“Trickle down” is most commonly thought of as an economic theory that can stir up often rabid political debate between liberals and conservatives.
But it has a slightly less contentious application when it comes to the automotive industry.
“Trickle down” in automotive terms is the passing down of new technological features of a safety and/or convenience mode from the near six-figure and above luxury segment down to entry-level vehicles.
Gee-whiz technology such as GPS Navigation, Bluetooth hands-free phone operation, satellite radio and more are no long the exclusive domain of those behind the wheel of luxury models but can be found in some surprising, and inexpensive, vehicles.
Since redesigning the Versa for 2014, giving the hatchback model its own name (Note) to distinguish it from the Versa sedan, Nissan has bestowed even more technological features on the 2015 Note, which is now on sale in Nissan showrooms.
Some, like Bluetooth and Nissan’s Advanced Air Bag System, are standard in all five trims (S, S Plus, SV, SR, and SL). Other neat features, such as NissanConnect and Remote Keyless Entry, are standard on the higher trims.
And others, like NissanConnect with Navigation (albeit with a small display) and a unique 360-degree Around View monitor that gives the driver a preview of all that is around him, not just the view out the back, are optional only on the SL trim. (A rearview monitor, which will be required on new vehicles starting in May 2018, is standard on the SL, optional on SV and SR models.)
Of course, too much of the good stuff is going to get your total price hovering in the low $20,000 range for the top-of-the-line SL with its base MSRP of $17,960, but it’s those extra bells and whistles that set the Versa Note apart from many of its competitors in the subcompact segment.
All of the Note versions get a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out a 109 horsepower at a near maximum 6000 rpm and 107 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm — somewhat meager numbers but you’re dealing with a vehicle that has a curb weight well under 2,600 pounds in any trim.
That engine is mated to a five-speed manual transmission in S models which delivers fuel economy of 27 miles-per-gallon city, 36 highway and a combined 30 mpg.
The other Notes get Nissan’s Extronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), boosting those numbers to a more impressive 31/40/35.
The CVT doesn’t deliver much in the way of a fun driving experience, though. Unlike in some higher end makes, the CVT in the Versa Note does not have the capability for simulated manual gear selection via paddle shifters. That eliminates the possiblity of “gearing down” to keep engine revs up for sportier throttle response and leaves you with only body English to urge the Note to get going for maneuvering in higher speed traffic.
The Versa Note’s exterior gets some nice styling touches for 2015, and the interior is roomy enough for the segment. Backseat passengers get 38 inches of legroom. There is 18.8 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row, which should handle most of your luggage needs for travel.
That space features a hidden compartment underneath the flat cargo area to keep valuables out of sight. Fold the second row and available space for your stuff grows to 38.3 cubic feet.
Overall, the improvements Nissan made from the 2014 model make the Versa Note worth considering, especially if you are willing to put down the money for the extras.
For a closer look and some more date on the 2015 Versa Note, check the accompanying slide show.