Full 2014 Nissan Versa Note Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Nissan Versa Note is the hatchback companion to the Versa sedan.
The 2014 Nissan Versa Note is a subcompact car built with two central priorities: getting you where you need to go and doing it on the cheap. The Versa Note isn't designed to press you back against the seat during hard acceleration or thrill you with its handling around turns. This small hatchback is neither quick nor sporty. But it does take you from Point A to Point B, and considering its low price, its cabin accommodations are respectable.
The all-new Note is essentially the hatchback version of the Versa sedan, which was last redesigned in 2012. For the money, you get excellent fuel economy, plenty of passenger space and cargo capacity and a sharply styled exterior. These highlights alone may be enough to sway plenty of shoppers over to the Versa camp. Then there are the numerous available bells and whistles that set the Note apart from rivals, such as keyless ignition/entry, a 360-degree parking camera system and a cargo divider that provides added security and convenience when stowing your worldly possessions.
Although the 2014 Nissan Versa Note is an adequate means of transportation, it falls short of its rivals in both interior refinement and overall performance. The cabin is bathed in hard plastics, and its general design is pretty dull. The pairing of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) is good for fuel economy, but this hatchback struggles to get up to highway speeds and the engine makes loud groaning noises in the process. Apart from its comfortable ride, the Note just isn't a particularly inspiring car to drive.
Competing subcompacts such as the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit are more enjoyable, for example, thanks to their sharper handling and steering. The Chevrolet Sonic and Hyundai Accent sprint to 60 mph more quickly than the Versa and still get very good fuel economy.
Equipping the 2014 Nissan Versa Note to match other base-model subcompacts takes away some of its cost advantage as well, so you need to pay attention to all of the numbers before you decide. But if having plenty of space for your passengers and sticking to your budget are top priorities, the Versa Note is a great place to start.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Nissan Versa Note is a five-passenger hatchback that is offered in three trims: S, S Plus and SV. A four-door sedan version of the Versa also is available and is covered in a separate model review.
Standard features for the base S trim include 15-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, air-conditioning, a trip computer, a tilt-only steering wheel, a four-way manually adjustable driver seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary input jack. It's worth noting that the 2014 Versa S trim is available only with a five-speed manual transmission. Stepping up to the S Plus trim adds active grille shutters for increased fuel economy, as well as a CVT and cruise control.
The range-topping SV trim tacks on keyless remote entry, power locks and windows, upgraded and expanded use of cloth upholstery, a six-way adjustable driver seat, a driver-side center armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, silver/chrome interior and exterior accents and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
Bundled options are only offered on the SV trim. The SV Convenience package includes a rearview camera, a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface, a fold-down rear center armrest and a cargo divider. The SL package gets you the Convenience package features plus 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, keyless ignition/entry and heated front seats. Finally, there's the SL Tech package with heated mirrors, a 360-degree parking camera system, a navigation system, a larger 5.8-inch color touchscreen, Pandora radio and Bluetooth streaming audio.
Stand-alone options are available on all trims and include 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear roof spoiler, chrome exterior accents, interior ambient lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a vehicle tracking and recovery system, and a cargo divider.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2014 Nissan Versa Note is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. Base S models only come with a five-speed manual, while higher trims receive a CVT, which takes the place of a conventional automatic transmission on the Note. Both drive the front wheels.
The EPA estimates fuel economy for the manual-shift Versa Note at 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 30 mpg in combined driving. The CVT version achieves an impressive 31/40/35 mpg.
We've yet to test the Note, but in Edmunds performance testing, the very similar Versa sedan with the CVT went from zero to 60 in 10.4 seconds, which is average for this class of car.
Standard safety features for all 2014 Nissan Versa Notes include four-wheel antilock brakes (front discs, rear drums), front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and traction and stability control. A rearview camera is optional on the SV. The SV also has a standard tire-pressure alert system, which makes it easier to add air to your tires by sounding the horn when you've achieved the correct inflation pressure.
In Edmunds brake testing, the related Versa sedan came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, which is a respectable distance for a car in this class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The first thing that strikes you about the 2014 Nissan Versa Note's passenger cabin is the roominess. Nowhere is this more evident than in the backseat, where even two tall adults can comfortably sit, benefiting from ample head- and legroom. Up front, taller drivers might find it hard to achieve a comfortable position, however, due to the lack of a telescoping steering wheel.
Cargo space is generous, with 21.4 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats. The available adjustable cargo area floor allows for thin objects (laptop bags and boxes) to be stored under the floor and out of view, while larger objects can be stored on top. The divider also can be dropped or removed completely for maximum space. With the rear seats lowered, the Note can hold 38.3 cubic feet of cargo.
Despite its relatively striking exterior styling, the Versa Note's interior is about as bland and budget-based as you'll find. Hard plastics abound and the design is bare-bones basic. That said, the availability of premium convenience features such as keyless ignition/entry and a rearview camera is a nice touch for this class of car.
Expectations should be kept in check when it comes to the 2014 Nissan Versa Note's performance. Acceleration is tepid at best, as the small engine proves merely adequate.
The CVT is smooth and unobtrusive around town, but it can have the engine revving noisily if you abruptly press down on the gas pedal (in a highway passing situation, for instance) as it searches for its ideal ratio. This is a common complaint with CVTs that are paired with small four-cylinder engines, and most owners get used to this trait over time. On a positive note, when you finally reach highway speeds on flat pavement, the revs drop dramatically for quiet and fuel-efficient cruising. Low amounts of road and wind noise contribute to the sense of calm in the cabin.
In general, the 2014 Nissan Versa Note has a comfortable ride. Most small road imperfections are absorbed by the tires and suspension, but larger bumps and ruts have a tendency to upset the car's equilibrium and cause it to lurch dramatically. These reactions can be unsettling to passengers, but the car remains in control. For the most part, the Note is obedient on curving roads, and it's perfectly acceptable as a basic commuter car.