Nissan wanted me to rent a Versa note so badly, they created a minor crisis in my life that involved ruining the front axle of my XJ, manipulating deadlines for a textbook that required me to call out of work, take a final and drive across the state of Virginia all in one day.
People give Nissan a hard time, it’s understandable, though. The 90's had the 240sx, the Z, and the SE-R. The Pathfinder laughed at the Explorer and the Maxima was a true performer. despite being a car guy I never really got to know who Nissan really was. So I just hear people complain about them. They are very basic cars riding on nostalgia. These are my own personal thoughts though, so I’m going back to the car in question, the Note.
One of my friends dropped me off at my local Enterprise agency where I had booked an economy car. I was expecting a 2016 Kia Rio as was featured on the page I booked, I should have known something was up when I saw the white Nissan and a red prior gen Elantra. The agent was nice and let me choose my poison. There was no way I was getting in a 2008 Elantra.
After we inspected the car I got into the car and hit the road.
The interior from the front was roomy except for my left knee which was constantly making love with the door panel. the lack of telescoping steering wheel also meant that my 6'0 self couldn’t really find a permanent resting position. The wheel is awkwardly pushed forwards and if you scoot too closely your knees hit the dash. After 45 minutes I gave up and found an in between.
Driving the dang thing was not bad, if not fun. When I was on an open freeway I was wondering why anyone in a less crowded area would buy one of these, that is until I hit Alexandria traffic which might as well be a third world country when it comes to driving. I learned to drive in that area of VA in less nimble vehicles meaning I had to plan and calculate how I was going to attack a situation, the Note has a really small footprint and the throttle response is amazing even with the CVT I had no issues going around slowpoke drivers, distracted drivers, and the oh-so-famous Nova lane hogger.
This was my first experience with a CVT transmission and it’s an odd thing. At times it was fine and I thought it was adorable the way it attempted to feel like a traditional transmission. Other times it just felt like it was slipping and would squeak and squeal much like a worn water pump and that was disconcerting.
I averaged 35 MPG the whole trip, which still disappointed me when cars twice it’s size are getting 40+, I hope to get the chance to drive a standard model at some point.
Personally, I think Nissan should have forgone making the not a Sentra SE-R Turbo and put that drivetrain in the Versa. That drivetrain with a Nismo tune and some suspension mods would make this car a very competitive alternative to the Fiesta ST. I’ve had the chance to ride in one of those at least, the fact is the Note is much more basic then the Fiesta I think it would be priced better to position it as a serious bang for your buck hot hatch.
As-is it’s fine, the interior is roomy, the seats are ok for long drives and the heater felt like it was funneling exhaust vapors from hell itself. (It was 18 degrees on my return trip from Nova to CVA). I personally couldn’t bring myself to purchase a car this small for even around town use, it doesn’t fit my lifestyle. There are other options, but if you have to rent an economy car look around the lot and grab one of these and be sure to remember your AUX cable.
-Stay Sideways- FSFL