Cars for birders review #3: Nissan Versa Note

The Nissan Versa Note was my rental on my trip this fall to Florida–the Orlando and Titusville area, primarily. I don’t have any pictures of it, but there’s any number of them online, somehow carefully angled and lighted to make it look bigger than it is.

Here’s the thing with doing a birder’s review of this car: I didn’t do a ton of birding in it, but I did do a ton of swearing in it. So to try to cull my annoyance with the car in general and just focus on it for birding purposes? Kind of hard. And to try and make it fair and balanced, I suspect the Note I had sustained water damage in Hurricane Irma. I really don’t want to believe that Nissan built a car where the driver’s side and passenger side power windows would lower and raise at significantly different speeds. It had a number of weird issues like that. It’s not the worst car I’ve ever rented in Orlando, that title goes to the Dodge Neon that Jenny and I got in 1998 that tried to kill me on the back roads of Disneyworld, but it’s the second worst car I’ve rented in maybe the last ten years. (Worst car: Kia Soul.)

So the ranking.

Pros: small footprint. Means you can park it all sorts of places that bigger cars won’t fit. And maybe be able to squeeze by other cars on the roads in places like Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area where, as you might notice, there’s not a lot of room on the side of the road to pull off for somebody to pass and/or park.

Parking area at Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area just south of Christmas, Florida. The water levels were way up post-Irma. I don’t think this is what this parking area typically looks like but then I see all the waterplants in the background and I have to wonder. Maybe part of the wildlife management strategy is feeding random tourists to alligators?

Um… Wow, can’t really come up with anything here that’s birding specific. Decent gas mileage, that’s always a bonus when you’re running around places like Tosohatchee which basically has one road in, one road out, and Alaskan women like me are dying in the 90+ temps and 90+% humidity and desperately want to run the A/C while the windows are down to listen for birds and wow, I know, that is not green of me at all. I swear that’s the first time I ever did that. Thankfully a storm rolled by which meant the breezes kept the bugs and the temps down nicely and meant I didn’t try to pull the A/C with windows open trick for more than a few minutes. Ground clearance wasn’t bad. I never felt like I was going to bottom out on some of the roads I was driving on, which since some of them had been flooded fairly recently and not graded in the meantime, is no mean trick. I didn’t test this, but I think you could probably get a standard tripod in the back seat (probably not in the trunk) if you shortened the legs up as much as possible

Cons? Not a lot, really, but what cons it has, are major. Here’s the main one: it’s got all sorts of weird and problematic sightlines. Most of the car seemed to be designed for you to see into it rather than you to see out of it, which isn’t really great for anybody carrying expensive optics. The various pillars meant that it has a lot of blind spots, which was really the biggie for me. Not good for birding from the car. When I’m in ‘gator country and there’s a half-inch of verge between the road and the water? I want to bird from the car, thankyouverymuch. Which would also hold true for birding in much of the wilder areas in Alaska, though here it’s the bears. There was no console to speak of between the front seats, so if I’d have had a passenger with me, having my binocs and camera within easy reach would have been impossible unless that person was willing to hold them for me. I had a midsize suitcase and a small duffel bag with me and that ate up most of the trunk space, so this isn’t a vehicle you’d want for a group trip.

End ranking? I’m struggling here. If I were ranking this specific, allegedly waterlogged vehicle for rental purposes in general, I’d give it a -1. But I honestly don’t know how much was specific to this particular car as opposed to all the other Notes that Nissan produces. But the bad sightlines really wipe this one out for me for birding purposes. So I’m going with a 3. Avoid it if possible because of the sightlines, but if you can’t, go birding in places where you’re going to park the car and go birding on foot.

I guess I got a little bit of the car in one pic. I was parked, I swear. Yes, in the middle of the road, but since I only saw 5 other cars in my two hours at Tosohatchee, it wasn’t like I was a traffic hazard. At any rate, I had been trying to avoid getting the car in my pic as I stuck the camera out the window but due to the car’s construction and my apparently short arms, I didn’t achieve my aims.

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