Nissan has added a hatchback to its entry-level Versa line, the Versa Note. While more expensive than the sedan, the Note remains one of the least expensive cars on the market. Even so, the new model is versatile enough that it doesn't have to compete on price alone.
Although the Note is technically an all-new model, it's essentially a hatchback version of the current Versa sedan, which has seen only minor equipment revisions since its 2012 debut.
The upright wagon-like body provides fine headroom and visibility for all passengers. Adults fit comfortably in the rear seat, which folds down to provide a generous 38 cubic feet of cargo space. Small items can be stored under the cargo floor for added security.
The Note's rather dramatic bodyside contours provide a bit of visual interest, something the slab-sided sedan lacks. The interior design and materials are unexceptional, though there's certainly nothing offensive about them. It's unreasonable to expect anything more exciting given the Note's rock-bottom base price.
Under the Hood
The CVT makes the most of what power is available, helping the Versa get from zero to 60 mph in 10.4 seconds. With the manual, acceleration is below average, even for the economy class. Nissan has engineered the suspension for comfort rather than sporty handling. The Versa Note may not be exciting to drive, but the ride quality rates at the top of this class.
The entry-level S carries the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder as the rest of line, but with a five-speed manual transmission. Buyers shouldn't be surprised that equipment is basic at this price point, but you do get modern-day necessities such as air conditioning, power mirrors and a two-speaker sound system with AM/FM and CD.
The main reason for upgrading to the S Plus is its continuously variable transmission (CVT), which boosts efficiency and overall engine performance. Beyond that, you get a few extra features like cruise control and tilt steering. Most new-car buyers will consider the S Plus the least they want to live with.
With the extra creature comforts, driving a Note SV doesn't seem like a sacrifice. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, and seats are trimmed in upgraded fabric that extends to the door panels. Buyers also get power window and locks, keyless entry, and access to additional options.
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