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 been a sensible and spacious supermini choice, but it’s never been an especially stylish option. Yet that’s set to change with the all-new version, which aims to combine the outgoing model’s family-friendly practicality with the kind of glamorous kerb appeal that’s made the Ford Fiesta such a hit. There have been changes under the skin, too. Two new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines promise eager performance and low running costs, while the front-wheel-drive chassis has been tuned for European roads. Nissan has also added some desirable big car equipment, such as a surround view camera system, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. Fortunately, these gadgets and gizmos haven’t affected the Note’s value-for-money reputation, with prices starting from a mere £11,900.
Our choice: Note 1.5 dCi Acenta Premium
Nissan has tried hard to give the new Note a more upmarket look, abandoning the old car’s upright stance and quirky details in favour of soft curves and a swooping profile. Highlights include bold sweptback headlamps and striking character lines cut into the flanks. Yet while the newcomer looks more grown-up than before, it still can’t hide its supermini-MPV roots and struggles to match the Fiesta for head-turning appeal. Entry-level cars get black door handles and mirror housings, while these feature a body-colour finish on Acenta models, which also get neatly styled 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the designers have clearly tried to create an equally upmarket experience. A curved dashboard design and classy, white backlit dials are the most obvious changes, while the gloss black centre console adds an extra dose of glamour. The premium look is undermined by the widespread use of hard plastics and cheap-feeling steering wheel, but you do get plenty of equipment as standard. 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.
With compact dimensions, a wheel-at-each-corner stance and light controls, the new Note is a breeze to drive around town. Better still, the £400 Safety Shield option includes a surround view camera system, which helps take the effort out of slotting the car into the tightest spaces. Nissan’s also fine-tuned the Note on European roads, so it’s no surprise to find the car feels agile and poised. Well weighted steering and decent body control mean the new model seems more composed than the Honda Jazz, but the ride is firm and it can’t match a Ford Fiesta for driving fun. Adding to the Note’s appeal is its characterful three-cylinder engine, which provides eager performance despite its 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 – but that’s still 23Nm less than the Ford offers. Only on the motorway does the Nissan struggle a little. The ride gets even more fidgety, there’s some wind noise around the door mirrors and the engine labours on steep inclines. Another black mark is reserved for the spongy pedal action of the brakes.
The British-built Nissan promises to be a dependable choice, thanks to its solid build quality and proven running gear. Under the Note’s new-look exterior are mechanicals shared with the brand’s Micra supermini, which finished in a respectable 26th place in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey. As you’d expect, all cars have a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, with a breakdown recovery package included for the same period. Safety has been a high priority during the development of the Note, and all models get six airbags, stability control and tyre pressure monitoring. Buyers can also add the great-value £400 Safety Shield pack, which includes 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.
Given its predecessor’s practical reputation, it’s no surprise the Note is one of the class’s most spacious and cleverly packaged cars. Large, wide-opening doors make it easy to climb aboard, while the big side windows give a less claustrophobic feel than the low-slung Fiesta. Once inside, a sliding rear bench lets you choose between rear legroom to rival an executive car or a massive 411-litre boot – even in its smallest configuration, it offers 325 litres, which is 35 litres more than in a Fiesta. The boot also has a couple of shopping bag hooks plus a 12V power supply. Nissan’s Flexiboard system can be used to divide the load area to stop shopping rolling around, plus there’s a deep cubby beneath the boot floor. Elsewhere, you’ll find a spacious double-decker glovebox and plenty of cup-holders, including a pair hidden in the rear seat’s fold-down centre armrest. In fact, the only blots on the Note’s copybook are its small door pockets. Finally, while the new model doesn’t get a height-adjustable steering wheel, its high-set driving position is comfortable. This was further enhanced by the fold-down centre armrest in our test model.
The efficient new Note should cost peanuts to run. All engines are equipped with stop-start technology, so the 1.2-litre DIG-S petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel models promise CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km, while our naturally aspirated test model emits 109g/km – that means a year’s road tax will set you back only £20 a year. Also, an Eco function bathes the dials in blue lights that vary in brightness depending on how economically you’re driving. This encourages you to be gentle on the throttle, and we returned an impressive 48.3mpg. 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.