I got some more archaeology work, and was going to have to do some long distance driving, so I rented another car. I scored a 2014 Nissan Note with less than 6000 miles. The Note used to be the Versa, in fact some of the floor mats still said “Versa.” This was a compact 5-door hatchback, and it was definitely small, probably the smallest car I have ever driven. Even the Prius seems bigger.
I was driving the SV trim level, which is the upper end trim, but without any of the cool tech stuff like GPS in the car. My work took me on a long journey south along Interstate 5. Cruising along I-5 at slightly over the 70 mph speed limit (call it keeping up with traffic), I was averaging about 31.5 miles per gallon, according to the car computer. Actually, when I calculated the actual fuel used with the mileage, I was getting closer to 32 mpg.
I wasn’t a big fan of the driving position, I felt I was sitting too high and I couldn’t rest my arm on the armrest and hold the steering wheel. I wasn’t all that happy about the layout of the cupholders in the center console. They were in front of the gear shifter or in the back, level with the seat backs. The arm rests blocked the drink, and I think they were intended for the back seat passengers. I also couldn’t find the clock. It may have been hidden somewhere in the stereo, but I couldn’t find it, nor could I figure out how to turn it on.
Other than that, the car did great. It handled freeway driving just fine, and had enough acceleration to get past slower traffic when needed. It was also a soft ride. I was in the car for nearly 9 hours and I never got a sore rear-end. After getting off the freeway, the road to my project site had some huge pot holes, and even though I hit them at a moderate speed, I barely noticed. I also drove a little bit off-road. It was just a plowed road through the desert, so nothing too difficult. The car did fine, and the small size made it really easy to turn around.
Other nice features were the steering wheel mounted radio controls, blue tooth, and the trip computer with the mpg displayed. One of the other things I found really interesting about this little car is that there was tons of room in the back seat. The passenger seat was all the way back, and my 5’8” frame fit quite comfortably in the back seat with several inches of space between my knees and the seat. I also had a bunch of room over my head.
On the way back north on I-5, I continued getting the 31.5 mpg. Toward the end of my 550 mile journey, I had to use another freeway that had a slower 65mph speed limit (I was still keeping up with traffic at 70 mph). In the 50 miles along this freeway at those slower speeds, my mpg jumped up to over 32 mpg. The 2014 Nissan Note is definitely one of those cars that has a significant drop in gas mileage at higher freeway speeds. It is got over 30 mpg, but I am guessing that if you drive 55 mph, you will get closer to the 40 mpg they say the car can achieve.
I could get the big stroller in the back with the seats up, but nothing else. Well, I probably could have squeezed in a blanket or some toys. When I dropped one of the seats, I definitely had more room. There was also plenty of storage in the doors and the double glove box. It isn’t a bad car, especially if you lived in a city where parking spaces were a premium. I think, with two kids in car seats, you would have very little room for anything else. But, with one kid, it would be fine. Though, with all the head room, if you dropped both seats down, you would have plenty of room for getting changed after a work out.
The 2014 Nissan Note (or Versa Note) has a MSRP ranging from $13,990 to $15,990 for the three trim levels. There are a couple of tech packages (GPS, heated seats, parking cameras, etc) you can get that bump the price up to $18,490. The Nissan Versa is a sedan version of the same car, but about $2000 less at each trim level.