JDM: Nissan Versa Note Nismo Black Edition

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
jdm nissan versa note nismo black edition

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]

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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. :-)

  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs.
  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
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