Nissan Note 1.6 Tekna

Can a recent facelift keep the British-built contender on top?

The Nissan Note is the original supermini-MPV, and not many cars make as much of such a small package.

The versatile Japanese model has been a consistent class leader, dominating its category at the Auto Express New Car Honours for the past three years. However, competition is fierce, and to combat a raft of new arrivals Nissan gave the Note a facelift earlier this year.

Can it hold on to its crown? What’s immediately clear is that the Note can’t match the C3 or Soul for kerb appeal. Its recent makeover includes new headlamps and a fresh grille, but the changes don’thelp the Note stand out from its rivals.

The same is true from behind the wheel. While there’s nothing wrong with the dashboard layout, some of the interior plastics look cheap, and the odd angle of the steering wheel takes some getting used to.

However, the packaging is spot-on. Given the car’s exterior dimensions, the amount of space available is staggering. And thanks to its sliding rear bench, passengers in the back have more legroom than in any of the other cars in our line-up.

Open the tailgate, and there’s a useful 437 litres of space, although this drops to 280 litres with the rear chairs pushed all the way back. Neat touches include Nissan’s clever Flexi-board storage system. The false floor creates a hidden storage space beneath it and a flat load area when the rear seats are folded. It doubles as a vertical boot divider to stop your shopping from rolling around on the move, too.

There are more neat tricks in the passenger compartment. Airliner-style trays fold out from the back of the front seats, there’s a nine-litre glovebox and plenty of cup-holders and cubbies. Look at the spec list, and there’s enough standard equipment to keep the owner of an executive saloon happy.

Our flagship Tekna test car had sat-nav, a Bluetooth phone connection, cruise control and parking sensors. And, unlike the Citroen, this luxurious trim isn’t hamstrung by an entry-level engine.

In fact, the 108bhp 1.6-litre petrol is one of the strongest here. The Nissan sprinted from 0-60mph in 9.9 seconds, making it the quickest car in our quartet.

Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for this keen performance, as refinement is lacking. The engine is coarse at higher revs, plus road and wind noise are intrusive at motorway speeds. While the Citroen feels like a car from the class above, the Note’s supermini roots are obvious.

Still, the Nissan is more fun to drive than its French rival and really agile. It turns into corners keenly, with lots of grip from its front tyres. Only the fidgety ride lets the dynamic package down.

The latest Note is brilliantly packaged, well equipped and fun to drive, so it’s going to take a big effort to knock it off the top of the podium.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: Few supermini-MPVs can match the Note for versatility, while recent facelift sharpens the Nissan’s looks.

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