Around View Monitor
Remote Keyless Entry
Sirius XM Satellite Radio
Easy to read instrument panel
Sporty rear spoiler
2 glove boxes
Easy Fill Tire Alert System (the car lets you know when tires are low and when you’re filling them, when they reach the ideal pressure)
Acoustic windshield is also more expensive to replace if need arises
Navigation system needs to be upgraded annually, for a fee ($100-$200)
NissanConnect with Navigation option nice, but most smartphones already have these features you can use in your car
Seating capacity of 5, but really more like 4
Base model starts at $13,990; loaded SV + SL Tech $18,490
3 years/36,000 mile basic warranty
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty
5 years corrosion warrantyDisclosure: I was Nissan’s guest for this test drive; the company provided transportation, accommodations and meals while I learned about the Versa Note. Opinions expressed here are all my own.Robyn Wright is a St. Louis-based writer, self-confessed geek, tech expert, foodie, mom and wife. She shares her on-line and off-line life at Robyns Online World.