2014 Nissan Versa Note Driving Impressions

The Nissan Versa Note is a lot of car for the money, with impressive gas mileage with the CVT. All models are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for a modest but effective 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque.

Although the car won't win any drag races, acceleration is smooth and power is adequate for driving around town and on flat highways. The Versa Note uses Nissan's so-called smart alternator, which only draws power from the battery when it won't affect vehicle performance, such as when the car is traveling downhill. But we still longed for more power in certain circumstances, such as when winding up a steep grade, and when trying to pass a slow-moving truck on a two-lane road.

Ride and handling on the Nissan Versa Note is quite good. The suspension eats up bumps and ruts easily, yet isn't overly floaty. Around corners, the Versa Note feels surprisingly planted. There's still some body roll, but it's minimal. Steering is responsive and achieves a nice balance; it's not too light, nor is it artificially heavy like some cars that try too hard to feel sporty. Braking is just fine, with discs in front and drums in rear. ABS and brake assist come standard.

Unless you like rowing through the gears on a manual, we recommend the CVT. Although it's not a traditional automatic transmission, it uses a new design with a secondary set of gears for more torque off the line and at lower rpm. This makes for a better driving experience than with most cars equipped with a CVT. It's smooth and efficient, and is the best choice for maximum fuel economy, with an EPA-estimated 31/40 mpg City/Highway. Most drivers probably won't notice they're not driving a regular automatic. The manual transmission, on the other hand, earns only 27/36 mpg City/Highway.

Visibility is fine out front and sides. In the rear, the high belt line of the hatch prevents drivers from seeing shorter objects that may be directly behind the car. For those who might be concerned by this, we recommend opting for the rear parking monitor, or the new 360-degree view camera, which gives the driver a bird's-eye view of the car and its surroundings.

Noise is minimal on the Nissan Versa note. At high freeway speeds, wind noise was barely imperceptible. We did notice moderate road and tire noise, however.

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