The Richmond Auto Mall - Tony Whitney Reviews

Mar 16, 2015



The Versa Note is Nissan’s entry in the hotly-contested and now well populated subcompact hatchback market. Products like this are very appealing to a very wide range of buyers from young people perhaps buying their first new car to retirees who are downsizing from a larger sedan but still want something attractive and practical.

This Versa is a new design which made its debut last year, so it won’t look dated for a very long time yet, if ever. Nissan’s design team went for a highly sculptured look and there are flowing curves everywhere. This design theme doesn’t always work with smaller bodystyles but the Versa is very easy on the eyes and super-contemporary from nose to tail. It also has a nice hunkered-down sporty appearance with its steeply sloped windshield - you just know it’s going to be fun to drive before you even get behind the wheel. The headlights really set this car’s styling off and the grille is black mesh with a big Nissan badge at its centre. At the rear, the lighting resembles that of the Nissan 370Z and Juke and is thus another design signature of the brand. Nissan calls the styling “energetic” and there’s not much arguing with that. To set off the nifty styling, Nissan offers an unusually wide range of colours - seven in all.

All models are 5-door hatchbacks and no 2-door model is available. More than likely, there isn’t much demand for one with the average buyer preferring the utility values of a full set of doors. There are now four models - S, SV, SR and SL in ascending order of equipment level. It’s worth mentioning that even the least expensive S has air-conditioning and Bluetooth hands-free phone hookup. Again, these features are a matter of market demand. Just about everybody nowadays wants air and Bluetooth, even on the cheapest products. Like many vehicles sold in Canada right now, the Versa Note is assembled in Mexico.

Behind the wheel, the car feels very responsive and agile, aided by a 109-horsepower, 1.6-litre, 16-valve 4-cylinder driving the front wheels. The transmission for most variants is a Continuously Variable unit (CVT) and it functioned very satisfactorily on my test car. You can only get the 5-speed manual transmission with the base S model. The power-assisted braking system uses a disc/drum combination and all models have ABS plus electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.

The cabin is nicely trimmed, despite the car’s low entry level price. This is a full five-passenger car, but understandably, youngsters will be happiest with the room available in the back. Buyers needing space for three adults back there would be better off looking at Nissan’s Sentra or Altima, though the Versa’s headroom is pretty good. With the rear seatback folded forward, there’s a fair amount of cargo space, something you don’t get with subcompact cars with sedan bodywork. In the floor of the cargo area, there’s a useful removable lid which reveals a stowage compartment, handy for hiding valuables out of sight. As far as the interior goes, there’s a very long options list which is best discussed with your dealer, but even the S model seating is well-formed and comfortable and the base car spec sheet quite well filled.

Buyers can upgrade the spec considerable by choosing items from the options list, but entry-level Versa Notes come very well fitted out. A navigation system is available, not always the case in this class. Buyers can also opt for snappy-looking cast aluminum wheels and all variants come with heated outside mirrors, an AM/FM/CD player and illuminated audio controls on the steering wheel.

The Versa has always been a strong seller for Nissan and this latest version adds features which will likely make it more popular still. The little car looks good, is great fun to drive and is very fuel efficient with almost hybrid-level consumption figures. There’s lots of competition in this class, but the Versa Note stands out as one of the better examples of a thrifty hatchback that’s well suited to all kinds of owner demands.

BODY STYLE: 5-door hatchback
ENGINE: 1.6-litre 16-valve 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual or CVT
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx 8-secs
FUEL ECONOMY: 6.8-litres/100 km combined (5-speed manual)
PRICE: Contact Dealer