By on June 28, 2013

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-007

I seem to be the only car guy with a soft spot for the Versa. My peers at Car and Driver, Consumer Reports and Autoblog (among others) came off less than impressed by the least expensive car in America when we were all invited to its launch. That left me scratching my head. So I borrowed another one and came to the same conclusion: “Versa delivers a totally unobjectionable experience at a very compelling price.” This apparent disconnect bothered me for a while but I wrote it off as a “lack of perspective” suffered by my peers in the biz. Seriously guys, what do you expect out of the cheapest car in America? The new 2014 Versa Note however isn’t the cheapest car in America, nor is it the cheapest hatch in America. How does it stack up? Nissan flew me to San Diego to find out.

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The last Versa Hatchback we had on our shores wasn’t the least expensive hatch in America either and that was a big problem. I can forgive anything for the right price, but the old hatch sold along side its redesigned sedan namesake which had a much lower price tag. Before we dive too far into the Versa Note, let’s talk price. Why? Because Nissan didn’t just completely redesign their smallest hatch for 2014, they slashed the price tag as well. At $13,990 the Note misses the title of “cheapest five-door hatchback” by $190 to the 2013 Kia Rio 5-Door. Admittedly that’s not the best way to start a conversation about a Versa which usually sells on “least expensive” taglines. Still, the Versa isn’t terribly expensive and undercutts the Accent by $585, Fiesta by $610, Mazda 2 by $730, Yaris by $1,405 and the Fit by $1,435.

About that Note. Nissan’s Versa hatch has been sold in other markets as the Nissan Note for a while and they decided to globalize things. Instead of renaming the car, they just tacked Note to the end since “Versa” seems to be a well-known model. That’s why this hatch is singing this tune.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Exterior-006

On the outside, the Note wears completely different sheetmetal than the Versa sedan thanks to being 13-inches shorter overall (163 inches long). That’s six inches shorter than the 2012 model (There was no 2013 Versa) and about three inches shorter than a Rio. Nissan left the Versa’s 102.4 inch wheelbase intact so all those inches were removed from the front and rear overhangs. The result is a profile that is more attractive than the last generation hatch to say the least. Nissan finished off the transformation with new doors and a new horizontal grille with large headlamps. Why not graft a hatch onto the existing Versa? Nissan’s PR folks told us that even as ancient as the 2012 model was, it accounted for nearly half of the Versa volume. Apparently nobody told Versa shoppers that Americans hate hatchbacks.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior-002

Inside the cabin we get the same dashboard as the Versa sedan with a few tweaks. 2014 brings Nissan’s new Nissan Connect radios to the low-cost platform and Note engineers snagged the Sentra’s more attractive steering wheel to help justify the $2,000 price bump from the sedan. By all appearances the headliner and seat fabrics seemed to be a notch above the base Versa sedan I last sampled but you’ll still find plenty of hard plastics on the dash and doors. Jumping up to higher trim does buy you nicer fabric, so keep that in mind.

Seat comfort proved good for me during my 6 hours in the Versa, but I would like to see at least optional adjustable lumbar support offered on the driver’s seat. Cushioning is firm but comfortable and the range of motion offered in the 6-way manual seats is average for this segment. Sadly Nissan doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel in the Versa Note like many of the competitors do.

Base shoppers will find standard air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seats and sun-visors that extend, but notably missing from the starting price are power windows, power door locks, vanity mirrors and rear cup holders. This is where I say “what did you expect?” No, the Rio doesn’t offer these goodies for the same price, or even for $190 less. If you want a basic hatchback, this is your ride.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior

No matter, Nissan claims that less than 10% of Versas are the low-rent model, so what of the $15,990 SV? The price bump buys you a car with a fabric headliner (instead of trunk-liner material), Nissan’s 2-speed CVT, cruise control, center armrest for the driver, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and some Bluetooth love.  This 16-grand SV and the oddly named “SV with SL” ($17,690) and “SV with SL Tech Package” ($18,490) Versa Notes will be the bulk of sales. These models push Nissan’s “value” message more believably than the bargain model with better fabric, nicer headliners, USB/iPod interfaces and an optional nav system that is one of the best on the market. Nissan’s new Connect system builds on their old “low-cost navigation” unit by adding streaming media, smartphone and Google data services to the mix. Nissan even tosses in their all-around camera system from the Infiniti product line on that high end “SV with SL Tech Package” model. Can’t we just call that an SL? Please? If you want to know more about that snazzy camera system, check out the video.

The Kia still puts up a fight in this 16-19-grand space with a nicer dashboard, more modern design and a few more gadgets. Hwoever, the Kia doesn’t manage to be any more comfortable or quieter on the road, especially if you’re often carrying rear passengers. Like Nissan’s new Sentra, the Note puts an emphasis on rear accommodations. You’ll find 7 inches more rear legroom than the Rio making it possible, and relatively comfortable, for a quartet of six-foot-five guys on a road trip. Try that in any other compact hatch, none of the competitors even come close.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Under the hood beats the same 1.6L four-cylinder engine as the Versa sedan. The new mill uses dual variable valve timing and two injectors per cylinder to pump out 109HP at 6,000 RPM and 107 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. While I wouldn’t say no to the turbocharged version you find in the Juke, acceleration is liveable thanks to a light 2,460lb curb weight. Although I didn’t get a chance to test it, I expect 60 to happen in the same 11.5 seconds as the Versa sedan since the hatch weighs a scant 25lbs more. Thanks to a 300lb reduction over the 2012 model and Nissan’s new “CVT with sub planetary gerarset,” the loss of 13HP vs the old 1.8L engine goes largely unnoticed. What you will notice is the 31/40/35 MPG  (city/highway/combined) in every model of Versa Note with the CVT. If you’re paying attention to fine print on the Fiesta and Rio, you know that the respective 30/41 and 30/36 numbers only happen in the special “economy” trim models.

I’m not sure how Car and Driver (and a few other publications) got this one wrong, but contrary to reviews that imply the Versa “starts off in a fixed gear” and then “switches to the CVT at a predetermined speed,” Nissan’s technical documentation on the CVT is clear. The two-speed planetary gearset sits AFTER the CVT belt/cone unit inside the transaxle, not in parallel with it. The transaxle uses the high/low range planetary gearset to extend the ratios of the CVT design beyond what you’d find in a traditional 7-speed automatic. When starting out the CVT is at its lowest ratio and the planetary is in “low.” Once the CVT reaches a high ratio, the planetary gearset switches to high allowing the CVT to reset to a lower ratio as you continue to accelerate. At certain speeds this also allows the Versa to “downshift” faster than you’d think a CVT could because the planetary gearset drops to low rapidly compared to a traditional CVT ratio change.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Note manages 40MPG highway thanks to a combination of engine down-sizing, new CVT, electric power steering, aero improvements, low rolling resistance tires and that crash curb-weight-diet. The 35MPG combined score is perhaps more important because it shows the true impact of curb weight savings on your pocket-book. Over 156 miles of driving we scored an admirable 34.9 MPG during our day with the Note, a “notable” improvement over the competition. Keep in mind we spent plenty of time idling, at wide-open-throttle and generally abusing the car around town.

So it gets great mileage and is inexpensive to own, how does it drive? Like I said, it gets great mileage and is inexpensive to own. The low rolling resistance rubber puts the Versa towards the bottom of the pack when it comes to road holding if you compare it to the regular editions of the competition and middle of the pack with the “special economy versions” of the same. The electric power steering is accurate but as numb as anything on the road and you shouldn’t expect much from 109HP. Acceleration is lazy, but then again so is a Prius. Thanks to along wheelbase, the Note’s ride is well composed, and Nissan spend considerable time injecting more sound insulating foam in every nook and cranny making this the quietest Versa ever. Nothing here is objectionable and every dynamic metric of the Note met or exceeded my expectations. Expectations which (I think) were set reasonably with the $15,990-18,490 price tag in mind. Again, don’t expect Savoy Grille experiences at Taco Bell prices. Now I’m hungry, and guess where I drive-thru. (Hint: it’s not the Savoy.)

The Versa sedan is the easy sale in my mind. As the cheapest car in America I can forgive anything. Seriously. But the Note is a trickier ball of wax. The “I can forgive anything” title goes to the Rio 5-door which is the cheapest hatch. Except I find less to forgive in the Rio than in the base Note. That being said, the Note delivers better fuel economy, more rear seat legroom than many luxury cars and if it follows in the Versa sedan’s footsteps it is likely to be very inexpensive to own. That leaves me with a split decision. If you want sporty, buy the new Fiesta. If you want the biggest little hatch with the best real-world fuel economy, the Versa Note is likely the option for you. Where the Rio and the Note lock horns is in the value argument. The top-end SL (I’m going to call it that since its easier) has almost all the goodies I need in a car at an impressive price. The Rio on the other hand offers a similar value but trades improved thrust for lower MPGs.  With the 2014 Versa Note Nissan has really stepped up their game and it’s still a car I would buy, but keep an eye on that Kia, the Koreans aren’t resting on their laurels either.

 

Nissan flew me to San Diego and stuffed me full of Italian food for this review.

Observed fuel economy over 156 miles: 34.9 MPG

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58 Comments on “First Drive: 2014 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback (Video)...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I wonder if part of the reason the new Versa sedan received such harsh reviews is because of how much cheaper it felt than the outgoing model. We shopped the B segment in 2007 for an affordable runabout and the interior of the Versa really impressed us. Nissan didn’t even try in the new Versa; the plastics are far cheaper, the soft touch points are gone, and the exterior styling is so grotesque and frumpy. This hatchback looks like a better prospect.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Every so often somebody will come along and complain about how we don’t get the ultra-cheap base model cars that other countries do. The Versa sedan is as close to those cars as you can legally get.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Interesting use of the planetary transmission. They would also get reverse out of it.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    So, I have not driven a new Versa Note hatch, but I have driven plenty of old Versa sedans and hatches and plenty of new Versa sedans. I simply do not understand why there is to like in them. This includes a 900 mile one way road trip in a 13k mile 2011 1.8S hatch. It was loud, noisy, underpowered, uncomfortable (no center arm rest), couldn’t hold a straight line on the road due to the 30 foot tall side profile and 14″ bicycle tires, and generally a very uncomfortable vehicle. The old one was a decent around town scooter, with a useable amount of power up to 30 mph and a fairly decent interior, although the crash ride really hurt it, and I can vouch first hand that though you can technically fit 4 large people in the car, despite the surplus of space it isn’t a comfortable proposition. The new one is a dastardly little nugget. It is even louder, with the absurdly coarse and buzzy engine hooked to a CVT and terribly cheap road manners. Sure, they get decent fuel economy, but the interior is appalling, even compared to the last generation car. I had hoped the Note hatch would remedy the interior and maybe add a larger engine to the mix, but it seems they simply made a Versa sedan with a hatch body and a Sentra steering wheel. This is third-world transportation and not much more, in my opinion. The Rio, Sonic (you left that out in the comps), and Fiesta (despite the terrible PowerShift) are all vastly superior cars. The Mazda2 is smaller but a truly quality package, and even the new Yaris is about equal to the old Versa. I find this car to the the least appealing subcompact out there, and truly can’t fathom why anyone could be so partial to it, after having driven it and any other car on sale aside from maybe the smart fortwo and Scion iQ.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Any way you slice it, this is a penalty box. For the same money, you could get a late-model used car that’s going to be WAY better than this thing.

    Just checking CarMax (which is generally at the high end of used-car pricing) for anything ’12 or newer and $16k or less will get you anything from Pickups to SUVs to better hatches to decent sedans (like a Fusion or Mazda 6) all with pretty low miles (as in, they’ll pretty much all still be under warranty.)

    Pretty much, if all you have to spend is $16k, you really need to ask yourself how important it is that the car be brand-new.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      If you have $16k in your pocket, you’re not in the market for either.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        I don’t understand your comment… people with $16k to spend don’t need cars?

        Did you think I was only referring to cash purchases? I was not.

        • 0 avatar
          tbone33

          At $16k this car doesn’t make much sense. A Focus SE manual can be had for that price after all of the manufacturer rebates. If the Note gets the same rebates we are looking at a $13k car, in which case the Note makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      There are pre-owned cars that could be had for the same price that would present a classier fuel-economy experience (like a 2010 Prius or Ford Fusion Hybrid); however you have to consider that there are people for whom buying a used car is like buying a used mattress from a stranger, making them extremely loathe to do it. There’s also the allure of a brand-new car, even if it is cheap. And just think about what pre-owned bargains these Versa Notes will be in a couple of years…

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        Good news that nissan is adding gears to its CVT. But I just don’t see a reason to buy a new car with a 16k budget. The big gripe with economy segement I have is driver comfort. They always seem to score low on this. No telescoping wheel..bleh.

        I guess its designed for poor families who don’t want to buy a used car. Because you don’t have to be a genius to know that on a tight budget you should probably look at a used car.

        Now if you are a younger single guy and on a budget – again you will go for a used car.. On the plus side I think the guys in Psych drive something like this.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Lol…the last time I watched that show, Guss was driving a Toyota Yaris.

          • 0 avatar
            otaku

            Just wanted to chime in since I’m a huge fan of Psych. Now unless I’m mistaken, I’m pretty sure the “Blueberry” company car Gus drives in the show is actually a Toyota Echo.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          In my experience poor people buy used cars so that they can get “brand” and “image”, while upper middle class people may buy something like this for their kid, or as an additional car, because they are not desperate to impress people, and don’t have the time to dick around with a used car. I’ve seen this be especially the case as used car priced have remained high since the recession.

          • 0 avatar
            CelticPete

            Used cars – sure they are expensive compared to what they used to be. I am cool with people buying new cars – its fun.

            But if you are on a strict budget you still get more for your money with used cars. Ignoring the amazing deals you get with high upkeep german cars (yes you can get Phaeton’s really cheap).

            You still come out ahead. The only caveat to that is if you have some budget flexibility and are absolutely set on a Honda or Toyota – those cars really hold their value so you might be better off new.

            For example you could grab like a 2008 Mazda CX-7. 2012 Altima (likely a stripper), 2007 Passat with a six speed auto and the 2.0T…plenty of choices – cars like Mustangs and stuff too.

            The market for these cars – and I know some TTAC readers will get mad at this – is scared poor drivers with a family.

            They are scared the used car will break down. They want something easy to see out of and park(The 360 thing is a good idea for them). They don’t really care that much how it drives or how speedy it is.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I was just talking about the Volkswagen Phaeton on Jalopnik. Yes, they are cheap, and there are several for under $10K. But I wouldn’t dare buy a complex German car that’s almost ten years old and is decidedly out of warranty.

            As a side-note, it’s entirely possible that Volkswagen Group sold more Bentley Continentals (which utilize the same platform) here in the U.S. during that three-year span than they did Phaetons.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree Kyree but it certainly is tempting if you’re a mechanically inclined individual.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            @CelticPete: “But if you are on a strict budget you still get more for your money with used cars.”

            That really depends on who you are.

            Take my neighbor. He’s a smart guy, and makes a respectable middle class living. But he’s a tenured anthropology professor, and couldn’t care less about cars or other practical stuff.

            When the starter on their 7 year old Pilot failed, they were ready to get rid of the whole vehicle because it has “problems”. (My response: sweet! Now you know you have a good starter in your car!)

            The result is that mechanical problems cost them more than they do me. It takes them more time to figure it out, and they’re always going to use the dealer shop no matter what the problem is… While I’m likely to swap a starter in my driveway.

            My neighbor have sorted through their options, and a car like the Note would have been perfect for the when they were in the market. They ended up with a gently used Fit, but a new car with a warranty in this price range would have been even better.

            Me? I’ll take a 100k-mile used car and combine my own wrenching with the work of real mechanics to get exactly the ride I need for less. But I also solve more “problems” with my cars in a month than he can tolerate in a year, but we’re both choosing the best option for our situation.

      • 0 avatar
        wsimon

        It’s worth noting that $16k will be able to find a low-mile 2012 Chevrolet Impala with the 3.6 engine (300hp!) at just about any high volume dealership, not to mention if it is a Chevrolet dealership one could have their choice of trim level and price. When looking at a car like a Versa (having driven the old one, I ranked it with the Yaris as the stereotypical penalty box…the Fiesta and Sonic feel more like real cars [haven’t driven the Rio]), it is important to remember that there are more substantial options.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Come on, you’re making a comparison that can be made for any new car. There’s always a two or three year old car that has better and more features for the same or lower price than a new car. So, who cares? People buy many different cars for many different reasons, and many of them are not interested in comparing a new Versa to a three year old Infiniti G35, for example.

      Maybe I’ll just start parroting this meme in every single review.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Couldn’t have said it any better myself…

        • 0 avatar

          Also, take a look at the economics of keeping a new car in shape vs. keeping a three-year old used car in shape.

          The new car is brand-new and under warranty, with only the usual oil and filter changes needed for the duration of the lease or finance period.

          That three-year old used car may be well on its way to needing a major repair that takes $$$ to fix. For someone whose budget can’t afford that kind of a hit to their wallet, going with a brand-new car at a reasonable APR is the best choice.

          • 0 avatar
            CelticPete

            If you just budget in some repair money for your used car you will come out way ahead.

            The average car ON THE ROAD is now 10 years. So the chances of your 3 year old car crappy out and being unuseable is pretty minimal.

            The manufacturers are in the business of selling new cars – so they aren’t going to push this kind of information. But if you stop and think about its hard to argue against it.

            That’s why used cars demand a pretty decent price now. Almost all cars last a very long time with proper upkeep.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            I agree. And I win by buying cars where people were scared off by a timing belt replacement or something.

            Just budget for the timing belt (and other maintenance it needs), compare it to the other options and see if you win. I usually win.

            But lots of people don’t have the knowledge or the stomach for this kind of approach. If you have to get the car towed to the dealer every time there’s a problem, things that I think of as small problems get expensive fast. Because I’ve been around the block a few times with used cars, I’m not terribly averse to the risk of an unexpected repair – and it costs me less than it would a lot of people.

            This is a good time to thank my dad for teaching me a valuable life skill – thanks, Dad!

        • 0 avatar
          CelticPete

          Its not a crazy argument. Listen there is a sweet spot with cars. After say 100k you aren’t really getting a much better car (IMHO).

          On the low end you start getting into pretty damn good cars around 25k-30k. These cars look good – they drive nice – and they are comfortable. They stop and go quickly etc.

          So at THIS price point you can get into that pretty good car range and out of the penalty box range with a used car.

          At higher price points it makes much more sense to buy new. The reason being that if you want to spend 100k – why not get a new car. Sure maybe you could get something more exotic like a used Bentley or something at 100k used. But its not REALLY a better car..

          In short you get a MUCH better car at 16k buying used then you do buying new. imagine if say Tata was sold here. They only cost 8k new. But you would be crazy to buy one. You would be so much better off with an old Ford Fusion or something.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            Among the many stupid things that GM Chairman Roger Smith said in the Eighties was this:”the best new $6,000 car is a 2-year-old Buick”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think the Versa sedan is pretty hideous, but it’s got great visibility and does what it’s supposed to do. This, Versa Note, however, looks attractive and still accomplishes that mission. Don’t get me wrong; it still looks cheap…but cheerfully so. And it appears to be downright cavernous compared to other subcompact hatches. I actually think the addition of the “Note” moniker was pretty cool, too.

    This was a very well-written review, too…

  • avatar
    Wraith

    “and sun-visors that extend”

    I don’t know why every car doesn’t have this. In a new Impreza, for example, that runs $20-$25k, why do they cheap out on this little piece of plastic?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    At 2:13 in the video I swear that you were briefly channeling James May, and my head started to spin.

    I’ve yet to figure out who those tiny door handles were made for, children perhaps? I do like the dual glove-compartment though.

    Thank you for the time skip at the infotainment part, thats something I’d like to see in more auto reviews.

    With the decent ride and rear-legroom in the new Note it’d make a decent car to rent I think, not one I’d want to own though.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    The real Kia competitor is the Soul. $16,200 with the 6-speed auto, compared to $15,990 for the Versa Note SV. If you can shift you can get a base 6-speed manual/AC/power windows and locks/Bluetooth Soul for $14,400, but most of these buyers want auto.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Terrific review – very well done. For a practical, less expensive car, the Note looks good. This is something I’d buy, too.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Thanks for the excellent review, Alex. I just discovered that this thing was on Nissan’s site yesterday so it’s great to see a review for it so quickly. I’d probably buy one as well, but the wife will be next to get a newer car and she’s a typical American which means she thinks sedans are where it’s at. Her friend has a first generation Versa sedan and that thing is a sad car. The Note looks much better. I love the design of this model compared to the old Versa hatchback.

    I’d love to be able to get the base 5-speed model with Bluetooth and heated seats for $15000. But of course to get those things you have to move up to the premium trims and then you lose the manual. The CVT sounds decent though so I hope this one does well for Nissan.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      Yes, I sadly agree. Many manufacturers have let the base, stripped models as the last bastion of the manual transmission.

      Want a stickshift, but also want some upgrades? The choices are slim. I’m left with Fit, Accent, or Soul, maybe Mazda2 Touring.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Can you get a sheet of plywood into it with the back seats down even if it stuck out of the hatch?

  • avatar
    Summicron

    Beautiful, especially in this blue. Hasn’t reduced the hatch area to a porthole like so many others, I could get a 55 gal. Rubbermaid into this.

    The only case of side scalloping I’ve yet to like. Pretty, practical and Nissan reliable. I will be looking at this to replace our Rio5.

    Slow? So am I. NVH? Keeps you awake.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      Scalloping? I thought it was called “flame surfacing” ;) I didnt like it when BMW did it, or when Mazda tried it… This is kinda ok, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        It is, I just hate that marketing BS kind of phrase.

        The results I always see look more like scooping-out portions of a solid mass. Maybe I should start saying “gouges”.

  • avatar
    Stevo

    The key for my type of use is that it has room in the hatch area and the hatch, when open, will keep rain off you. So many hatches today are hinged so far forward that you cannot sit in the back, take off your muddy cleats, while somewhat covered from the rain, and change into driving clothes. For someone that coaches and refs in the Seattle area, that is a key feature. Nice too is the small size. Then I pass it on to my daughters when they hit driving age in too few years. Worth a test drive.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    WE complain when Europe gets low cost cars like the Dacia and yet when someone sells something similar here, we bitch about hard plastics and bad grain and undamped, unlined glove boxes, no blue tooth and stuff like that, so you think those low cost European models are equipped like Mercedes?? please enough of this crap.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Like you, I was a bit of a fan of the Versa. Here it is not called Versa or Note but Tiida. (and, no, I have no idea how to pronounce it.) I found it a useful renter when regularly doing the Sydney to Canberra run to visit friends. It’s 300km of freeway. The car is roomy enough for two, fairly comfortable and very economical. The last time I did this, the Budget guy was all smiles as he offered me a Nissan X-Trail as a free upgrade. When I told him that the taller, heavier, thirstier car was not an upgrade for me and that I wanted what I had ordered, he became surly and unhelpful. Oh well.

    By the way, why do Americans hate hatches. For the two of us I find the flexibility of having either a back seat or a cavernous load area a great asset. What advantage is there in a sedan?

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “For the two of us I find the flexibility of having either a back seat or a cavernous load area a great asset.”

      Our ’08 Rio5 has never had people in the back seats. Ever.
      But it’s hauled pretty much anything you could’ve gotten in a classic station wagon without folding the 2nd row. With double the gas mileage.

      Hatch hate mystifies me as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        In the States it goes back to a time when thieves would break the glass in the back to steal stuff and a trunk was considered better to hide valuables, this has stuck with many buyers to this day and that is why if a trunk is available, they’ll go for it. Also non hatch samples sell for less and the A/C is more efficient.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      I don’t understand it, either. I can’t imagine myself ever NOT buying a hatch because of 1) the versatility, 2) better weight balance, and 3) I think they look a lot nicer than sedans. Frankly, they’re a much better alternative for families than SUVs: better handling, better gas mileage, and much easier to park.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        I actually prefer hatches too. I think they look european – and after living in europe when I was a kid that has effected me haha.

        But a trunk does have some advantages. They are quieter. If you drive a hatch vs. a trunk car of the same model you will find the trunk is quieter.

        The trunk also increases the platforms stiffness. Which can lead to slight better handling. Considering that americans like giant moonroofs though I don’t think this is a huge factor – because those lower stiffness and add weight up top..

  • avatar
    redav

    I can’t speak for the current Versa, but I rented the prior one, and it was truly a ghastly and horrible car. Even it has been free, it would have been a poor value for the money.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      I rented the current Note in Europe and it was A-OK. Power was adequate. The steering was super light. You turn the wheel and you have no idea where the car is going to go. You just sort of wait and see. But it’s so spacious inside. Incredibly spacious.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Looks more FIT-like Does the back seat now plop flat like FIT? Avoid the first few batches of early production flaws from AquaS. MX.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    I drove a current-gen Versa hatchback earlier this year while having repairs done on my Cube and the effect was underwhelming to say the least. It struck me as the perfect car for Top Gear’s “Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car” segment.

    Then I actually checked the pricing out of curiosity and was amazed…I didn’t think you could buy ANY new car in the US that low still.

    This looks like it should do better still. Good review…interesting car.

  • avatar
    afflo

    My fiancé has a Nissan Versa hatchback – a 2008 on in the higher level trim (alloys, cvt). It’s a 2008, and has its minor wear issues, but it’s a surprisingly nice car. The interior details are head and shoulders above the Honda Fit, with soft touch material covering the doors and dash, supportive seats, padded door and center armrest, and much better noise insulation. It’s nowhere near the drivers car that a fit is (by comparison at least), and fights to go in a straight line, but it’s clearly tune for rough road comfort over sporting intentions. Small engine, tall body, soft suspension – it’s a LOT like smaller version of a first generation Honda CR-V.

    I fear that because the Versa was so far above the competition, both in refinement (next to a Fit, it feel like a “real car” inside), an in sales, Nissan is trying to squeeze every extra cent of extra cost out of it — how is HP dropping, for instance? The car has always seemed a homerun for people who want a compact, efficient car but don’t want to feel like they’re in a go-kart. People like my fiancé who care nothing about driving for pleasure and want a good appliance. Why ruin it?

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Drive a cube and love it. Rent versas from Enterprise when I need to. Excellent rate for those weekend trips when you don’t want to put more miles on the family car.

    The versa has always struck me as a good car. I also have owned town cars and it sure isn’t the same ride. I have come to think that most of the folks who call the versa a crapcan have never driven really bad cars. If you rent though, a recent chevy aveo makes me see their pov.The last trip in a versa, I may have hit 40mpg. It wasn’t as comfortable as the cube but that’s life.

    I agree about hatches. The only downside that I see is that prospective thieves can inventory the haul before they break in. I think the usefulness outweighs that. A five door mid size could be better than an SUV in my little world.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Like a couple of others in the comments here, we own a cube and have had a Versa (2013 Versa Sedan SL in our case) when the cube was in for a minor repair to the driver seat raise/lower mechanism. You can find my impression of that car, which I watched roll off the delivery truck, here: http://www.technologytell.com/in-car-tech/1920/quick-drive-2013-nissan-versa-sedan-1-6-sl/

    I don’t get the Versa hate, either. But then, I tend to appreciate cars that do their primary job– getting me from Point A to Point B with good efficiency and no drama. I don’t need a car that strokes my ego or makes me look cool with the frat bros. I didn’t need to buy my friends in college, and I don’t feel compelled to buy a car that will attract anyone’s attention nowadays, either.

    Coming from a base Ford Ranger, I knew the secret to enjoying the Versa Sedan was to lay into it, so that’s what I did with our courtesy car. It didn’t disappoint me, but then again, I don’t regularly spend time in Italian exotics that cost five times what my house did. Acceleration in passing maneuvers on two-lane roads was not for the faint of heart, but if you knew the road well enough and had memorized its passing opportunities (as I did and had), you could pass safely by keeping your distance until the corner before the passing zone, then getting the thrashy 1.6-liter four-banger on the boil early.

    During such spirited driving down curvy roads, it handled well enough– but again, remember I’m a guy who will whip a stock-height, stock suspension Ford Ranger around on tall-sidewall all-seasons with abandon. Compared to that, the Versa Sedan’s a freakin’ Lola.

    Sure, interior refinement seemed slightly less than the previous-gen Versa. Carpets felt like paper with mouse hair glued on them, the steering wheel was not leather-covered even though this was supposedly the topline SL I was driving, the gauge display had a cheaper look than I remember from the previous Versa, and there weren’t as many of those “soft touch” plastics autojournos seem to go gaga for. And yet, to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, I didn’t give a single cast-iron fuck. It packed a lot of daily usable features into a package costing around $17,000. Others may be more engaging to drive, but they invariably offer some combination of less fuel economy, harsher ride, less features, or annoying quirks (tiny Honda Fit gas tank, anyone?)

    I’d love to test a base Sedan S just to see what the four-door, front-wheel drive car analogue to my base two-door, rear-wheel drive Ranger XL feels like. If the stick-shift Versa Sedan S is as peppy at low speeds around town as the CVT-equipped Versa Sedan SL was, I’d probably enjoy it immensely. The sub-$12,000 price would be icing on the cake.


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