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2014 nissan versa note consumer reports
2016 Nissan Versa Note Nissan Versa Note 2016 1.5 1.0 5.0
We’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of car buyers are letting spreadsheets dictate their purchase decisions for them. We see no other explanation for what Nissan calls a “record” number of buyers this summer lining up to buy the Versa. Its low MSRP means it swims in the inexpensive end of the automotive gene pool, alongside Mitsubishi’s Mirage and Honda’s Fit.
The Note is the five-door hatchback version of the Versa sedan. Nissan’s diminutive hatch debuted last year with a distinct advantage over the Mitsubishi: an exterior that actually looks like it was designed. Seriously, it looks handsome, one of the more stylish B-segment hatches out there. For 2015, Nissan adds two trim levels at the higher end of the range, the SR and SL, for a total of five. Carrying over are the base S, the only one offered with a stick and at under $15,000, the S Plus that gets you the shiftless Xtronic continuously variable transmission and active grille shutters, and the SV, which adds power windows and locks plus a lot of dress-up items such as a leather-clad steering wheel and interior plastics of a higher grade than those found in toys from Dollar General.
The new-for-2015 SR, tested here, gets sportier looks but no hardware to actually make it sportier to drive. The SL? It seems to be an exercise in loading enough features onto a $15,000 car to justify a five-figure price tag that begins with a numeral 2. So the SR tested here strives to emphasize the car’s design strength while the SL throws away the “at least it didn’t cost much” excuse for its lackluster road behavior.
We’re already on record as not being impressed with the Versa’s CVT when we tested a 2012 sedan. and the entry-level Versa Note S with a row-your-own five-speed, both of which elicited a distinct “meh.”
So you’d not expect much different from this car, even after learning that the 2015 Versa SR has new front and rear fascias and grille, darkened headlights, body-color sills, a rear spoiler, and side mirrors incorporating turn signals. The same 109-hp, 107-lb-ft, 1.6-liter four grinds away against the same recalcitrant CVT to generate sounds all out of proportion to the actual acceleration taking place. That’d be zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds and the quarter-mile in 17.6, at which time you’ll be doing only 80 mph. Our track-tester wryly summarized the Nissan as, “So slow and plodding.”
Inside the Versa Note SR, you’ll find some suedelike trim and what Nissan says is a steering wheel inspired by the 370Z, but it’s not connected to anything that would otherwise inspire the mention. The 16-inch wheels that help dress up the SR’s exterior wear Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 195/55 rubber tuned for low rolling resistance more than grip. The SR circled the skidpad at an okay 0.80 g, but it took a disappointing 188 feet to stop from 70 mph.
So the Versa’s vices are evident in a test drive. But what about those spreadsheets? Well, here, too, the SR doesn’t quite add up. The sporty looks and CVT together inflate the SR model’s base MSRP to $18,340. This one had floor mats ($180) and a Convenience package ($660) with NissanConnect mobile apps, SiriusXM radio, hands-free text messaging (via voice recognition), a rearview monitor, and the clever Divide-N-Hide adjustable cargo floor. The latter will give you a big, flat cargo area with the rear seats folded and a space below to hide your valuables, or it can be configured to allow a deeper floor for tall items. The options bumped the bottom line to $19,180. If you need all the telecommunication toys and you don’t bother test-driving more interesting competitors such as the Honda Fit or the Mazda 2. that might still sound reasonable.
The spreadsheet folks probably take the EPA fuel-economy figures seriously, though. In this case, they’re loading the cells with the EPA’s 31-mpg city/40-mpg highway numbers. We’ve learned to be especially suspicious of EPA estimates on cars with CVTs, though, since this transmission type seems to invite manufacturers to tune to the test, as they occasionally do with hybrids. In this case, we averaged only 29 mpg during our time with the car, likely a consequence of trying to get the Versa Note SR to accelerate away from a stop at a pace quicker than the EPA demands (so, basically a zombie walk).
As we’ve said in other Versa tests, then, you can do better. If life demands a new-car warranty, the Mazda 2, Honda Fit, and even the taller Kia Soul all bear a look. And $20,000 will get you into a pretty nice certified used car, for that matter, including many that can top 29 mpg with a manual transmission.
Looks sportier than other Notes, efficient on paper.