The 2015 Nissan Versa Note five-door hatchback is one of the cheapest cars you can pick up in the U.S. market, both off the lot and at the pump. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base, front-wheel drive, 2015 Versa Note with five-speed manual transmission is just $14,990. A 2015 Versa Note with a continuously variable transmission starts at $16,240. The sportier more stylized Versa Note SR I tested has a MSRP of $17,530, after a destination charge and a convenience package my reviewer came in right over $19,000.
Fuel economy ratings for the 2015 Versa Note are 31 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway, for an average of 35 mpg. That puts the Versa Note in third place for the best figures of any non-hybrid and nonelectric hatchback. The Note can thank its CVT and active grille shutters that improve aerodynamics by automatically closing off some grille openings once the car is moving at more than 20 miles per hour for its great fuel economy. At the pump the car’s 10.8-gallon tank only costs about $35 to fill, with current market prices, and a full tank can take you an estimated 378 miles.
Most fuel efficient econoboxes sacrifice interior space for more mpgs, but the Versa Note is far from cramped. The surprisingly roomy backseat can easily accommodate adults. Indeed, the 38.3 inches and 38 inches of backseat legroom and headroom, respectively, make for a pretty comfortable ride.
The Versa Note is certainly much more interesting to look at than it’s plainer-looking Nissan Versa sedan cousin. The Versa Note’s tall hatchback body style is much more attractive and makes for more practical interior space and storage. The 15-inch base wheels do look a bit anemic on the 5-foot-tall Versa Note though.
Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity is now a standard feature on all Versa Note models. My test car was an SR, which included suede seats, fog lamps, sport grille, front and rear fascias, rearview camera, 16-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler so the rear doesn’t get fishy on the track… This is where the econobox struggles. No matter how much sporty stuff you throw on a Versa Note it’s still a fuel-sipper and it drives like a fuel sipper. I don’t mind that at all, but don’t try to trick me with a spoiler and some racing stripes on the seats.
The SR I tested came with Nissan’s fuel-saving CVT and the same, 109-horsepower four cylinder that’s in all Versa Notes. Acceleration was not quick by any means, but it was steady and was, of course, accompanied by the incessant drone of the CVT. The Versa Note is light and cheap so you do get a lot of the CVT noise in the cabin and on some subconscious level waiting for a shift that never came just about drove me nuts. Torque from the Versa Note’s 1.6-liter, double overhead cam four cylinder peaks at 109 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm. All that waiting to get to speed and whining from the CVT pays off in dividends at the pump though. My test Versa Note SR averaged 34 mpg during my week with the car, and I tend to drive these little cars hard.
Interior comfort was decent in the Note, seats are perched nice and high so visibility is great, but the cushioning felt cheap and thin. The Versa Note SR, riding on 16-inch all-season tires, puts a good amount of road noise into the passenger cabin. It probably doesn’t help that all Versa Note tires are the low rolling resistance kind that are designed to maximize fuel economy. There is a lot of hard plastic inside the Versa Note on the dashboard and interior doors, no surprise there.
The car is nice and nimble, making it easy to maneuver and park. The liftgate at the back opens wide, and thanks to a low floor loading is very easy. Total cargo room behind the rear seats is 18.8 cubic feet. Cargo space expands to 38.3 cubic feet when back seats are folded down.
The Nissan Versa Note SR is a well rounded city car. It’s inexpensive to buy, cheap to fill up, sips gas, looks clean, will fit four adults comfortably, is an agile parker, and is built from materials that will last. Just don’t expect the SR to be nearly as sporty as it looks.