Nissan Note n-tec 1.4

Old stager in the mini-MPV sector still puts up a strong fight thanks to fun handling and flexible interior

The Note recently celebrated its fifth birthday, which in car terms represents late middle-age – but it still packs a mighty mini MPV punch. Continual upgrades and improvements have kept the Nissan at the forefront of the sector, so buyers put off by its age will be missing a trick.

The Note’s styling is boxier than that of its Korean rivals here, but it shares its upright appearance with the Verso-S. Our n-tec model represents the pinnacle of the range and includes attractive alloy wheels. Boomerang-shaped rear light clusters and dark window tints add to its visual appeal.

Inside, you are greeted by a frenzy of textured finishes on the dashboard. This is a shame, as the switchgear is generally of good quality. There’s plenty of standard kit, too, including a small integrated touchscreen satellite navigation system. However, the Nissan is the only car in our quartet not to feature a fashionable panoramic sunroof. Storage places include a hidden cubby for valuables beneath the front passenger seat, and a lidded compartment on top of the dashboard. This also houses the aux-in and USB inputs. It allows you to enjoy music from your MP3 player while keeping the gadget safely out of sight.

The one-piece back bench slides forwards and backwards, so you can optimise rear legroom and boot space. At 280 litres, the luggage area is the smallest here with the seats pushed back. But in this configuration, the Note provides the most generous rear passenger space – and more legroom than many bona fide family cars.

The boot also features some neat touches. While its competitors all have one-piece false floors, the Nissan’s two-piece design can be arranged to divide the load area horizontally as well as vertically. This means it can be used to secure small items or provide a flat floor when the rear seats are folded.

Up front, you get a good driving position and excellent visibility. Light controls also make for easy progress, and the Note is a fine all-rounder. Its suspension is more compliant than the Kia and Toyota’s, although it’s not as smooth as the Hyundai’s. From behind the wheel, the nimble Nissan is a solid performer, thanks mainly to its accurate steering and effective brakes.

Unfortunately, the 1.4-litre engine is arguably its Achilles’ heel. The 87bhp unit is the least powerful on test – even though it produces slightly more torque than the 99bhp Toyota, at 137Nm – and you need to work it hard to keep up with fast-moving traffic. At constant cruising speeds it is reasonably refined, but it becomes harsh at high revs.

One unexpected bonus is the Note’s economy. It does without fuel-saving stop-start technology, but its lightweight design and handy gearshift indicator helped reduce consumption to 37.3mpg on our test, beating its Kia and Toyota competitors. Factor in an attractive price tag, and you’ll see that the Nissan makes an awful lot of sense.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: The Nissan blazed a trail in the supermini-MPV sector – and it still cuts the mustard due to its interior flexibility and affordability.

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