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2016 Nissan Versa Note: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

While the compact 2016 Nissan Versa Note hatchback might appear to be the quintessential bare-bones commuter car, a closer inspection reveals a bigger story beneath the car's quirky skin. Accompanying the Versa Note's $15,000 price tag is a well-built vehicle offering a number of reasonably priced option upgrades. In fact, for around $17,000, you can have a nicely equipped compact that asks very little sacrifice.

Inside, we were amazed by the Versa Note's cavernous back seat. It's so big that four 6-footers could legitimately take a road trip in this car without compromise. There's no other compact hatchback like it. And there's the expressive styling, which makes the Versa Note seem like a more expensive model in line with cars such as the Scion iM or Honda Fit. If you're willing to pay more, the high-end Versa Note models are packed with cool items, including the innovative Divide-N-Hide cargo bay and a touchscreen navigation system.

What's New for 2016?

Along with two new colors, the 2016 Versa Note SV gains NissanConnect with mobile apps, a 5.0-inch color display, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free text messaging, SiriusXM radio, a rearview monitor and the Divide-N-Hide adjustable floor. The SL gains last year's Tech package as standard equipment.

What We Like

Enormous back seat; good fuel economy with the continuously variable transmission (CVT); attractive styling; low base price; versatile Divide-N-Hide cargo area

What We Don't

Steering wheel doesn't telescope; sparsely equipped interior on cheaper models; so-so crash-test results

How Much?

$15,015-$21,000

Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive Versa Note is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. With the base 5-speed manual transmission, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy figures at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The optional automatic CVT improves those numbers to 31 mpg city/40 mpg hwy.

Options & Standard Features

The base Versa Note S ($15,015) is basic indeed, boasting features such as 15-in steel wheels, a 5-speed manual transmission, crank windows, manual door locks and 4-way manual front seats that lack height adjustment, even for the driver. To be fair, the S does provide power mirrors, air conditioning, Bluetooth and a 4-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary input jack.

The S Plus ($16,265) offers the CVT (the manual is only available in the S model), an active grille shutter that reportedly improves fuel economy and cruise control. Power windows and locks are still not available, however. S Plus options are similar to those on the base S model.

The SV ($17,165) adds power windows and locks, as well as keyless entry, upgraded interior cloth, a height-adjustable driver's seat with an armrest, NissanConnect with mobile apps and a 5-in color display, satellite radio (requires a subscription), USB/iPod input, a rearview camera, Divide-N-Hide storage, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls and bright interior accents.

The SR ($18,765) adds suede seat accents, variable intermittent front wipers, a rear-seat armrest with cupholders, SR badging, 16-in aluminum-alloy wheels, a sporty grille and front and rear fascias, dark headlight surrounds, fog lights and a rear spoiler.

The SL ($19,495) features a range of special equipment, including NissanConnect with navigation and a 5.8-in color display, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, Nissan's 360-degree Around View Monitor, Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Nissan's Intelligent Key System with push-button starting, heated outside mirrors, heated front seats and 16-in aluminum-alloy wheels.

The SV Appearance package adds 15-in alloy wheels, fog lights and variable wipers.

The SR offers the Tech package, which brings a larger 5.8-in touchscreen, NissanConnect (including a navigation system equipped with Sirius traffic and weather reports), a hands-free text-messaging assistant, Bluetooth streaming audio and Pandora Radio capability.

Trunk space in the Versa Note measures a useful 21.4 cu ft. behind the rear seatbacks, and that number nearly doubles if you fold them down. Moreover, the available Divide-N-Hide storage system adds a concealed cargo-floor compartment with a cover that can be lowered or removed to facilitate serious hauling tasks. It's a simple yet effective system, and we're surprised it took someone this long to dream it up.

Safety

The Versa Note comes standard with an anti-lock braking system, stability control and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side-curtain).

The 2016 Versa Note received four stars out of five in government crash-testing, including three stars for frontal impacts and four stars for side impacts.

Behind the Wheel

The 2016 Nissan Versa Note welcomes you with straightforward controls and good visibility all around. The steering wheel doesn't telescope out, though, and it's a potential deal breaker for long-legged drivers. Although the presence of manual windows and locks (even in the midgrade S Plus model) is a bit of a shock, we can't fault the comprehensively equipped higher trim levels. Materials quality is unremarkable by segment standards, but the panels in our test car seemed to be screwed together reasonably well. Either of the two optional infotainment display screens will really dress up the Versa Note's otherwise nondescript dashboard.

On the road, the Versa Note feels more substantial than its sub-2,500-lb curb weight would suggest. Credit goes in part to the well-tuned steering system, which is light in parking lots yet precise on the highway. There's some road noise on coarse surfaces, but that's to be expected at this price. While more power from the little 4-cylinder engine would be welcome, the Versa Note keeps up with traffic just fine. We haven't always been fans of CVTs in 4-cylinder applications, but the Versa Note's optional CVT is more responsive than most. As for the base 5-speed, it's smooth and user-friendly if you don't mind forgoing almost every modern luxury.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Sonic -- The Sonic has a tiny back seat compared to the Versa Note, but it's more rewarding to drive, especially with the optional turbocharged engine.

2016 Ford Fiesta -- Often overlooked, the Fiesta continues to be one of our favorites because it's so fun to drive, especially in the ST trim.

2016 Honda Fit -- The Honda Fit continues to stand alone as the versatility champ among small hatchbacks, offering SUVlike cargo capacity in a compact package.

Used Hyundai Elantra -- A 2012-2014 Hyundai Elantra offers more power, more room, more options and, if you purchase through a certified pre-owned program, a much better warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

Our pick would be the SV. At just over $17,000, it's a good value, and it has all the power and entertainment accessories expected in a modern vehicle.

Find a Nissan Versa Note for sale

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Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note SV
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Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note SV
Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note
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Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note SV
Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note
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Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note SV
Used 2016 Nissan Versa Note
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Nissan Versa Note: New Car Review - Autotrader