Introduced as a 2014 model, the Nissan Versa Note came out with guns a blazin’ – bold, angular body work, great fuel economy, surprising rear leg room and a clever split floor hatch arrangement.
Nissan Micra came along and stole its thunder. Trumpeted as the cheapest… er, least expensive car in Canada at $9,998, the ovoid little Micra got more press than a Kardashian butt lift.But this reborn four-door compact hatchback wasn’t on sale for a year before the bratty
Things have now settled down in the lower end of the Nissan spectrum, so let’s have another look at the Versa Note, here a 2016 model in top SL trim at $19,748. Below it are the “sporty” SR ($18,898), the SV ($16,398) and base S ($14,498).
All Notes are powered by a 1.6L four that makes a tepid 109 hp, 107 lb-ft of torque and is hooked to either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) – a device that Nissan uses widely across its model range. The CVT is a $1,300 upgrade on the S and SV, and standard issue on the SR and SL.
To reign in costs, Nissan didn’t go for direct fuel injection. A host of other fuel-saving strategies were incorporated: low rolling resistance tires, careful aerodynamic tuning, a CVT with reduced internal friction and wider ratio span, and a “smart” alternator that charges the battery on deceleration.
So here’s the deal with the Versa Note. If you’re looking for hot-hatchy performance to match its rakish good looks, you are totally barking up the wrong tree. However, if you’re not in a great hurry, and value a smooth ride and quiet cabin over on-ramp histrionics, the Note might be your cup of tea.
Nissan went to great lengths to reduce cabin noise with the adoption of double sealed doors, acoustic windshield and plenty of strategic insulation.
Versus the competition: Comparison Test: Subcompact Cars
The serene cabin comes with one caveat however – when real acceleration is needed, your foot will be to the floor and the CVT will have the 1.6L four moaning like a love-sick yak while the car slowly plays catch up. Once up to speed, things settle down nicely. When not hoofing it, the CVT keeps the revs barely above idle. The payoff is good fuel economy. The Versa Note with CVT gets an Energuide rating of 7.5 L/100 km city and 6.0 L/100 hwy. My week of mixed driving netted 6.9 L/100 km.