For its third year on the market, the Versa received a handful of feature updates for the SV trim, most notable of which is a new 5" color display for the infotainment system.
The Versa sedan and hatchback share a platform and numerous mechanical bits, but that isn't readily apparent from the Note's exterior. Whereas the sedan is conservative overall and slightly awkwardly elongated in profile, the Note is notable for its better-balanced proportions and trendier details, including fluid character lines and a unconventional grille treatment.
Perhaps the Note's biggest selling point is its cabin, which is positively cavernous by class standards. There's plenty of passenger space, even for those riding in back, which is more than can be said for the majority of the hatchback's rivals. Popping open the liftgate reveals a segment-best 21.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
The tradeoff for all that space and the low MSRP is dreary, bargain basement interior materials. Base models also come with little in the way of standard content, although a variety of extra-cost premium features are available - including heated seats, a navigation system with Google point-of-interest search, Bluetooth with streaming audio and hands-free texting capability. Another neat option is Nissan's AroundView camera system, which makes parking easier by providing a virtual 360-degree view of the space around the car.
With a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces just 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, the Note isn't going to be winning any drag races. However, it is highly efficient when optioned with the available continuously variable transmission (CVT), which helps the hatchback return 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Spec'ing the CVT also nets high-tech grille shutters that close at freeway speeds to reduce drag and improve fuel economy.
The standard five-speed manual transmission puts full vehicle control into the hands (and feet) of the driver, but it also lowers mileage to 27/36 mpg.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Note is offered in S, S Plus, SV, SR and SL trim levels.
The entry-level Note S comes standard with the five-speed manual in addition to A/C, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack, a trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity and a tilting steering wheel. Concessions to the low price include 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, roll-up windows and manual locks.
The Note S Plus adds the CVT, active grille shutters, low rolling resistance tires and cruise control.
Stepping up to the Note SV brings power windows and door locks, Bluetooth connectivity, remote keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a front map light, sun visor vanity mirrors, a driver's seat armrest, extra adjustability for the driver's seat, upgraded cloth upholstery, cloth door trim accents, silver trim accents on the dashboard, shifter knob and shifter surround, tricot headliner, NissanConnect with Mobile Apps, 5.0-inch color display, Streaming audio via Bluetooth, Hands-free texting, SiriusXM satellite radio, a rear-view camera, an adjustable floor in the rear cargo area, and chrome trim inside the door handles, parking brake and vents.
The sport-flavored Note SR includes a special exterior with mesh grille inserts, a sculpted bumper, standard fog lamps and dark-tinted headlights. Around back, the Note SR features a roof-mounted spoiler and discreet SR emblem on the right side of the hatch. 16-inch alloy wheels round out the exterior changes. Inside, there's a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel inspired by the one found in the 370Z, seats upholstered in black faux suede with orange accents and a bespoke instrument cluster. Piano black trim on the center console adds a premium touch to the overall look.
The Note SL takes the SV as a starting point and adds NissanConnect with Navigation, heated front seats, and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Four optional equipment packages are available for the Note. The first three are offered on the SL, while the fourth pertains to the SR.
The SL Convenience Package includes a 4.3-inch color display for the audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, MP3/WMA CD playback capability, a USB connection port/iPod interface, a rear-seat armrest with cupholders and a divide'n'hide adjustable floor.
The SL Package starts with the Convenience Package's content and adds 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a proximity key with push button start, variable intermittent windshield wipers and heated front seats. Newly included for the latest model year is Bluetooth streaming audio, NissanConnect with Mobile Apps and a rearview camera.
The stand-alone SL Tech Package nets a navigation system with Google point-of-interest search and Google send-to-car (allows destination information to be sent to the Note from a computer or mobile device), NavTraffic and Navweather, AroundView Monitor and dual power heated exterior mirrors.
Finally, the SR Conveience Package includes NissanConnect with Mobile Apps, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant a rearview camera and Divide-N-Hide Adjustable Floor.
All Note models are fitted with dual front, front side and full-length side airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.
There's an abundance of strong choices in the subcompact segment, including the capable Ford Fiesta Hatchback, the stylish Kia Rio Hatchback, the spacious Honda Fit and the spunky Mazda Mazda2. All are pricier but more refined and better to drive than the Note, though only the Fit can match the capacious Nissan's interior room.