AUTO REVIEW: 2015 Nissan Versa Note Hatchback

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) -
The new exterior design of the 2015 Nissan Versa Note includes a steeply sloped windshield and sculpted body panels. It is equipped with chrome-accented fog lights, power outside mirrors and a rear roof spoiler. (TNS)
The new exterior design of the 2015 Nissan Versa Note includes a steeply sloped windshield and sculpted body panels. It is equipped with chrome-accented fog lights, power outside mirrors and a rear roof spoiler. (TNS)
The interior of the 2015 Nissan Versa Note features suede-like cloth seats with orange stitching and accent, a six-way manually adjustable driver's seat and a four-way manual passenger seat. (TNS)
The interior of the 2015 Nissan Versa Note features suede-like cloth seats with orange stitching and accent, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat and a four-way manual passenger seat. (TNS)
(TNS)
(TNS)

Nissan introduced the redesigned Versa subcompact hatchback, now called the Versa Note, just last year, following the remake of the Versa sedan model two years earlier.

For 2015, the Note’s starting price is $14,180 (plus $810 freight) for the base model S with a five-speed manual transmission. With an automatic transmission, the lowest-priced version is the Note S Plus, which begins at $15,430. It comes with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT.

Prices range as high as $17,960 for the SL model with the CVT. For this report, we tested the Note SR model with the CVT, which had a base price of $17,530. It came with the SR Convenience Package ($660), which added NissanConnect with Mobile Apps, five-inch color monitor, satellite radio, a backup camera, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free text messaging, and the Divide-n-Hide adjustable cargo floor.

The sedan is similar but a bit longer than the Note, with prices beginning lower, as well — $11,990 for the manual model, and $13,490 for the CVT version.

Main competitors include the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta.

After the redesign, the two Versa models are different beyond just the hatchback versus sedan configurations. The Note, which is more than a foot shorter than the sedan, has its own distinct look, and actually is on a different chassis.

Key features of the Note include the available class-exclusive Around View Monitor, a new exterior design that includes a steeply sloped windshield and sculpted body panels, best-in-class EPA ratings of 31 mpg city/40 highway/35 combined, class-leading cargo space and the optional NissanConnect navigation/infotainment system with the Bluetooth streaming audio.

Both versions have the same engine and transmissions. The engine is an advanced 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder with 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. That doesn’t sound like much, but I gave my tester quite a workout on Interstate highways and mountain roads, and never felt like there was not sufficient power. On the freeways, the Note would easily exceed the posted speed limits, with plenty of power in reserve.

The automatic on the Note models and all but the base automatic version of the sedan is Nissan’s newest-generation Xtronic CVT, a smooth-shifting transmission with no discernable shift points. The S sedan’s automatic is a conventional four-speed, but it isn’t offered on the Note.

My tester’s CVT shifted seamlessly with little effort. Even with the noisiness that comes from the engine over-revving with a CVT, the Note was very quiet inside for a car in this price class.

The interior of the Note is quite roomy. We put five people inside for an evening trip to a restaurant, and everyone fit okay for the short drive. There is a total of 115.5 cubic feet of space in the cabin, including cargo space of 21.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat.

Even with the driver’s seat pushed back, there was plenty of rear leg and knee room — more than I’ve seen in many of today’s midsize sedans.

Up front, there are comfortable bucket seats, with a center console that has two cupholders, USB/auxiliary inputs, and a rear tray that is accessible to rear-seat passengers.

With the SR model, rear passengers have a fold-down center armrest with dual cupholders, which eliminates the middle seating position when it’s down, but makes it more comfortable for the two outboard passengers.

The Divide-N-Hide adjustable floor and the 60/40-split fold-down rear seat folded, there is a large, flat cargo area all the way to the front seatbacks. Under the cargo floor is a hidden storage area, which also creates a deep well for taller cargo.

Standard SR features include suede-like cloth seats with orange stitching and accent, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat and a four-way manual passenger seat, Fine Vision instruments, AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers, 12-volt power outlet, front-door pockets with bottle holders, and 16-inch sport machine-finished alloy wheels.

Also included were a sport leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power windows with one-touch down, auto-locking power door locks, intermittent wipers, a multi-function trip computer with outside temperature readout, chrome interior door handles and accents, and silver accents on the instrument panel and shifter.

Outside, we had sporty front and rear fascias with chrome-accented fog lights; a special mesh grille; dark headlight trim; chrome-trimmed halogen multi-reflector headlights; power outside mirrors, with built-in turn signals; and a rear roof spoiler.

Not included on our car, but available, was the Around View Monitor, which uses four small wide-angle cameras mounted on the front, side and rear of the car to project a virtual 360-degree view of the area around the vehicle, as though you are looking down on it from above. It’s great for maneuvering in tight spots. It’s part of the SL Tech Package ($790), which also brings heated outside mirrors, and NissanConnect with navigation, NavTraffic and NavWeather.

The optional nav system has a 5.8-inch color touchscreen dash display, the hands-free text messaging, streaming audio, Pandora radio capability (iPhone only), and points of interest (by Google).

Safety and security features include front-seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows, electronic stability control with traction control, and tire-pressure monitoring. Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert system is optional.

The only other extra on our tester was the carpeted floor and cargo mats ($180).

Total sticker price of our SR tester was $19,180, including freight and options.

Other stand-alone options include 15- and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels ($700 for either). There is also an SV Convenience Package ($690) and Sport Value Package ($760).

Our vehicle had the Metallic Blue exterior, with a charcoal interior. Other exterior color choices are Peacock Green, Morning Sky Blue, Red Brick, Brilliant Silver, Magnetic Gray, Super Black and Aspen White. The interior is also available in Wheat Stone.

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2015 NISSAN VERSA NOTE HATCHBACK

The package: Five-door, five-passenger, front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder, subcompact, economy hatchback.

Advantages: Redesigned for 2014, this is the hatchback version of Nissan’s entry-level car for the U.S. market. It’s economical to buy and operate, and has more interior space than its competitors and as much rear passenger room as some midsize cars.

Negatives: No engine upgrade offered for sportier performance.

Engine: 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder.

Transmissions: Five-speed manual; continuously variable automatic (optional).

Power/torque: 109 horsepower/107 pound-feet.

Length: 163 inches.

Curb weight: 2,412-2,482 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/drum, antilock.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain for both rows.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Cargo volume: 21.4 cubic feet (behind rear seat).

Fuel capacity/type: 10.8 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 27 mpg city/36 highway/30 combined (manual); 31/40/35 (CVT).

Major competitors: Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Fiat 500.

Base price range: $14,180-$17,960, plus $810 freight.

Price as tested: $19,180, including freight and options (2015 SR with SR Convenience Package, CVT).

On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.