What is the Nissan Note?
The Note is the ideal car for drivers who don’t want to spend a king’s ransom buying and running a practical car. You can throw wellington boots, child seats, pushchairs and carry cots into a Note, and it won’t flinch.
This is the second-generation version. In a similar vein to the Honda Jazz or Citroën C3 Picasso it is about the size and price of a Ford Fiesta or VW Polo, but much more spacious inside, making it ideal for young families.
Note ownership starts at £9,995 for the 1.2 Visia Limited Edition. At the top of the range is the £17,100 Tekna 1.2 DIG-S petrol model (with a CVT automatic transmission) or the identically priced Tekna 1.5 dCi diesel version with a manual gearbox.
The pick of the engine range for most drivers is the 1.2 DIG-S. This is a new generation of three-cylinder engine that uses direct fuel injection to help make it as efficient as possible, and supercharging to give it a bit of oomph. The end result is that it returns 65.7mpg and emits 99g/km of CO2, making it exempt from road tax but ensuring it can keep up with faster flowing traffic. Best of all, it is £1,000 cheaper than the equivalent Acenta trim with the diesel engine, at £14,495.
Let’s be clear here: the Nissan Note has not been engineered to put a smile on a driver’s face. The fact is, it is plain ordinary to drive.
On the flipside, it delivers in the important areas of ride comfort and general refinement. You can happily drive one for hours on end without it becoming tiresome – as we did when we took one on a five-hour run from London to Llandudno.
The standard 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol motor is the best bet for those who just want to spend the least money possible, and can return up to 60mpg. The 1.5-litre diesel is a Renault-sourced engine and is getting on a bit now. Only drivers who cover a high annual mileage should choose it as the benefits of its 78mpg economy are offset by the higher cost of buying it in the first place.
Our Note test car was powered by the new 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, supercharged petrol motor. It delivers a fair turn of speed (0-60mph in 11.8sec) with respectable fuel economy (65.7mpg), stats which are near as dammit the same as the 1.0 T three-cylinder engine that powers the five-door Ford Fiesta EcoBoost.
The distinct sound of the three-cylinder engine is pleasant company, yet despite being supercharged the driver needs to rev it hard to extract the best performance. It lacks torque and what there is, peaks too high in the rev range, at 4,400rpm. However, take it easy, switch to Eco driving mode (via a button next to the gear lever) and it is possible to achieve at least 60mpg, without having to drive at walking pace. At 70mph in fifth gear, the engine is spinning at 2,750rpm. That’s quite high but does ensure it is responsive at motorway speeds.
The roadholding is nothing special. Throw the Note through a series of twists and turns and it leans right over, lifting an inside front wheel. At such moments the tyres scrabble for grip, and the steering and chassis feel lifeless. The message is clear: don’t go there.
Together with its purchase and ownership costs, how practical a car such as the Note is, is an important consideration in this class. Drivers expect plenty of cabin space, more cubbyholes than a tuck shop and – ideally – some nice touches that add to the car’s versatility. The Note delivers in all respects.
The general standard of fit and finish is an improvement over the first-generation Note. The dashboard is simple and clear, the plastics feel built to last and the driving position and seat are comfortable, even if the steering wheel lacks reach adjustment. But all this is nothing compared with the number of handy stowage areas. There’s a large double-decker glovebox, four holders for large bottles, a bin between the seats, a specific slot for a smartphone and good-size doorbins. Forget Sudoku; just remembering where you left your wallet is exercise enough for the memory.
Six-foot-tall passengers will fit comfortably in the front and back seats, such is the amount of headroom and legroom inside a Note. The back seat features two ISOFIX mounts for child seats, and there’s a useful handle that can be pulled to slide the rear bench forwards for more boot space, or backwards for more legroom. The same can be done from the boot, where there is an additional handle.
The boot offers 325 litres of luggage capacity, which increases to 411 litres with the back seat set forward. A Jazz and Citroën C3 Picasso have slightly more spacious boots. The rear seats fold but the base doesn’t tilt out of their way, so there is an awkward ridge left, but a large compartment beneath the floor is very handy.
Our car’s trim level, Tekna, meant it was fitted with a safety pack, which features Nissan’s Safety Shield system. It warns when the car is wandering out of a lane, and detects other vehicles or objects in its proximity. Nissan will tell you these are cars or bikes that fall into a blind spot, but the view out of the Note is so good that it’s really a device for dangerous drivers who fail to look before manoeuvring. The rear-view camera doesn’t have an audible parking aid. That means you have to have your eyes on the screen as you reverse at all times, rather than mixing things up with your mirrors, lest you hit something. Rear parking sensors are a £360 option.
The one to buy
Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S Acenta
Price: From £14,495 (correct at first publication)
Engine: 1198cc, three-cylinder supercharged petrol
Power: 97bhp @ 5600rpm
Torque: 108 lb ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 11.8sec
Top speed: 112mph
Fuel: 65.7mpg (combined)
Road tax band: A
Dimensions: L 4100mm (4135 with Style Pack), W 1695mm, H 1530mm