The Nissan Versa Note has what it takes to be good, but sadly it falls short for the as-tested price of admission.
Sitting in my driveway waiting for me one week was a Metallic Blue example in SV trim with the tech package. The base price of my tester was $15,990. But moving up to the SL package adds $1,700, and the options list includes $175 worth of carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, a $90 cargo cover, and the $800 technology package, the as-tested price was $19,545 after a $790 destination fee. That includes keyless entry and start, navigation with 5.8″ touchscreen, and a back camera with top view, some Google POI and send-to-car features, as well as Bluetooth audio, SiriusXM, hands-free texting, voice recognition, and heated side-view mirrors. I’m still confused by the fact that I had a Nissan Versa Note SV with the SL trim package, but it isn’t actually the SL top trim level. All of this seems to have changed for 2015, though, luckily. I was still eager to drive Nissan’s answer to the Toyota Yaris, which interestingly my girlfriend happened to have as a rental car after her personal car had been wrecked.
The motor is a 109-horsepower, 107 pound-foot of torque 1.6-liter 4-cylinder coupled to a CVT that works like any other. In this car, however, I’d say that it works well and helps achieve great gas mileage.
I love when a car feels sporty and is fun to drive. But I respect a car that doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. The Versa Note isn’t sporty, but it is stable and moves well on its feet. Steering is numb, which is to be expected for a car that’s more worried about gas mileage. The Note is quite roomy, but the real story on the inside is the great legroom in the back seat for something so small.
Are you looking for a usable car that won’t break the bank for your high school or college student? Here it is. It’s not fast enough to get them in trouble, but it is safe enough to ease your mind of them driving.
The typical plastic and cloth interior in this car isn’t bad on the hands or eyes, and it is easy to get in and drive. My car had push-button start, and also had a backup camera with a top view camera. This feature allows you to look at the vehicle from an overhead position when reversing or backing into a parking space. A nice little feature.
The biggest problems I found with the Nissan Versa Note are its competition. For what this car offers, I’d look into a Kia Rio. For under the $20,000 price tag, you can pick up a Rio 5-door SX, a base Forte EX sedan or Forte5 wagon, Hyundai Elantra GT, or a Kia Soul. Each car has more horsepower, similar cargo capacity, and each drives better and is more interesting to own.
There is one area where the Versa Note absolutely decimates all the cars I’ve listed: gas mileage. With 31 mpg city and 40 on the highway, and 35 mpg combined, it’s hard not to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth in that department. That’s roughly 4-8 mpg better than the other cars I mentioned on the combined cycle. Except for one car that I didn’t mention. For the price of this Nissan Versa Note, you could buy a Mazda3 5-door or sedan. The wagon will get you 40 mpg on the highway, and the sedan does a tick better at 41. Hmm…
My recommendation to Nissan for the Versa Note is to drop $1500 off the total price, add an interesting buying incentive, like five free oil changes if purchased by or for a high school or college student, and that should help quite a bit.
While I didn’t mind driving the Versa Note, I just couldn’t see myself spending my own money on it. I think that it’s a promising starting point for a small Nissan 5-door with the optional technology package, fuel mileage, and the amazing rear leg room. But that’s really all you can say about it. If you want something that is really easy to own that drives like a city car, the Versa Note is probably the perfect car for you. If you’d like something that feels worth what you’re paying a month, I’d go another route that I mentioned above. So again, not a terrible car, just nothing special in a day where small cars are driving with character.
[Photos provided by Nissan]