2014 Nissan Versa Note offers upscale-model options


Even though a lot of buyers are still thinking big, small cars have become more fashionable in recent years. Practical and not costly to own, today's pint-size rides offer a lot.

Nissan just took the wraps off its 2014 Versa Note ($13,990 base price). The new car has serious fuel economy: 31 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg in highway driving, according to Environmental Protection Agency tests.

Part of that fuel savings comes from Nissan's CVT automatic transmission -- essentially an unlimited number of gear ratios to keep the engine at an optimal rpm at all times.

The five-door hatch design allows lots of flexibility when it comes to carrying things, or people, or combinations of the two. The car also provides much more room for rear passengers.

The Note isn't the only car in this class. It's squaring off against the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris. All these cars are fuel efficient and are available as five-door hatchbacks.

There are numerous advantages to these five-door subcompact cars, including low price and great gas mileage. If you haven't driven a car like this in a long time, you might be amazed at some of the formerly upscale features that are now available in low-price cars.

Some models of the Note have the optional SL grade trim and the tech package. Heated seats and navigation are things economy cars never had 10 years ago.

Nissan's around-view monitor system is included in the Note. There are cameras at the front, sides and rear which combine to create a view of everything around you when parking. The camera system is something that trickled down from Nissan's upscale Infiniti division, now available on a car that stickers for under $20,000.

There was a time when if you wanted some high-tech features, you had to buy a fairly upscale car, or if you wanted a low price and fuel efficiency, you had to do without features. These days, cars like the Versa Note are here to offer efficiency and gadgets in the same package.

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