The first thing you notice about the 2014 Nissan Versa Note, a second-generation hatchback that Nissan executives hope will maintain Versa’s reign as the segment’s top sales-getter, is the aerodynamically optimized bodywork. From some angles the Note looks fresh, fun and possibly even a bit sporty; from other angles it looks like a mini-minivan, namely a bit Honda-esque. The slimmed down profile along with a low drag floor, bigger front spoiler, an Active Grille Shutter (on CVT-equipped models), taillight diffusers, and a slew of air deflectors located around the low-rolling-resistance tires — gives the CVT-equipped Versa a 0.30 coefficient of drag. Which is identical to a 370Z coupe.
On the interior, some might find the hard plastic and cloth interior unfortunate. I find it fantastic. In a car that starts sub $20k would I rather have faux leather and other soft materials throughout which will show wear after a couple seasons of harsh Colorado sun, or would I rather have durable and easy to clean plastic? That’s an easy question to answer, I’ll take plastic any day. Nissan’s simple-to-use navigation and multimedia system with Around View camera do a fine job of raising the interior’s visible price point on their own. Everything is simple to use and there aren’t a billion buttons everywhere, take a new Ford interior, count the number of control buttons and divide by about two and a half.
The touch screen won’t have you digging through multiple menus and commands, and Bluetooth phone setup is about the easiest I’ve seen and the Around View system is likely the best camera setup on the market today. Before I forget, I must thank Nissan for the driver’s seat armrest.
Thanks to a second-generation low-friction CVT that’s smaller and lighter (revised oil pump, smaller pulleys, compact torque convertor), the 109-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder attains a class-leading 40 mpg on the highway (31 city / 35 combined). The engine employs a new dual-injector design producing 57 percent smaller droplets than before, and has CVTCS (continuously variable valve timing control system) on its intake and exhaust. With the S and its five-speed manual you’ll get an EPA-certified 27/36/30 city/highway/combined fuel economy.
The Versa is not a fast car, that’s not the point. But if you care to ask, it’s 10.4 seconds. 10.4 patient seconds are what you will need to get to 60mph from a standstill. A quarter mile will take about 18 seconds.
Off the bat, I’m willing to give Nissan a tip of the cap merely for designing this as a car 4 full-sized human adults can ride in. That’s an achievement in and of itself. I enjoy what they’ve done with the instruments. Simplicity really can not be overstated when you’re fumbling around trying to change the radio, or get some heat going. They’ve done with two buttons, 3 dials and a slider what most manufacturers can’t seem to do with 12 buttons, 2 displays, a couple touch screens, a rotary knob, 4 more buttons, voice control and 28 levels of menus. While the Versa won’t throw you back in yours seat under acceleration it will let you safely and confidently merge, pass, and climb mountain roads all while remaining limber enough to be thrown around a bit itself.