Since 2014, the Nissan Versa lineup has been split two ways: the standard sedan and the Versa Note hatchback. While there’s no real reason for the Note nomenclature on the hatch model, we do prefer its updated styling relative to the bland, disproportionate sedan.

Despite its preferred styling to the sedan, the 2018 Versa Note is still a very simple car with almost no premium features in its base trim. Things do get a touch better as you move up in trim level, but it never reaches a level many older buyers would like.

So, who is this stripped-down hatchback best for? Keep reading to find out.

Best Value

With the Versa Note S being so stripped down, we feel the best value for your money comes in the midrange SV trim. The SV trim adds a few creature comforts that most buyers expect but the base model lacks, like keyless entry, cruise control, power windows and locks, a five-inch touchscreen, and a rearview camera. On top of that, it also has a few unexpected goodies, like upgraded cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

At just $500, we also recommend adding the SV Special Edition Package, which includes popular features like fog lights, tire pressure monitoring, keyless ignition, and aluminum wheels.

  • Model: 2018 Nissan Versa Note SV
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder
  • Output: 109 hp / 107 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
  • MPG: 31 mpg city / 39 highway / 34 combined
  • Options: SV Special Edition Package ($500, 15-inch aluminum wheels, variable intermittent wipers, tire pressure monitoring system, fog lights, and Nissan Intelligent Key with keyless ignition)
  • Base Price:$17,300 ($885 destination fee included)
  • Best Value Price:$17,885

Performance

Nissan Versa Note

For such a small car, the Versa Note rides well and feels stable on the highway, with quick enough steering that has an appropriate level of weight to it. It also boasts a tiny turning circle, making it easy to maneuver through parking lots and make U-turns. It is also very efficient at 31 mpg city, 39 highway, and 34 combined. A nippy handling character and solid fuel economy scores are traditional small-car traits, so the Versa Note's talents aren't a big surprise.

Unfortunately, the usual small car drawbacks are here, too. The 1.6-liter engine is buzzy and lacks the punch of some of its rivals. It gets up to speed just fine, but there's a lot of sound from under the hood while that's happening. And despite its talents for CVTs, the transmission Nissan snagged for the Versa Note feels a generation behind the automaker's best – it's laggy and holds revs too long, contributing to the overabundance of noise. As for the base five-speed manual, it's a blast from the past that probably should have stayed in the early 2000s.

Style

The Versa Note’s styling is thankfully more sorted than the sedan, as it wears its small-car proportions and the corporate design cues better. What’s more, the roof-mounted spoiler on select trims adds a touch of sportiness to it.

Inside, though, the Versa Note lacks, big time. Hard, black plastic surrounds you, and Nissan seemed scared to take any risks at all with its styling.

But, and this is the Versa's crowning achievement, the cabin is huge. Second-row legroom surpasses the Nissan Sentra sedan, which is a full class up. There's loads of space for four adults, while the front seats are supportive and reasonably comfortable on longer stints. The seating position is upright.

The Best and Worst Things

The Versa Note’s base price is very low – not as low as the sedan, but low for a hatchback. We are also huge fans of its 37 inches of rear seat leg room, which is great for such a tiny car.

Its 106-hp engine is too underpowered and noisy to tolerate on high-speed journeys. It's fine if you're never going to get above 30 miles per hour, but if that's the case, have you considered a bike or a bus?

Right For? Wrong For?

Nissan Versa Note

The Versa Note is perfect for the recent graduate heading off to college. It has plenty of room to haul around roommates. It also has nearly 15 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats up, so grabbing bulk ramen noodles shouldn’t be an issue.

Established buyers should avoid the Versa Note, save for pure desperation. Its low base price may be enticing, but you may want to dig deeper and go with the Honda Fit or Chevy Sonic, which are both dynamically superior and nicer places to sit.

The Bottom Line

The Versa Note is a set of cheap wheels – no more, no less. Buyers looking for engaging style and a nicely laid out cabin will be better suited in something else.