JDM: Nissan Versa Note Nismo Black Edition

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

What’s going on with the NISMO division these days? Though still a reputable supplier of Nissan performance parts, the in-house tuning division’s consumer vehicles leave a lot to be desired. While NISMO managed to elevate the Juke, especially in RS form, as well as the GT-R, most offerings have focused on providing models with a more sporting appearance — potentially with an upgraded suspension and some grabbier tires.

The Sentra is a prime example. In NISMO trim, it rides a bit lower, is more rigid, and comes with its own tires and wheels, but that’s the full extent of the performance upgrades on offer from Nissan. Everything else is cosmetic — a shame considering it could really use more than 188 hp. The NISMO 350Z did better by incorporating shockingly aggressive aerodynamic upgrades and a hardcore suspension but, once again, added no power.

This emphasis on style and handling has forced the performance arm to partially retreat from the U.S. market, leaving the focus on parts supply. But new consumer models still crop up in other areas of the world, with the Nissan Versa Note Nismo S Black Edition being the latest.

Exclusive to Japan, the automobile is based directly off the Note e-Power NISMO the company debuted roughly one year ago. That means three powertrains are available: the base 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine, a hybrid e-Power version of the same displacement, or an e-Power four-banger using the same 1.6-liter we have here in North America.

While Nissan has promised e-Power vehicles for the U.S., the outgoing Note only make 109 hp. In other parts of the world, hybridization brings that up to 134 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque in the NISMO S. That makes Black Editions more or less the same, just with a few unique touches.

Power is still sent to the front wheels via five-speed manual transmission and the car receives a gently reworked suspension, upgraded brakes, and sports exhaust system in traditional NISMO fashion.

Uh, so then… what’s new? Well, Black Editions have had engineers take another pass at their suspension setups but most changes are predictably cosmetic. Obviously, a large number of exterior elements have been be made black. But Nissan has also fitted fresh Recaro seats and a few unique interior touches to help identify the car as extra special.

Though we’ll leave it up to the Japanese domestic market to decide whether or not that’s true. From our Western vantage, there doesn’t appear to be much on offer here. While improvements to the model are welcome, Nissan has only managed to make the vehicle less slow than a stock Note but no quicker than the non-black NISMO variants.

This makes us wonder what the automaker’s ultimate goal is. For sure, Nissan faces extremely difficult times right now, but NISMO is being wasted on trying to convince customers to buy into performance packages with few practical benefits. While this has become an increasingly common trend, especially among Japanese manufacturers, it’s not one we’re fond of.

Sentra sales remain pretty healthy; we can’t imagine they’d be negatively impacted by Nissan offering a NISMO version more in line with the now-vintage SE-R Spec V. Yet the brand doesn’t appear interested in offering truly comprehensive performance upgrades to convert ho-hum commuters into mischievous scamps hellbent on fun. Instead, we look to be stuck with NISMO appearance packages that occasionally do something with the suspension and tires. It’s kind of a drag, but at least it’s a drag worldwide.

Nissan plans on debuting the Versa Note NISMO Black Edition at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show later this month. We doubt it’ll create much of a stir.

[Images: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Tylanner Tylanner on Oct 08, 2019

    It is ridiculous to put those seats in these cars like the Juke...but it really links them to classic JDM in some ways and adds to their desirability.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Oct 08, 2019

    Close the vents like that (third picture) and you won't be borrowing my car again anytime soon. :-)

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
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  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.