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 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
The new Nissan Note is more stylish than before, with bold headlamps and characterful lines cut into the sides of the bodywork - it's much better looking than the old MPV-style Note. It can't match superminis like the MINI or Ford Fiesta for style, though. Think of it as a sensible, practical kind of supermini along the lines of the Honda Jazz.
The Nissan Note interior is upmarket and looks great, with a curved dashboard and classy backlit dials, plus a gloss black centre console. There's loads of equipment as standard as well: All cars are fitted with Bluetooth and cruise control, while our Acenta Premium had sat-nav, climate control, steering wheel- mounted audio controls and rear privacy glass.
There are a few hard and scratchy plastics, however, which undermine the classier looks somewhat. Many will easily look past that, but for some it won't match the Volkswagen Polo for quality.
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 does get a bit unsettled no the motorway, however. There’s some wind noise around the door mirrors and the engine labours on steep inclines. The brakes aren't up there with the best, either, as there's a spongy feel when you apply the pedal.
The proven running gear underneath the new-look Note means it's sure to be a dependable supermini: the Micra, which shares parts with the Note, finished in a respectable 26th place in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey.
A three-year/60,000-mile warranty gives good peace of mind and a breakdown recovery package is included for the same period - so you won't get stuck at the roadside.
As for safety, all models get six airbags, stability control and tyre pressure monitoring. The £400 Safety Shield pack adds blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, surround view cameras and moving object detection. The latter sounds a warning if it detects movement behind the car, such as a pedestrian, when you’re reversing. Despite all that, the Note only managed a four-star EuroNCAP rating.
The Nissan Note is one of the most practical cars in its class, in part thanks to some clever packaging. The wide-opening doors mean it's easy to climb inside, and the big windows make the cabin feel airy and spacious.
A sliding rear bench lets you choose between loads of rear legroom or a massive 411-litre boot. Even in its smallest configuration, the Note offers 325 litres of luggage space, which is 35 litres more than in a Ford Fiesta.
There's some shopping bag hooks plus a 12V power supply in the boot, and Nissan’s Flexiboard system can be used to divide the load area to stop shopping rolling around. Need more space? There’s a deep cubby beneath the boot floor.
There are plenty of storage spaces around the cabin and a huge glovebox too. In fact, the only blots on the Note’s copybook are its small door pockets.
The steering wheel isn't height-adjustable but its high-set driving position is comfortable enough.
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.