2015 Nissan Versa Note SR. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Brendan McAleer
When you think about it, a surprising amount of music is written to be heard and not listened to. You know the sort of stuff – the featureless tunes that always seem to be playing in the waiting room of your dentist, the background noise at an office function, the classical guitarist in the corner at a wedding reception. If written and played with utmost talent, you never even notice it.
For engineers trying to come up with a broadly popular model, the challenge is much the same. The average consumer wants something that’s reliable, efficient, safe, and comfortable. They don’t want to hear the heavy distortion of electronic baffles in the exhaust, nor enter into the mosh pit of trying to hammer through a corner at maximum-g. A “nice” car is what sells in bulk – can we fit wheels to Yanni? Because that’s what we’re aiming for.
And on first view, Nissan’s newest version of its Versa Note seems to be playing just the right tune. There’s something cheerily right about a subcompact’s dimensions, and the Note manages to look nicely angular where it needs to be, cute without overdoing it, and more substantial than it actually is.
The SR package is roughly the equivalent of the old Sport package you used to be able to get on the previous-generation Versa hatchback, and consists of unique front and rear fascias, a blacked-out grille, a rear spoiler, fog lights, and darkened headlights. It looks really quite good, if there’s the slightest suspicion that Nissan’s designers were peeking over Honda’s shoulder.
From the exterior, the Note looks like a fairly upscale little hatchback, and the machined-face 16-inch alloys are nicely sized for the sheetmetal. The sharp-eyed will note that the rear hatch is also squared-off, with a large, upright rear window. So it’s practical, and looks a bit sporty, and might even have your neighbour saying, “Hey, nice new car.” So far so good.
2015 Nissan Versa Note SR dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Give the neighbour a lift, however, and you might want to distract them with a sock puppet or something. On one hand, the Versa Note is simply enormous when it comes to passenger space, with limo-like rear-seat room in particular. The suede-covered, orange-accented seats of the SR version look a little bit upscale, and there’s a three-spoke wheel like you might find on a Maxima.
However, even though the rest of the interior has some useful cubbies, it is a little bit too far on the cheap side. True, this is the low end of the market, but Nissan hasn’t bothered to hide the Note’s entry-level roots very well, and there are touches that owners of the previous car will feel are a step backward. The door armrests, for instance, are now all hard plastic without a foam pad for your elbow. Worse, the front seat bottoms felt a little short, and while not uncomfortable, you sit very much on top rather than in them. There’s not much in the way of lateral support.
There are other annoyances too. The front seatbelts cross over the seatback adjustment lever. The USB connector is back between the seats instead of up front. And, when I went to try to connect to the car using Nissan’s app, it simply didn’t work. Judging from the online reviews, many others have the same issue.
2015 Nissan Versa Note SR seating & cargo area. Click image to enlarge
Overall though, when judged against the competition, the Note provides excellent levels of passenger comfort, with a nice upright driving position, and relaxing ride. A very slight boominess emerged over rough roads, but most of the time, it was extremely smooth.
Cargo carrying is quite good too. The maximum total available volume is 532 L, which doubles with the seats folded down. There’s a clever little adjustable rear floor in the back, which can be lowered to allow for maximum space, or brought up slightly to allow a space to hide laptops and the like. Folded in half, it was handy in keeping a small amount of groceries secured.