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November 9, 2013

Nissan Versa Note gives economy new flair

Two aspects of the new, 2014 Nissan Versa Note that appealed to me most last week were characteristics I would have liked in any car, of any size, style or price range.

The first was its fuel economy. I measured consumption over more than 200 miles of ordinary, mixed driving, combining freeway runs and around-town jaunts. My average of 42 miles per gallon easily beat the U.S. government fuel-use rating of 31 mpg city and 40 mpg highway – or 35 mpg combined – on Note models equipped with an automatic transmission, like my evaluation model was.

The Note is a small car, with an alluring, entry-level starting list price of $14,800. But a lot of other small cars don’t deliver such stellar fuel economy. In fact, a lot of expensive, gas/electric hybrid models set up to maximize fuel economy don’t do as well.

My other favorite thing was the advanced technology installed on my evaluation model. True, the most stunning features came as extra-cost options. They started with a $1,700 “SL Package.” That was augmented by an $800 “Technology Package” that included a touch-screen for controlling audio, a hands-free text-message assistant and high-function navigation that received traffic- and weather-monitoring information transmitted to the car. The tech package also bundled in Nissan’s “Around View Monitor,” which gives you a 360-degree camera view around the entire car.

I appreciated the navigation system for its ease and accuracy when delivering me to an appointment in a crowded Newton, Mass., neighborhood. I was flat-out impressed by Around View, finding its split-screen display of all four sides of my parked little Note both entertaining and useful. It aids parking in tight quarters. At a Market Basket lot in Salem, N.H., it alerted me to a shopper walking behind the car before I backed out – after I had missed her when making the usual, visual check. It was a good example of advanced tech correcting a driver’s deficiency, which is its most important role.

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