The Nissan Versa has been on a sales bonanza, delivering big sales for their company, and with the all-new 2014 Versa Note, things can only get better. The second-generation hatchback went on sale at Nissan’s U.S. dealers in June 2013 and gives notice that in an era of changing consumer needs and expectations, Versa clearly want to be a leader of the entry-level pack. After spending a week driving this hip compact, we also found some pleasant surprises in the Versa.
The new sleek exterior of the 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV really elevates this car into new heights regarding design and appeal. The Versa Note’s sculpted modern styling accomplishes things like providing enhanced aerodynamics to help improve fuel economy and make it stand out from the crowd of entry-level competitors. Its dramatic shape and proportions provide an energetic look that reflects the active lives of its target buyers. Attention to aerodynamic detail helps the Versa Note achieve a coefficient of drag of 0.298 (CVT-equipped models) – a nine percent decrease over the 2012 Versa hatchback’s 0.31 Cd. The large front spoiler combines with a “kick up” roof shape and low aero-drag floor structure (including front and rear tire deflectors, rear suspension beam mounted flush with floor and fuel tank deflectors) to direct airflow over, under and around the body.
CVT-equipped Versa Note models include Nissan’s first-ever Active Grille Shutter, which limits the amount of air entering the engine compartment, reducing drag force by 0.01. The Active Grille Shutter is generally closed at speeds above 20 miles per hour. The iconic front grille and large multi-reflector headlights are paired with Note’s “boomerang” rear taillights, which are similar to those found on the Nissan 370Z and Nissan JUKE. The special “vented” taillight design includes special outlets and lip to help guide air away from the body for reduced air turbulence and improved rear lamp visibility in bad weather. Fog lights and heated sideview mirrors are also available. The Versa Note’s dynamic design also takes full advantage of Nissan’s global “V” platform. It features a long, 102.4-inch wheelbase that helps maximize interior roominess, while the six-inch shorter front and rear overhangs than the previous Versa hatchback help provide a sporty stance and parking maneuverability.
This is where the biggest surprise hit us with much more room than expected; the rear seating alone blew us away with crazy leg room. The roomy five-passenger Versa Note interior provides a spacious total interior volume of 112.9 cubic feet and ample cargo space of 18.8 cubic feet. Cargo area liftover height has been reduced by 1.7 inches (over previous generation Versa hatchback) for easier loading and unloading of heavy or bulky objects. Also leading the conversation is Note’s front headroom of 40.8 inches and rear legroom of 38.3 inches – which is nearly 3.7 inches longer than the nearest competitor (38.3 inches versus 34.6 inches) – making the Versa Note both kid-friendly and adult comfortable.
Interior versatility is further enhanced through use of an available Divide-N-Hide Adjustable Floor. With the standard 60/40-split fold-down rear seat folded down, a large flat cargo area is created. With the rear seats folded down, the Divide-N-Hide system creates a flat cargo area. Lifting up the cargo floor board reveals a hidden area underneath to keep valuables out of sight. When more space is needed for carrying taller or bulkier items, lowering the floor board creates a deeper cargo well. The floor board is designed to stay in the vehicle yet is easily removed if desired. It’s a simple solution to balance the need for a flat load floor or maximum cargo capacity or security.
The roomy interior is also a perfect match for the stylish Versa Note exterior. The long list of features starts with the standard cloth seating, 4-way adjustable front bucket seats (S, S Plus) or 6-way seats (SV), Fine Vision instrumentation, AM/FM/CD/Aux-in audio system with four speakers, 12-volt power outlet, front door pockets with bottle holders, dual front and rear cupholders, front seatback pockets and many more amenities. The new Note’s Pandora radio compatibility lets the driver explore music based on hand-picked favorites using a Pandora equipped iPhone through the USB input to listen to Pandora free internet radio and use the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ icons to rate song, all right in the audio system display. The available streaming audio via Bluetooth allows driver or passengers to stream music wirelessly from any seat through connection to a Bluetooth-enabled audio device, including tablets and smartphones. In addition, the available iPod/USB integrated interface system allows use of an iPod or other portable MP3 player through the USB port and control it through the audio controls. Heated front seats with upgraded seat cloth and stitching are also available, along with leather-wrapped steering wheel, chrome/silver accents, USB input with iPod control and steering wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls.
Two interior colors are offered: Charcoal and Wheat Stone. Among the new Versa Note’s unexpected and affordable technology is the class-exclusive availability of Nissan’s advanced Around View Monitor. The system utilizes four small super-wide angle cameras mounted on the front, side and rear of the vehicle to provide a virtual 360 degrees view of objects around the vehicle, with selectable split-screen close-ups of the front, rear and curb views, helping the driver maneuver the car into tight spots. The Around View Monitor is offered as part of the SL Tech Package.
We read that the 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV clocked in at 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg in highway driving, so we were hoping that mixed in with that superb fuel efficiency was some strong performance characteristics. Anchoring the front-wheel drive Versa Note is a 1.6-liter HR16DE 4-cylinder engine rated at 109 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The engine includes a range of cutting edge technologies, including a dual fuel injector system that allows a wider injection of fuel (versus traditional single injector systems), with the smaller nozzles delivering a spray approximately 57 percent finer than the previous generation single injector design’s particle size to help achieve more complete combustion.
The compact, lightweight engine also utilizes a Twin Continuously Variable Timing Control (CVTC) system mounted on intake and exhaust ports (versus conventional CVTC systems, which are mounted only on the intake port), similar to the system used on the flagship Nissan Maxima. Using a CVTC on the outlet port increases thermal efficiency, decreases inhalation resistance and offers an approximate four percent improvement in fuel efficiency (over the previous engine design). Aiding efficiency is an integrated auxiliary gearbox using planetary gearing. The CVT features a transmission ratio of 7.3:1, broader than those of conventional CVTs and even typical 7-speed automatic transmissions. A CVT oil warmer transfers engine coolant heat to the CVT oil, helping reduce CVT friction during cold start and increasing short trip fuel economy.
In addition to the advanced engine and transmission designs, excellent everyday drivability is provided by an independent strut front suspension with stabilizer bar, torsion beam rear axle with integrated stabilizer bar and electric power steering. Braking is provided by standard power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes with standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. The Versa Note rides on standard 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers and 185/65HR15 all-season tires, while 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels (as tested) with 195/55HR16 all-season tires are available. Low rolling resistance tires are standard on all models.
There were times where we longed for more power, but even with four adults in the Versa, it handled heavy traffic with pride and delivered a much smoother ride than one would expect.
Our test model Versa SV was pretty much loaded with power windows with one-touch down feature, power door locks with speed-sensing auto-lock, Remote Keyless Entry, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, leather-wrapped steering wheel, chrome and silver interior accents, map light with key-linked illuminated entry system, driver’s seat armrest, upgraded seat cloth and stitching and much more. When you add in the good looks and very smooth ride at a price point as tested of $19,545, this car makes a lot of sense to plenty of car buyers. Looks like the folks at Nissan will be smiling at the Versa sales figures going forward!