Compact hatches are trendy, but the Nissan Versa Note is starting to show its age. Which is an odd thing to say considering that the 2017 Nissan Versa Note has just received a styling update in the form of a new front fascia featuring a V-shaped (or U-shaped, depending on your perspective) grille that gives it a family resemblance to newer Nissan designs.
Unfortunately, the mechanical bits are largely unchanged, save for the elimination of a manual transmission for 2017. The Versa Note is powered by a 1.6-liter engine that produces 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque, mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive. We clocked the Versa to 60 mph in a sluggish 10.4 seconds, and the droning of the engine (courtesy of the CVT, which can keep the engine speed in a narrow band as the car accelerates) made the run seem even longer. The engine is noisy when pushed, but at least its fuel economy figures are decent: The EPA rates the Versa Note at 34 mpg combined (31 city/39 highway).
We like the simplicity of the Versa Note's dashboard, with its easy-to-read gauges and simple controls, but that's about the only compliment we can pay it. Though the top-of-the-line SV model — the one you're likely to see in glossy brochure photos — does get significantly nicer cabin trim, the cheaper versions are awash in hard, shiny plastic, a cheap material that most of the Versa Note's competitors have since done away with.
If the Versa Note has one saving grace, it's the backseat, which is roomy enough to seat 6-foot adults in comfort. Cargo space is about average for the class, but the adjustable cargo floor is a useful feature. It maximizes cargo space when placed in its lower position, and raising it provides a flatter load floor when the rear seats are folded down. It also provides hidden storage to keep valuables away from prying eyes.
Unfortunately, the Versa Note isn't particularly good to drive. The steering offers little feedback and the tall body is susceptible to crosswinds, and though the ride is generally comfortable, the suspension does a poor job of filtering out hard jolts. The Versa Note's handling is competent, but it isn't much fun, and there are definitely more enjoyable cars in this segment.
Nissan has eliminated the entry-level S model for 2017, but the S Plus still gets the bare minimum of features; it's the the SV model that offers the creature comforts most small-car buyers expect nowadays. The SR gives the Versa a sporty look that its running gear can't deliver, while the range-topping SL comes the closest to delivering what we expect from a modern subcompact hatch. If this is the car you want, let Edmunds help find the perfect 2017 Nissan Versa Note for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.