Car Report: 2014 Nissan Versa Note is a solid entry-level car

WASHINGTON — When it comes to finding your first car or a commuter car, the many choices can seem a little overwhelming. But if you want all the toys for less than $20,000, the new 2014 Nissan Versa Note will stand out in a crowded class.

My first car was Nissan Pulsar NX, so I always had a soft spot for Nissans.

The five-door Nissan Versa Note looks sharp and sleek compared to the old Versa hatch. With a starting price of less than $14,000, it looks like a more expensive car. Even fully loaded, my test ride was around $19,000.

I drove the Versa Note SV with the SL package, which comes with larger 16-inch wheels, push-button ignition, fog lights and a neat adjustable rear floor that lets you choose from two levels of storage in the rear hatch.

Also, it came with a technology package that includes navigation and a slick around-view monitor that makes parking in smaller spaces a breeze. Also included is Nissan Connect, with a hands-free text messaging assistant that reads your incoming texts aloud.

Driving the 2014 Nissan Versa Note is not going to knock your socks off with speed — it has just 109hp from its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. It’s enough power for city driving, but plan carefully for merging onto faster highways.

My first Nissan had about 70hp, so I guess 109hp isn’t too bad. I completed 200 miles of mostly city driving, and I managed 33 mpg on regular fuel and saw 40 mpg on a few short trips on the highway. The CVT transmission takes some getting used to, but it’s hard to argue about the fuel economy.

The ride is quiet and there wasn’t much wind noise at speed — impressive for a subcompact. But if you push the pedal to the floor, the Nissan Versa note can get loud as the rpm’s climb high in the rev range, so just keep the car at a comfortable pace — your ears and wallet will thank you.

Inside the 2014 Versa Note, there’s plenty of room for four six-footers with lots of head room and good leg room. The heated front seats are comfortable and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is a nice touch. There are hard plastics throughout the cabin and the dash. There is a decent amount of cargo space in this small package; if you drop the back seats flat, it makes a ton of space for a subcompact.

If you’re looking for your first new car or a commuter car, the new Nissan Versa Note gives you a roomy and efficient choice. You can add cool options such as navigation and a 360-degree around-view monitor and still keep it affordable for the first-time buyer. The Versa Note isn’t very quick, but I found myself liking the value of this entry-level five-door hatchback anyway.

Editor’s Note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI ,FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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