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Nissan Note Acenta dCi

Will supermini-MPV bodystyle give the wild card the edge here?

According to Nissan, the Note was the brainchild of a designer who was worried that the arrival of his first child would mean he could no longer drive an attractive car.

He wanted to combine style and space – and the Note was the result. Its short overhangs and high waistline give a sportier profile than most supermini-MPVs, and unique details such as the boomerang tail-lights help it stand out from the crowd.

With the longest wheelbase and shortest body here, it avoids its estate rivals’ stretched-out profile. And, crucially, cabin space is good, too. Up front the seats are high, and despite no steering wheel reach adjustment, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position.

While the dash isn’t especially inspiring, it’s well built and there is plenty of stowage. A lidded cubby houses a stereo auxiliary input and there’s an underseat bin, too. The clever glovebox is also air-conditioned, but you only get four airbags as standard, and stability control isn’t available, despite it being fitted on higher trim levels.

Plenty of thought has gone into the rest of the car, and the rear bench slides to optimise leg or load space. Push it back, and the seats have the most room here, although this makes the boot nearly 50 per cent shorter than the Clio’s. Even with the seats pushed forward, it’s still 17mm behind.

Crucially, this means double pushchairs and similar large family items are harder to accommodate. But for other purposes the Nissan’s luggage area is well thought out, as the seat backs fold flush with the split-level floor to create a flat load area. The reversible divider has carpet on one side and wipe-clean plastic on the other, and it hides a storage area beneath. So while the Note can’t quite match the estates’ ultimate capacity and boot length, its load space is versatile.

An easy gearchange and electric power-steering which becomes progressively lighter at low speeds make the Note great around town, and it also copes well on longer trips. The wheel feels over-assisted, but the chassis is composed at speed and the handling is agile. The ride is supple, too, but unfortunately the suspension lets shocks through into the cabin on really bumpy roads.

Surprisingly, the Note can’t match the Renault for engine refinement. They share the same 1.5-litre dCi, yet it is far noisier in the Nissan. Performance is evenly matched, but the French car also has lower emissions and better economy. While the Note is a practical family car, can its clever use of space make up for its compact dimensions?

Details

Price: £12,695
Model tested: 1.5 dCi Acenta
Chart position: 2
WHY: Sliding bench and clever storage could be trump cards for Nissan’s supermini-MPV.

Economy

The Nissan is the cheapest, but some of the savings will be used up when it comes to servicing. A total of £860 for three visits is nearly £320 more than for the identically powered Clio. With a retained value prediction of 35.3 per cent, the Nissan suffers the worst depreciation of our group. Insurance costs are on a par with its rivals, though, and the lower list price means it’s a cheaper company car choice than the 207 SW or Fabia.

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