Nissan’s Commuter King
The average selling price for a new car in 2014 is around $30,300, yet the 2014 Nissan Versa Note has a base price of $13,990. Still with me or have you tuned-out because at that price you are asking, how good can this car be?
Being one of the lowest priced new cars on the market could indicate there isn’t much there, but Nissan has done a good job making sure even the base model is safe, handles and stops well, and is among the leaders among subcompact hatchbacks with 40 mpg out on the highway. We’re not sure what “class” that is (maybe subcompact hatchbacks), but the Nissan Versa Note is a commuter king that won’t cost much going in and to drive. It’s a worthy member of our 40 MPG Club.
The front-wheel drive 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV is powered by a 1.6-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine producing 109 hp through the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), delivering an EPA rating of 31
city/40 highway/35 combined mpg. A five-speed manual is available that drops the fuel economy to 27/36/30.
In 580 miles of 85-percent highway/15-percent city driving, the CVT equipped Clean Fleet Report test Versa Note averaged 37.8 mpg. At our average, the 10.8 gallon fuel tank would get you 400 miles down the road before sputtering to a stop.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The subcompact 5-door Versa Note SV weighs in at well over a ton at 2,482 lbs. with a 60/40 front-to-rear weight distribution. The handling was as expected around town negotiating parking lots, city streets and other tight maneuver areas; all were managed with ease. On the freeway (where a Versa Note will most likely spend most of its driving life, taking advantage of the class-leading 40 mpg) the ride at 65 – 70 mph was rough and at times unpredictable when the 15-inch low-rolling-resistance tires hit a groove or seam in the pavement. Maybe the optional 16-inch Continental all-season tires would improve the freeway ride.
Along with the standard 15-inch alloy wheels, the Versa Note has electric power steering with front struts and a Torsion bar/stabilizer bar in the rear. Brakes are vented discs in the front and drums in the rear. To aid in safe braking, Nissan’s Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) system adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo and even adjusts as fuel is consumed.
If you read my other reviews you will see I find driving a CVT-equipped car to be a good experience as they are smooth and help deliver higher fuel economy. However, the CVT and the 1.6 liter four-cylinder in the Versa Note made for a loud combination with the CVT not as smooth as others I have driven. When accelerating hard to enter a freeway or climbing a hill, the engine was straining to get to the desired speed. Once there though, it cruised and kept up with traffic easily.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Nissan Versa Note was redesigned for 2014 and, in its second generation, it is a significant improvement over the previous car. The 2014 Versa Note has a design flow with a steeply sloped windshield, distinctively sculpted doors and a roofline that has a slight kick at the end acting as a small spoiler. The rear taillights are similar to those found on the 370Z and Juke with what Nissan calls its “boomerang” design that helps guide air away from the body for reduced turbulence, helping to increase fuel economy. Up front Nissan has its first-ever active grill shutter that automatically closes the grill at speeds above 20 miles per hour, reducing air entering the engine compartment, which in-turn reduces drag. Yet another design feature aimed at improving fuel economy.
Overall, the redesigned Versa Note works well, featuring a few details that set it apart in the highly competitive entry-level car segment.
Driving Experience: Interior
Nissan has designed the Versa Note with a best-in-class interior space that is roomy and really does seat five passengers comfortably. Calling it their “Your Door to More” interior, this spacious interior includes a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, which, when folded flat, provides excellent storage space. Other niceties include multiple cup holders, optional upgraded cloth seats with top stitching and a nifty optional rear cargo feature that
increases storage space, which Nissan calls Divide-N-Hide.
The front seats in our Versa Note SV came with a 6-way adjustable driver seat and a 4-way adjustable passenger seat. All adjustments are manual and, with a bit of experimenting, we were able to find a comfortable seating position. Sight lines are excellent with large windows and no blind spots.
The dash and center stack have an old-school look and feel with a combination of knobs, switches and buttons combined with a 4.3-inch color screen; in the SV trim, it comes with a rearview camera. With just the right amount of chrome and silver accents, this uncomplicated cockpit goes a long way toward providing a quick familiarization with the controls, which in-turn can lead to a safer driving experience. Everything is within easy reach, easy to understand, so all-in-all, a workable arrangement.
There are three Versa Note models (S, S Plus and SV); Clean Fleet Report had the SV for a week. Standard equipment on the SV included power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry and A/C.
The four-speaker AM/FM/CD player with an Aux-in jack came with SiriusXM, iPod connectivity and hands-free phone via Bluetooth wireless technology (Bluetooth comes only at the SV trim level and above). The voice recognition was as good as any I have tested, but it was necessary to speak clearly and directly at the ceiling-integrated microphone when on the freeway, where road noise in the Versa Note SV is noticeable.
The tilt steering wheel has all the usual audio (volume and modes) and hands-free phone buttons. The cruise control is operated on the right side stalk.
Safety and Convenience
The 2014 Versa Note SV safety and convenience features include remote keyless entry, power door locks and windows, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), multi-reflector halogen headlights, eight airbags, cruise control, illuminated entry, 12-volt power outlet, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), traction control and ABS with brake assist.
Pricing and Warranties
Base pricing for the three 2014 Nissan Versa Note models:
S Plus $15,240
The SV model we were driving had the Convenience Package, carpeted floor mats and cargo mat and rear cargo cover bringing the price to $17,605.
All prices are MSRP and do not include the $810 destination charge.
The 2014 Versa Note SV comes with these warranties:
- 3-year/36,000-mile Basic
- 5-year/60,000-mile Drivetrain
- 5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion
Observations: 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note SV is a comfortable commuter with actual room for four full-size adults (five if some are less than full-size) with excellent fuel economy. The styling stands-out among other entry-level hatchbacks and, if
fully optioned, will deliver all the technological convenience found on far more expensive cars. Handling in town is just what you need for zipping around streets and alleys and in-and-out of parking spaces.
If you are looking for a second car primarily to be a commuter vehicle, then the Versa Note will be among the cheapest per mile to own and operate while also providing a good driving environment. It is a bit louder in the cabin at freeway speeds than is desired, but crank-up the SiriusXM and enjoy that 40 mpg fuel economy all the way down the road. The Versa Note SV is worth checking out next time you are cruising dealerships.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Other related stories you might enjoy:
Welcome to the new MPG clubs
Road Test: Toyota Prius c hybrid
Best electric cars and plug-in hybrids of 2014