By the numbers, the 2014 Nissan Versa Note has the potential to rule the entry-level car segment. By Nissan's reckoning, this new hatchback lays claim to best-in-class fuel economy, passenger room and cargo space. The Versa Note further entices shoppers with one of the lowest sticker prices in the hatchback class, along with a few exclusive features.
But numbers don't always tell the whole story, so we got behind the wheel of the Versa Note in San Diego to see how this new hatchback stacks up.
Considering the modest $13,990 price tag for the no-frills base model, our expectations were decidedly low, and the Note easily met and sometimes exceeded them. In other areas, though, and especially compared to its competition, the little Nissan came up a little short.
High and Low Notes In terms of styling, the 2014 Nissan Versa Note exhibits significantly more visual interest than the unimaginative Versa sedan. The designers incorporated some Nissan styling cues like headlights from the 2013 Nissan Leaf and taillights from the Z sports car, along with a strong character line on the side to break up the expansive door panels. Among competing hatchbacks, the Note's exterior design holds up well.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Note's interior, which is nearly identical to the sedan. It's the most basic of layouts, with plenty of hard plastics. Compared to competing hatchbacks, this Versa's cabin is uninteresting and dated-looking. That said, most systems and controls in our range-topping SV trim with SL Tech package test car were easy to operate and functioned as intended. Perhaps there's something to be said for simplicity, but it still doesn't need to be plain.
To the Note's credit, there is an abundance of space inside. This is especially true for the rear seats, which can comfortably accommodate full-size adults thanks to its class-leading 38.3 inches of legroom and generous headroom. Up front, there's ample space as well, but we took issue with the seats themselves.
We found the shoulder sections of the seatbacks too narrow for our 5-foot-10 frame. Had we been 3 inches shorter, it may not have been an issue. Regardless of height, we're confident that front passengers would find the hard plastic door armrests objectionable. Using both elbow perches simultaneously will make you feel as if you have scoliosis.
When it comes to cargo capacity, the Note beats the competition, with 21.4 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats. The rear seats fold flat for bigger items and there's also a built-in cargo divider to keep smaller items out of view below, while allowing larger parcels to be transported on top.
Driving Notes There's nothing inspiring about the way the 2014 Nissan Versa Note drives. And in this class that comes as no surprise. This isn't a car made to slice through canyons or beat other cars away from stoplights. No, the Note is just an honest and inexpensive way to get around.
The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine makes a satisfactory 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. The base S trim comes only with a five-speed manual, while the vast majority sold will feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has a reputation for producing decent CVTs, but drivers unfamiliar with shiftless driving may have to adjust to the Versa.
And shiftless is a somewhat appropriate description of this drivetrain feel. Accelerating up to highway speeds requires a firmly planted accelerator. The revs climb lazily, then remain there while the engine emits a very loud and strained mooing noise. There's little sensation that you're really making any headway until you look down at the speedometer. Once you let off the pedal, though, the bovine drone stops immediately and revs drop below the 2,000-rpm mark for quiet cruising.
Passing slower traffic or tackling steep grades takes some planning, as the CVT is mostly unresponsive until you floor the pedal once again. Then you wait for the underhood cow to awaken to pull past. When it comes to power, the Note goes no further than adequate.
Quiet Cruiser We were pleasantly surprised, however, by how calm the cabin remains on the interstates. Road and wind noise are kept in check as well or better than other economical hatchbacks. With the engine revving low, long stretches behind the wheel are agreeably fatigue-free.
In the handling department, the Versa Note is also solid, as it manages to track through corners without any drama. According to Eric Vaughen, the Versa team manager, the engineers weren't shooting for sporty, instead opting for just a whiff of fun. Admittedly, catching that whiff takes some concentration.
We did pick up a lack of compliance over moderate-to-large dips and bumps, though. Small cracks and ruts were well absorbed by the tire sidewalls, but anything larger resulted in unsettlingly large reactions followed by residual rebounds. It's not unlike a rough landing in a commercial jet.
Noteworthy Figures Of all the figures the new 2014 Nissan Versa Note is touting, its EPA fuel economy ratings are its most impressive. Fuel economy sees a healthy improvement for the CVT, with a 31 city/40 highway and 35 mpg combined estimate. That's up from 28/34/30 mpg from its hatchback predecessor.
Nissan accomplished this through an aggressive weight loss campaign. The engineers managed to slim down the compact hatchback by a whopping 300 pounds. Then they took it a step further by adding improved aerodynamic elements that include an active shutter grille that opens and closes according to vehicle speed.
Then there are the Versa Note's bells and whistles that may serve as further enticement. Items like heated front seats, a Google-enhanced navigation system, voice recognition, Pandora and hands-free text messaging either meet or beat rival offerings. There's also a class-exclusive around-view camera system that makes parallel parking a no-brainer.
These perks do kick up the price, of course. The range-topping SV trim with option packages stickers at $19,280.
Class-Adequate The 2014 Nissan Versa Note's low price of admission will certainly have an undeniable appeal for tight budgets. The Note undercuts the perennial favorite 2013 Honda Fit by $1,435, a sizable savings for a car in this class. On the other hand, the 2013 Kia Rio hatchback beats the Versa by $190 so it's not the least expensive choice in the class.
More likely than not, deciding on the Versa Note will come down to the bottom line at both the dealer and the gas pump. In that regard, sensibility will keep it humming along just fine.
Yes, you can do better when it comes to interior design and ride refinement, but it'll cost you. The new Note delivers on the basics: great fuel economy, a spacious interior and predictable handling. Nothing exciting, nothing surprising, just straightforward utility and efficiency in a cleanly styled package.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Is the 2014 Nissan Versa a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2014 Nissan Versa and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2014 Versa featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process All of our reviews are written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 2014 Nissan Versa? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2014 Nissan Versa and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2014 Versa 3.3 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2014 Versa.
Review I bought a sedan over the Note even though I could have gotten a Note for a lot less. I like the sedans looks better. I bought the car for the gas mileage, interior space and trunk size. I am a large guy and fit with no problems. I did not buy it because it is a sport sedan, but it is practical for my daily commuting needs. Many reviews I read on here this site and others make me wonder how many are disgruntled owners that wanted a more expensive car (ALTIMA) and could only afford the Versa!?! I could have bought most any Nissan on the lot, but I chose the versa-tility of the Versa sedan
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Is the 2014 Nissan Versa safe? The 2014 Nissan Versa earned a 4-star overall safety rating from NHTSA and "GOOD" ratings from the IIHS in the following caregories: Side Impact Test, Roof Strength Test, Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint, Moderate Overlap Front Test Results, and a JD POWER overall quality rating of 2.0 out of 5. Among Edmunds' many tools and resources for finding your perfect car are detailed safety ratings and analysis from NHTSA, IIHS, and JD Power, including overall ratings, frontal barrier crash ratings, side impact tests and crash ratings, rollover test results, roof strength tests, rear crash protection and head restraint ratings, side barrier ratings, combined side barrier and pole ratings, and more.
What options are available on the 2014 Nissan Versa?
Available Nissan Versa 2014 Submodel Types: Sedan, Hatchback
Available Trims: 1.6 SV, 1.6 S Plus, 1.6 S, 1.8 S, 1.8 SL, 1.6 SL, 1.6
Exterior Colors: Super Black, Brilliant Silver, Fresh Powder, Graphite Blue, Gun Metallic, Cayenne Red, Titanium, Brilliant Silver Metallic, Metallic Blue, Magnetic Gray, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Amethyst Gray, Red Brick, Blue Onyx, Red Alert, Blue Onyx Metallic, Sapphire Blue, Espresso Black Metallic, Arctic Blue Metallic, Red Alert Metallic, Sonoma Sunset, Deep Blue Pearl, Arctic Blue, Red Brick Metallic