2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech review: Noteworthy (we had to say it)

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech

Punster Alert: The new 2014 Nissan Note is going to bring out fans of the basest form of humor—the pun—at least if what we heard from other journalists at a recent intro. Fortunately, most of them will be spot on, particularly the ones that call the Note “noteworthy.” Like we just did right there.

The 2014 Nissan Note is technically the Nissan Versa Note, replacing as it does the five-door Nissan Versa, and the new car is actually badged “Versa Note,” with the former larger than the latter. However, the renaming is a step towards standardizing the model name around the world. For now it’s the just the five-door that makes the change. The four-door sedan will continue to be known as the Nissan Versa.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech profile

The 2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech shows off its alloy wheels and “squash line.” (Click to enlarge)

The hatchback Nissan Note steps into some pretty big shoes. The Nissan Versa hatchback has led its segment since 2008 and sold 117,000 units in 2012, and in fact, despite being an aging design as these things go, sales actually increased during the first part of 2013.

The Note is well equipped to take on the chore. Styling is always subject to personal taste, but the Versa Hatchback and particularly the previous sedan have always struck us as awkward, even if efficient designs. The Nissan Note, however, though shorter than the hatchback it replaces, manages to be more graceful, with more coherent lines.

Nissan designers resisted the temptation of radical headlights now popular on compact models, which no doubt helps keep the price down, and will certainly make accident repair less expensive. The designers, however, went to the Nissan 370Z for the multicurved taillights, which like most new models are contoured to reduce drag.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech dash

A scallop on the dash of the 2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Tech dash adds to a feeling of roominess. (Click to enlarge)

From the side, there a subtle effect that the Note’s designers dubbed the “squash line.” It was inspired, we’re told, by arc of a squash ball hitting a wall and bouncing off the floor. That type of inspiration often result in some rather, um, peculiar results, but it comes off well on the Nissan Note.

Creases on the roof, forming a slight, recessed vee-shape, are said to be a design element. The cynic in us says they’re there to make the roof stronger and reduce drumming that a simple curved roof might have. And the pragmatist in us says there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with the overall profile of the 2014 Nissan Note either, with more angle to its windshield that leads into the sleek arc of the roof.

Improving the Note’s aerodynamics was a major goal for Nissan’s designers. In addition to the rake of the windshield, the Note has active grille shutter that closes at speed to reduce drag-creating airflow through the engine compartment. The designers also paid attention to the underside of the Note, making the fuel tank and rear suspension beam flush with the bottom of the car for smoother airflow.

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL T

The Nissan Versa Note has more legroom than any other car in its class. (Click to enlarge)

The 2014 Nissan Versa Note adopts the engine used on the Nissan Versa four-door sedan. The 1.6-liter four has dual variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts for better low end torque for easier around-town driving and improve acceleration overall. The engine also gets dual jet fuel injectors (port, not direct injection) which have smaller fuel droplets. That—stay with us—means the fuel burns better, which means more power and reduced fuel use and lower emissions. The engine is rated at 109-horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque

Nissan is wedded to the continuously variable transmission, and except for the base Nissan Note S, which has a manual transmission as standard equipment, all Notes come with a CVT. The Note’s CVT is Nissan’s second generation design, and has a “sub-planetary gear.” This gives the transmission a wider range of ratios, which means easier and quicker starts, and lower engine rpm at highway speed for reduced fuel consumption and engine noise.