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July 22, 2013

Nissan's 2014 Versa Note is Your ‘Door to More’!

2014-Nissan-Versa-NOTE-sue-mead-lead_1168By Sue Mead

What is the 2014 Nissan Versa Note?

With three names and three trim lines, the 2014 Nissan Versa Note  seems like a lot of car, at least on paper. But call it simply ‘the Note’ as they do in non-U.S. automotive markets around the globe, and you’ve got a straightforward, family-friendly small people-hauler with some nice features, notable options, and helpful technology under the hood. The Note is a small car with lots of features for women to love. The attractively-designed, five-door, five-passenger hatchback is especially “cargo friendly” for its size, and has been value priced starting at $13,999 making it the lowest-priced hatch in its segment.

2014-Nissan-Versa-NOTE-sue-mead-with-surfboard-1171Nissan says the updated Versa Note has been the top seller in its class since 2008; its competitors include the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and the relatively new Chevy Sonic. The new model moves to the same platform as the Versa sedan, which cuts six inches from its front and rear bumper and fascia, although 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.

The biggest news for this hatchback is its increased fuel economy which is bumped up by 17 percent to 31 city/40 highway for an overall of 35 mpg. Better mileage comes from a more aerodynamic design; low-rolling resistance tires; a more efficient CVT powertrain (continuously variable transmission) and a weight loss of 300 pounds. Active grille shutters (which open and close, when needed) and a unique vented taillight design that optimizes airflow also aid in fuel efficiency.

2014-nissan_versa_note_03-front-beautyWhat the 2014 Versa Note Looks Like

On the outside, the Versa Note looks 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, but in the best possible way.

Designers penned its profile with an energetic “squash” character line, an increased windshield rake and a V-groove roof and say it’s like the racket used in the fast-paced game of squash, which is based on power and movement. Its co-efficient of drag (Cd) is an inspiring 0.298, which bests 2014_nissan_versa_note_47-interiormany 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. Fifteen inch wheels are standard, and 16-inchers are available.

The five-passenger cabin is surprisingly roomy, but for long trips would be a better four-passenger model. The rear cargo area holds 21.4 cubic feet of stuff, while the rear seats split and fold 60/40. Of note, the Note holds a surfboard with enough 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.

2014-nissan_versa_note_52-rear-seatInteriors are finished in cloth only, though a higher end heated cloth is available on higher trim lines. A four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary jack is standard, as are four-way adjusting bucket seats in the front. Cup/bottle holders and storage nooks and crannies abound.


What Moves the 2014 Nissan Versa Note and How it Drives

2014-nissan_versa_note_48-open-cargoThe powerplant for the Versa Note is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine making 109 horsepower and 107 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine has a dual fuel injector design that makes the size of the fuel droplets 57 percent smaller and, thereby, increases efficiency. Mated to either a five-speed manual (on entry-level models) or a second-generation CVT that is more compact, lighter weight, and has a “world’s first” CVT with a sub-planetary gear  for a wider 7.3:1  ratio span and reduced friction.

2014-Nissan-Versa-NOTE-sue-mead-cargo-1172We drove the new Note over a course of 150 miles in the San Diego region on roads that included busy city street, bustling highways, and small secondary roadways. Despite its small size, it has the feel of a slightly larger vehicle, with front headroom (40.8 inches), passenger room (94.1 cubic feet) and cargo volume (21.4 cubic feet) 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 e-readers, 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, test drivers found visibility is good to the front and sides, but we found the outside mirrors small and not as confidence-inspiring as we would like, and on freeways used not only the rear mirror, but also were sure to turn our heads for a safety check when changing lanes. That said, we appreciated Nissan’s “class-above” Around View Monitor that allows 2014-Nissan-Versa-NOTE-sue-mead-around-view_1165visibility on the dash in a 360-degree view when reverse is engaged, as well as the large 5.8-inch touchscreen for navigation that comes with the SL Tech package and brings NavTraffic rerouting; NavWeather updates; Voice Recognition and hands-free text messaging; Bluetooth; Pandora; and points of interest powered by Google.

Nearly 300 pounds lighter than last year’s model, 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 braking system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution and brake assist and do their work competently.

Safety equipment includes dual-stage front supplemental air bags, side-impact and roof-mounted bags, vehicle dynamic control, traction control system and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with Nissan’s available easy-fill tire alert that honks to let you know when you’ve inflated a tire to its proper pressure.


2014-nissan_versa_note_13-rearview2014 Nissan Versa Note Pricing and Trim Levels

The 2014 Versa Note is available in three trim levels: S, S Plus, and SV. The base model (starting at $14,780 with destination and delivery) gets air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/AUX four-speaker stereo, four-way adjusting front seats, manual windows, mirrors and locks and the five-speed manual tranny. Up one level is the S Plus model ($16,030) which adds a continuously variable transmission (CVT), active grille shutters and cruise control. AT the top of the list is the SV (from $16,780), which includes Bluetooth, upgraded cloth seats with six-way adjustability for the drive and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with chrome and silver interior accents.

Options packages include the $540 Convenience Package, which has a 4.3-inch touchscreen with satellite radio, USB input with iPod control, a rearview camera and Divide-N-Hide adjustable cargo floor. The $1,700 SL Package upgrades with fog lights, front heated seats, push button start and the tire alert system. Navigation can be purchased with the SL Tech Package –- that option group also includes heated side view mirrors and the class-exclusive Around View Monitor for parking alerts on all sides of the vehicle.





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