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.

The Versa went on a bit of a diet for 2014, both weight and size are down. Length is cut by 5.4 inches, while wheelbase and width (102.4 and 66.7 inches) remain the same. Somewhat incredibly though, there were small increases in interior space: front headroom is up, rear legroom is up, and rear cargo capacity behind the second row is up a cubic foot. At 6’2″ and 195-pounds this segment is usually a nightmare for me, but I found plenty of room in both the front and back seat for me to spread out without my knees or my head touching. The back seat comfort is increased by the fact that there is almost no powertrain hump in the middle. Overall, the cabin feels, dare I say it, airy. Which felt wrong, for a vehicle at this price point and size, airy is not a word I arrive at lightly. The airy feeling is also due in part to the extra-large windows which bring in a ton of light and visibility. 
2014 Nissan Versa Note SV Review -- Behind the Wheel -- ZipRage
Standard features, vary by trim, of which there are six. The base S arrives with a five-speed manual transmission, tilt telescoping wheel, 4-way adjustable manual driver’s seat, and 60/40 folding rear seat; S Plus adds CVT, cruise control, and Active Grille Control. The SV includes upgraded cloth seats, power windows/locks, remote keyless entry, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Next are higher SV trims with Convenience, SL, and SL Tech (my tester) packages with a 4.3-inch monitor, satellite radio, rear seat armrest, Divide-N-Hide, 16-inch alloys, heated front cloth seats. The Tech Pack adds Nissan’s Around View camera system and NissanConnect (traffic, weather, streaming audio) with Google Send-to-Car and 5.8-inch screen.

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.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SV Review -- Behind the Wheel -- ZipRage-6The 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.