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Top-trim Versa Note more than just basic transportation

The 2016 Nissan Versa Note in SL trim receives 16-inch alloys to augment its four-square stance and wedge shape. For just under $20K, it includes several ‘class above’ features like navigation and around-view camera.

  • Nissan Versa Note SL 2016-main
  • Nissan Versa Note SL 2016-cargo
  • Nissan Versa Note SL 2016-front seats
  • Nissan Versa Note SL 2016-interior
  • Nissan Versa Note SL 2016-rear seats
  • Nissan Versa Note SL 2016-rear

THE PROS & CONS

What’s Best: Class-above features in a car under $20K.

What’s Worst: Power is adequate, but Note could use a little more pep.

What’s Interesting: Rear seat legroom that rivals many full-size sedans

Subcompact hatchbacks may be the stuff of dreams for relatively few buyers, but they sure sell in big numbers. No surprise, as the combination of low sticker price and thrifty fuel consumption fits so many budgets.

But to label them “entry level,” can be misleading.

While it’s true that nearly all start around $15K or less, today’s fully-loaded subcompacts are anything but basic transport. Like my recent tester, the Nissan Versa Note.

It starts at $14,498 with a no-frills content list that includes air conditioning, Bluetooth, tilt steering, power heated side mirrors, four-way manual driver’s seat, 60/40 split rear bench and four-speaker audio.

No power locks or windows, no cruise control, touchscreen or leather-wrapped anything. And it rolls on plain-Jane 15-inch steel wheels.

RELATED: 2015 Nissan Micra S Review

SV ($16,398) and sportier SR ($18,898) models add more power doodads and amenities, topping out with the “all-in” SL – as tested.

For $19,748, it includes all the essentials and a few treats: power windows and locks, cruise control, heated seats with six-way manual adjust for the driver, rearview camera (SV and up), and upgraded AM/FM/CD audio with 5.8-inch colour touch-screen.

There are also features you might consider “class above,” like smart key with push-button start, an around-view (360-degree) monitor with selectable split-screen closeups, and navigation with voice recognition.

You can even connect with Facebook via mobile apps using your smartphone.

The SL passenger cabin, however, isn’t sumptuous. There’s an abundance of hard plastic, but at least it’s textured and offset by chrome accents and door pulls, along with piano black faceplate and silver surrounds on the centre stack.

The Note has both an upper and lower glovebox, with the latter surprisingly large. There’s no padded console box for your arm, but the driver’s seat does have a drop-down armrest (on SV and above).

Front buckets and rear bench are double stitched, and upholstered in an attractive “wheat stone” pattern that matches the fabric door inserts.

Climate is controlled with simple rotary knobs. Kudos to Nissan for not forcing users to peck away at the touchscreen to manage the heat/cool settings.

Nissan claims the Versa Note has best-in-class interior volume. I’ll take their word for it, and am still impressed with the unusual amount of rear legroom – 972.7 mm. This is more than the much larger Maxima and roughly the same as many full-size cars.

Hence, three can ride in back. You’ll be bumping shoulders, but there’s otherwise plenty of room for lanky teenagers and adults.

Behind the 60/40 second row is 532 litres of cargo space, maxing out to 1,084 litres with them folded.

Here, you’ll find the Divide-N-Hide adjustable floor, standard on all but base models. It is a simple device that makes the cargo hold more functional. With the second row dropped, (like most hatchbacks) the rear deck sits below the seat backs, making it a bother to slide in long objects.

But by routing the carpeted floorboard through plastic channels on both sides, it can be raised for a flat cargo platform front to back, with hidden compartment below.

Indeed, the Note gets high marks on practicality, and at least a passing grade on performance.

With its long wheelbase, and short front and rear overhangs, this tall box is as maneuverable as it is firmly planted.

The 1.6-litre 16-valve four-cylinder won’t set the world on fire, but with 109 hp and 107 lb/ft of torque, routed through either a five-speed manual or Xtronic CVT (as tested), it is on par with competitors like Toyota Yaris.

Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent and Chevy Sonic may have a few more ponies, but none of these are hot hatches either, nor will buyers be expecting that kind of performance.

They will, however, be looking at fuel economy. Thanks to a thrifty powertrain, aided by aerodynamic tweaks like a low aero-drag floor, large front spoiler that works with its “kick up” roofline, front/rear tire deflectors and even vented taillights, the Note sips petrol at a rate of 7.5/6.0 litres/100 km (city/hwy) with CVT. This puts it near the top of its class.

Indeed the Note is good a pinching pennies – be it at the gas pump or the showroom. And in SL trim, it also delivers big on conveniences and comforts, making “entry level” more about pleasure and less about sacrifice.

Nissan Versa Note SL 2016 at a glance

BODY STYLE: Subcompact hatchback.

DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive with five-speed manual or CVT (as tested)

ENGINE: 1.6-litre, DOHC inline four-cylinder (109 hp, 107 lb/ft)

FUEL ECONOMY: with CVT – 7.5/6.0L/100 km (city/hwy)

CARGO: 532 litres with seats up, 1,084 litres with seats folded

TOW RATING: Not recommended

PRICE: S $14,498; SV $16,398, SR $18,898, SL $19,748

WEB: www.nissan.ca

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