First Drive: 2014 Nissan Versa Note

After updating the 4-door Versa sedan, Nissan has now turned to the 5-door hatchback with the all-new 2014 Versa Note. While they share the Versa name, the vehicles hardly look like siblings, with the 4-door Versa having the new Nissan grille across their sedan lineup while the Versa Note has a completely different front fascia that’s much more appropriate for the hatchback design. Buyers in this segment thus have two options from Nissan depending on their style tastes and practical needs.


Nissan is the leader in this segment with both versions of the Versa offering designs that appeal to a wider demographic. They aren’t going with “quirky” design concepts in an attempt to woe younger buyers. The target market includes practical buyers in their 30s, particularly couples without children, looking for “functionality, versatility and value” but still wanting a stylish vehicle. You can see from the photos that the design should appeal to this target market along with a wider demographic without turning anyone off with design elements that are too aggressive.


Nissan is emphasizing the roominess of the interior, and I was impressed when I sat in the back seat. There’s plenty of legroom and you don’t feel like you’re in a compact vehicle. The Versa Note offers a segment-leading 38.3 inches of back row legroom and 21.4 cubic feet of cargo space. The Versa Note also offers a Drive-N-Hide adjustable floor in the back so drivers can tuck away items like computers. The front seats also offered plenty of room so I never felt cramped in the Note.

They’re targeting buyers with an active lifestyle, so the functionality provided by the back hatch and fold-down back seats will be emphasized in their marketing plan, and you can see in the slideshow above a Versa Note that was loaded up with surfing gear for all of us to check out.

The interior design is more understated than what you’ll see in other vehicles in this segment, which is consistent with Nissan’s goals with the Versa. Nissan is offering a robust technology package with a 5.8” touch-screen. I particularly like the Google Send-to-Car feature that lets drivers send an address from Google Maps directly to the navigation system of the vehicle. The Around View Monitor is particularly impressive and makes parking much easier. Just recently a feature like this was a selling point for higher end luxury cars, and now buyers can get it in a much less expensive vehicle.


Fuel efficiency is another priority with the Versa Note, with 40 miles per gallon on the highway and a best-in-class 31 MPG city and 35 MPG combined. All the automakers are laser-focused on weight reduction, and Nissan was able to reduce the weight of the Note by over 300 pounds when compared to the previous hatchback model. Improvements to the CVT engine also helped to achieve these numbers.

With the emphasis on fuel economy, it’s no surprise that the Versa Note didn’t blow me away with its performance. Still, the Note handles very well and I did enjoy our test drive along the San Diego coastline. The vehicle does not have a Sport or Eco drive mode option which is becoming more popular in small and larger vehicles.


I like what Nissan has done with the new Versa and Versa Note, and they obviously know this segment as they’ve been the sales leader since 2008. They have two options with the four and five-dour versions that appeal to a wide variety of buyers. The vehicles are practical but stylish, and they’re not trying to be too cute with the designs. I’ll be surprised if this strategy doesn’t lead to continued success.


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Interview with Nissan Senior Vice President José Muñoz

Bullz-Eye had the opportunity to pose questions to Nissan Senior Vice President José Muñoz from our editors and readers at the New York Auto Show. WE got a great response, and Nissan Product Specialist Caroline Oberst was on hand to relay the questions submitted on this blog and by Twitter to Mr. Muñoz. The questions covered a wide variety of vehicles and topics, including new hybrids like the 2014 Pathfinder pictured in the first photo above and sales of the Nissan Leaf.

We’ve been very impressed with Nissan’s new vehicles, so if you’re in the market or want to learn more about upcoming models, check out the interview below.


Questions for Nissan

We’ve had the opportunity to test drive many of the new Nissan’s over the past year, and you can see some of the photos from the drive events above, with the Altima, Sentra, Versa and Pathfinder as recent examples. Follow the links for our reviews and you’ll see we’ve been very impressed with what Nissan has been doing. Also, with the Nissan sedans, we’ve seen them completely redesigned with a distinctive new front grille.

With the New York International Auto Show coming up, Nissan has invited and our readers to ask some questions to Nissan’s new Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, José Muñoz. He’ll answer them at NYIAS and then we’ll post the video here on Bullz-Eye. So give us your questions here in the comments or on the Bullz-Eye Twitter account.


First Drive: 2013 Nissan Sentra

I traveled out to wine country near San Francisco courtesy of Nissan to test drive the all-new 2013 Nissan Sentra. I was on hand in Dallas earlier this year when Nissan unveiled the redesigned Sentra and the new design looked impressive, but now I was getting a chance to drive it as well.


The new Sentra features an elegant design that helps it stand out in the compact car category. Some competitors in the segment have gone with edgier designs, so the more refined look of the Sentra offers a nice alternative for consumers. The new Nissan front grille fits nicely on this vehicle and the rest of the design points flow naturally. Details like LED accented headlamps and tail lamps add to the overall look of the car. As you can see from the photos I took, the Sentra looks great from all angles.


The interior of the Sentra features upgraded soft-touch materials that set it apart from other options in the compact segment. The overall feel of the interior is stylish and upscale yet understated, so it fits well the exterior. It’s also very roomy for a smaller car. The overall comfort level in all of the seats was excellent.

Like the new Altima, the 2013 Sentra offers an all-new version of the Nissan Navigation system as an option with all sorts of features. NissanConnect with Navigation includes a Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant that reads incoming text messages and allows drivers to reply without taking their hands off of the steering wheel. In addition, it also offers Pandora, 5.8-inch touch-screen display and Google Send-to-Car functions. Other tech options include RearView Monitor and Nissan Intelligent Key with illuminated push-button ignition switch and the Tire Pressure Monitoring System with Easy Fill Tire Alert feature.


The new Sentra is 150 pounds lighter than the previous model but also has slightly larger overall dimensions and more interior room. With a lighter vehicle Sentra also has an all-new and more fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine with a generation Xtronic CVT. Fuel economy is rated at 30 miles per gallon city, 39 miles per gallon highway and a class-leading 34 miles per gallon combined.

The Sentra features both Sport and Eco mode options, which makes the driving experience much more enjoyable. In Sport mode the Sentra accelerates nicely and zips around curves no problem. It has solid acceleration and is fun to drive. The Eco mode is a great option for slow or casual city driving. The overall driving experience was impressive for a car of this size.


Overall, the new Sentra remains an excellent option in the compact car segment. It’s very competitive on features and gas mileage, and the look of the car will definitely attract a wide variety of buyers. Pricing for the Sentra starts at $15,990 with the fully equipped SL priced at $19,760.


First Drive: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan invited us out to wine country near San Francisco to test drive the all-new 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. Nissan has been a leader in the large SUV category for years with the Pathfinder, and the 2013 model represents the 4th generation of this vehicle. This segment has evolved through the years as the various manufacturers have moved from a body-on-frame truck design to a more carlike unibody construction. The result is a more comfortable driving experience, even for these large SUVs, and the Pathfinder is no exception.


With the 4th generation Pathfinder comes an all-new exterior which represents a nice improvement over the previous model. The front end in particular offers a much cleaner design. The headlights are larger and the angled grille looks like it belongs on the vehicle. The lines on the front hood and near the fog lights accentuate the grille design as well. Overall, the vehicle retains enough of the rugged feel of earlier versions, yet also has a classy, upscale look as well.


The 7-passenger Pathfinder is loaded with interior features that will make drivers and passengers feel very comfortable. The new Pathfinder boasts best-in-class interior passenger volume and best-in-class front headroom and front legroom. It’s definitely roomy and you can load this vehicle up with adults and kids no problem.

You can get all of the comfort options you would expect, heated and cooled front seats, heated 2nd row seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, push button start, multiple user memory settings and an advanced Bose Audio System with 13 speakers. The Pathfinder also features easy 3rd row access from the 60/40-split 2nd row with innovative technology that lets you access the 3rd row even when an empty child seat is still in the second row.

Buyers can also choose a Dual Panorama Moonroof, with sliding opening front panel and fixed rear glass panel which extends over the 2nd and 3rd rows. You should definitely check out this option.


I was able to push the Pathfinder pretty hard around some winding roads through Napa and Sonoma and was very impressed with the handling on this large vehicle. The Pathfinder gripped the road nicely even at higher speeds. The acceleration was also solid for this type of vehicle. The new Pathfinder is the only vehicle in this segment with a CVT transmission which helps provide a 30 % increase in combined fuel economy over the previous model. Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg highway, 20 mpg city and 22 mpg combined for the 2WD model and 25 mpg highway, 19 mpg city and 21 mpg combined for the 4WD model. The CVT performed nicely as Nissan continues to perfect this technology. With gas mileage at a premium these days, the V8 is no longer an option.

I drove a model with the available intuitive four-wheel drive. Drivers can choose full-time 2WD for maximum fuel economy, auto mode to automatically monitor conditions and adjust the balance of power between front and rear wheels for best traction, or 4WD Lock mode when full-time 4WD is desired. It also features standard Hill Start Assist that helps add control when starting and driving away on a steep incline (both 4WD and 2WD models).


The Pathfinder remains an excellent option in the large SUV category. It’s perfect for families and for an active lifestyle. With best-in-class standard 5,000-pound towing capacity you can use the Pathfinder tow your boat, jet skis or trailer. It’s roomy and fun to drive so it should continue to be a hit for Nissan.


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