Nissan has done exceptionally well with their entry-level models and will continue to do so with the launch of the second generation Versa Note which received many enhancements including styling improvements. On sale now, the $13,990 hatchback will begin life as an SV, S Plus or S model. With a 28% expected growth period for introductory vehicles, Nissan seems to have the competitive edge on the segment, especially since they have held down the coveted number one spot since 2008.
To experience the little guy’s nifty characteristics we headed to San Diego, California where the weather is almost always picture perfect and the lifestyle is full of energy and zest. So of course you need a vehicle that is habitually adaptive to the diverse needs of active owners. It’s summertime, which we know is all about driving. Back and forth to camp, road trips, and family gatherings are always on the agenda. How does 40 mpg on the highway or 31 mpg city sound to you? That’s phenomenal! Nissan was able to improve fuel efficiency from the prior model 17% (highway) by way of new aerodynamic design cues such as the little vents on side of the rear tail lights for proper air flow, tire rolling resistance reduction, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) technological improvements, and an overall weight loss of 300 pounds.
Speaking of power, the SV and the S Plus receive the aforementioned CVT transmission which pairs with the 1.6-liter DOHC I-4 engine outputting a respectable 109 horsepower. The S starter models have 5-speed manual transmissions and will represent 10% of the Versa Note sales. The second generation CVT is lighter, smaller, and has 30% less operating friction. Don’t forget folks, this is an entry-level vehicle and shouldn’t be compared to 300-horse powerhouses. On the highway it’s very obvious that the Versa is all about efficiency, as we were getting nowhere fast. Yet, I don’t mind the virtue of patience since society moves at such a fast pace we often miss the signs intended for our guidance. And I’m not talking about highway exit signs!
Step inside and a world of space catches you off guard. I’m referencing headroom, legroom and rear passenger space. My drive partner and I loaded up the back with suitcases, camera gear and food shopping bags after stopping off at Steele Canyon Produce to pick up bowling ball sized grapefruit.
We drove a Metallic Peacock colored SV model with the $1,700 SL Package and the $800 SL Tech Package tallying $19,280. I especially became fond with the “Divide-N-Hide” adjustable floor, allowing driver or passenger to change the cargo floor height. It’s designed to stay within the vehicle, yet is removable. The SL also offers a rear seat armrest with cup holders, rear pockets for added storage and front, heated cloth seats. A quick and simple demonstration of the Around View Monitor was very interesting to say the least. Nissan blacked-out all the windows and had us drive forward and backwards into a parking space using only the camera screen that showed our vehicle position and parking lines. The 5.8” color touchscreen is partnered with voice recognition for audio navigation, Bluetooth, Google’s wizardry, hands-free texting and Pandora connectivity for iPhones. However, we found the screen a bit small when inputting commands. We also got lost a few times because we couldn’t pinpoint where the Nav system was guiding us. Of course Nissan still offers you a world of safety in the form of an advanced airbag system, roof-mounted curtain side airbags, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, tire pressure monitoring system and brake assist.
In the U.S. it’s the battle of David versus Goliath as car companies expand both their larger SUV models and positioning with micro vehicles. We all have divergent perspectives and needs and Nissan is giving you an option into both worlds!