There are lots of excellent choices in cars under 20k in Canada and while the Nissan Versa Note is by no means at the top of the list, it does hit the right ‘notes’ for many small car buyers’ checklists. From the curb view it’s kinda’ cute but its kinda common at the same time. For example if someone parked a 2017 Chev Sonic in the same colour in the next space you could be forgiven for pointing your keys at the wrong car. Nissan has been knocking it out of the park with many of their designs, most notably the beautifully sculpted Maxima, but the designer’s palette options are somewhat limited in this class.
Good things come in small packages
This little puddle jumper is deceiving in terms of cargo space. There’s 18.8 cubic feet of space in the trunk which can be expanded with its 60/40 fold down seats for 3,179 L in passenger and cargo space. You’ll be surprised how much stuff you can jam in this thing. There is also an available Divide-n-Hide Adjustable Floor in the back that lifts up to discreetly hide valuables. When the seats are vertical you can still fit two grownups in the back without hearing whining about their circulation being cut off.
Things that make you go hmmmm…
Something this small should be incredibly fuel efficient right? While the cargo space was pleasantly surprising, the fuel economy of the Versa Note was surprisingly not that great for it’s specs. I have had similar mileage numbers in longer wheelbase cars. The combined city/highway numbers are 6.2 L/100km. In real world city/highway I was averaging closer to 7.9 L/100 km. These numbers are with the improved economy of the Continuously Variable Transmission over the base model with the 5 speed transmission.
Not Fast, Not Furious
The ride is actually pretty great for what it is and the handling in this little front wheel drive is good. It feels nimble but this car is slo-o-o-o-w!. The CVT mated 1.6 litre four cylinder will get you from 0 to 100 km/hour over the course of a short lunch (ok, or 11.5 seconds according to the brochure.) The CVT may be more efficient but feels like its straining. CVT’s by nature rev higher than normal but it seems excessive in this car and that the 1.6 litre 109 hp 4 cylinder is labouring to get up to speed.
There are four levels with the Versa Note starting with the base S model at $14,498 cdn followed by the SV,SR and SL model which I tested with a base price of $19,748 cdn. While the interior trim and seating even in the SL is as spartan as expected in this class each model adds more tech and comfort items and there is sport suede seating in the case of the SR. The loaded SL version adds a rear view and 360 degree around view monitor (and Nissan’s is one of the best), Navigation system with a 5.5 inch display and loads of connectivity and apps through Nissan Connect. The SL has 15”. aluminum wheels, heated front seats, leather steering wheel, Nissan intelligent key and fog lights.
The controls and instrument cluster are nicely laid out and I liked a small round blue lit multi information display screen front and centre in the instrument panel called the combimeter.
When it comes to safety basic physics comes into it and size matters but the Versa Note is equipped with Nissans advanced airbag system with a full suite of front, side , roof and lower airbags for children. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given it its highest score of Good on all tests except the small-overlap frontal-offset, where the Versa Note received a Poor rating. What’s a small overlap frontal offset test? That crash test demonstrates what happens when the front corner of the vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a pole or tree.
Versa ‘versus’ the Rest
Wow, there are a lot of choices in the subcompact category from the Honda Fit, Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta to name just a few. Where the Versa Note stands out is in its cargo functionality and price. You have more flexibility with pricing because the base no frill Versa Note comes in at a lower price point than many of the others. Where the Versa Note comes up short is in some of the safety ratings as well as the warranty coverage and average fuel economy in this class. Another plus however is the longer wheelbase. This subcompact is surprisingly smooth and comfortable. It’s not sporty by or on any stretch but it’s still a fun runabout.
2017 Versa Note 1.6 SL CVT
Combined City/Hwy 6.2 L/100 km.
SL price as tested $21,483.00