Nissan Note review
The latest Nissan Note is just as practical as ever, but it's now more stylish and better to drive, too
The Nissan Note has always gone its own way. With its supermini dimensions and MPV styling cues, the British-built machine aims to combine unrivalled practicality with low running costs.
The Nissan Note is a supermini roughly the same size as the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo but it has a huge focus on offering loads of space for passengers and a seriously impressive boot, too. Add to that a comfortable ride, plenty of technology and some low running costs and the Note is a worthy rival to the best in class.
The Note doesn't quite have the funky appeal of the Fiesta or the Renault Clio but it's definitely a lot more stylish than the old model. As well as the new look, Nissan has introduced some punchy new engines, including a 1.2-litre supercharged engine, with impressively low CO2 emissions of 99g/km. There's a diesel version, too, which boasts 90g/km.
The chassis has been tweaked for European roads so it's better to drive as well and Nissan does off a Ride and Handling pack on certain models, but even with it fitted the Note can't match the Fiesta for fun. There's lots of new safety equipment, including a surround view camera system, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.
There are four good-value trim levels to choose from: Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium and Tekna. We'd go for the diesel version as it gets great economy and is punchy on the road, but go for the petrol 1.2 if you're not going to be covering very many miles per year.
Our choice: Note 1.5 dCi Acenta Premium
You’d struggle to call the Note distinctive, but its MPV-inspired ‘one box’ design means it still manages to stand out from the supermini crowd. With its soft curves and rounded edges the Nissan looks softer and less aggressive than its hatchback rivals, while its boxy proportions and upright tailgate hint at the roomy interior.
Entry-level models make do with black door handles and mirror housings, but other versions get body-coloured items. The range-topping Tekna benefits from 16-inch alloys, splashes of chrome trim and rear privacy glass.
Climb inside the Nissan and you’ll realise the cabin isn’t quite as interesting as the exterior design. The materials have the lowest-quality feel of the trio, while the piano-black plastic insert around the heating controls looks cheap. The Note does get two silver plastic spars either side of this centre console to brighten things up, but it’s a token effort in an otherwise drab, black and plasticky environment.
Although the Nissan costs more than rivals like the Kia Venga, one of the redeeming features is that you get a lot of gadgets for your money. High-spec n-tec trim level comes with a reversing camera, sat-nav, DAB and app-based Internet radio, plus cruise and climate control, a tyre pressure monitor and lots of safety kit.
The Nissan Note is easy to drive around town, thanks to its compact size and light controls, while the £400 Safety Shield option includes a surround view camera system that helps get the car into the tightest spaces.
Nissan’s also fine-tuned the Note on European roads, so it's much better to drive here than it was before - but it still can't match cars like the Ford Fiesta for driver engagement. However the steering is well weighted body control is good too - it's better than a Honda Jazz, for example - but the ride is a little firm over less than pristine surfaces.
A characterful three-cylinder engine is available in the Note, which is strong enough despite the 1.2-litre capacity and 79bhp output. Buyers wanting more performance can pay £1,000 extra for the supercharged DIG-S, which delivers 98bhp and 147Nm of torque.
The 1.5-litre diesel feels a lot quicker than any of them and it provides some seriously impressive fuel economy figures, too. The only problem with it is that it can get a little bit noisy under acceleration.
The Note’s chassis has a firm edge to it that transmits vibrations through to the cabin over rutted roads, but Nissan has tuned the car’s handling for Europe so it does mean it’s a little more involving to drive.
It can’t match the B-MAX’s agility or grip, but good body control and nicely weighted steering mean the Note feels at home and secure on back roads as well as motorways.
Japanese brands like Nissan have traditionally always had a strong reputation for reliability. However, in this year’s Driver Power survey it finished way down the order in 28th out of 32, while its dealers didn’t perform much better, coming 25th in our most recent survey.
The Note was voted the 143rd best car to live with, which is nothing to write home about, either. Just like most rivals, you get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, but there's three years’ roadside assistance thrown in, too.
When it comes to safety, the Note is the most comprehensively equipped of the three, with blind spot and lane departure warning, moving object detection, ESP and six airbags. This helped the car to earn a full five-star Euro NCAP rating.
The cleverly packaged Note is a very practical choice. The large, wide-opening doors make entry easy, while the big windows help create an airy ambience. And although there’s no height adjustment for the steering, the high-set driving position is comfortable.
However, the Note’s party trick is its sliding rear bench, which allows you to choose between executive car-rivalling rear legroom or a generously sized 411-litre load bay – in this latter configuration there’s very little space for occupants in the back, though. Fold the rear bench and you’ll find its boxy shape pays dividends because there’s a gigantic maximum capacity of 1,495 litres.
The boot also benefits from the brand’s Flexiboard system, which can be used as either a load divider to stop shopping rolling around, or to raise the height of the boot floor to create a flat load area with the seats folded down. Lift the floor and you’ll find a usefully deep, tough plastic-lined cubby. There are also a couple of shopping bag hooks and a 12V power supply.
Elsewhere in the cabin you’ll find a number of practical touches, including a spacious double-decker glovebox and a number of cup-holders, including a pair hidden in the rear seat’s centre armrest. The only real black mark is reserved for the door pockets, which are narrow and tricky to access on the move.
The new Nissan Note is very economical, with all engines equipped with stop-start technology. The 1.2-litre DIG-S petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel models emit less than 100g/km of CO2, which means road tax is free. Go for the standard 1.2 and it'll only cost £20 a year, though.
The 1.5-litre diesel engine returns 78.5mpg, the 1.2-litre DIG-S petrol returns 65.7mpg and the smallest 1.2-litre petrol returns 60.1mpg. There's even an eco mode that encourages you to drive smoothly to improve your economy figures.
Nissan also offers a £199 pre-paid servicing pack, giving three years/36,000 miles of routine maintenance. It’s not all good news, though, because our experts predict the new car will hold on to only 39.8 per cent of its value over three years.