Same 1.6-liter four-cylinder as before; manual and continuously variable transmission options
While the Versa Note was only introduced for the 2014 model year, Nissan is already expanding on that theme with an eye to making the wee car even more appealing. It’s 13 inches shorter than the sedan. Curtailing the size contributes to a car that’s 300 pounds lighter than the retired wagon. Virtually all of the shrinkage occurs ahead of the front wheels where the aerodynamic nose slopes downward in a way that’s reminiscent of the Honda Fit. Both the Versa sedan and Versa Note wagon lead their respective entry-level categories in cabin space, but the Note’s clever interior packaging gives it a clear advantage. Open the hatch and an optional adjustable-height load floor called “Hide-N-Divide” can be raised to match the height of the rear seats when they’re folded flat, all the while creating a hidden storage spot below. Like the sedan, the dash and door panels are on the plasticky side, but the fit and finish is generally solid and doesn’t seem out of place on a vehicle that emphasizes a low base price. The Note’s 109-horsepower 1.6-liter engine comes through with an estimated 31 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. That’s with the optional continuously variable transmission. For comparison, the Note with the standard five-speed manual transmission earns a 27/36 rating. Helping out fuel economy are grille shutters that automatically close at highway speeds and reduce aerodynamic drag by keeping air out of the engine compartment, thereby reducing the parachute effect. Trim levels begin with the 1.6 S that, except for air conditioning and a basic radio/CD player, is pretty plain. You can add options or step up to the SV with its upgraded seats, hands-free Bluetooth wireless connectivity and other niceties. The SV trim is required if you want an optional navigation system or Nissan’s “Around View Monitor” that shows a 360-degree depiction of the vehicle in relation to its surroundings. For 2015, the SR and SL trims have been added. The SR gets sportier front and rear fascias front with darker trim around the headlights. There are also 16-inch wheels, fog lights and suede-covered seats inside. The SL is the top-end luxury version, with a five-inch colour display, rear-view monitor, heated seats, and its own design of 16-inch wheels.