The Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Mitsubishi Mirage were all taken behind the barn this year, leaving the U.S. with just one new car for under $20,000: the Nissan Versa. This subcompact sedan used to have a hatchback sister model too, the Versa Note, which left us back in 2019. It's a shame it's gone, because the new 2024 Nissan Note is a breath of strangely fresh air that feels like it blew in from the floor of an early-aughts auto show.
Coming in January 2024 is a facelift to the 2020-onward Nissan Note, which hit the market looking more like the Leaf than the car in front of you. Instead of advancing into obtuse futuristic shapes than many cars are, the Note seems to rehash styling trends of the 2000s with its straked grille that's equal parts 2024 Hyundai Tucson and 2002 Chrysler 300M.
The 16-inch wheels, body-color trim, and colors themselves are throwbacks too, though they're a touch more 1990s in flavor. There's a turquoise, a violet that I swear I've seen on a Chrysler or two, and a handful of two-tone schemes that are already back in fashion. It was only ever a matter of time before all these came back; people have been going ape for '80s and '90s revivals for years, so it was inevitable 2000s nostalgia would get its moment. Still, it's a surprise to see such adventurous styling on a cheap subcompact of all places—and it's far from the only thing that's weird about this tiny Nissan.
The Note is powered by a 1.2-liter three-cylinder that's set up as a series hybrid, which means it doesn't have a transmission. Instead, the engine powers a generator that feeds an electric motor on the front axle, or on the rear too, meaning this is an all-wheel-drive subcompact. There's also an available swiveling passenger seat with a footrest, so people with weak legs or those in skirts or dresses can get out without a Marilyn Monroe moment.
Best of all, it's real cheap for a new car. The base front-wheel-drive model starts at the equivalent of $15,715, while all-wheel-drive with the swiveling seat is $18,395. I can't help but feel it might do alright if Nissan brought it to the U.S., which it doesn't evidently plan to. Given our elders' preference for buying Subarus though, I can't blame it.
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