Nissan Note

The time for tuning up is over and Nissan's Note is set to perform! Too small to be a compact MPV, yet about 25cm longer than a Honda Jazz, the latest Nissan doesn't set new boundaries - it ignores existing ones. But will Japan's third best-selling car strike a chord with UK buyers? We couldn't wait to try it to find out...

With huge interior space, a flexible cabin and neat styling, the Note is a car that Nissan hopes customers can buy with both their heart and head. While it doesn't offer the driving thrills of more conventional rivals, there is plenty to recommend it. Good engines, great value for money and the promise of strong residual values make it a compelling choice, especially in mid-range SE guise.

The time for tuning up is over and Nissan's Note is set to perform! Too small to be a compact MPV, yet about 25cm longer than a Honda Jazz, the latest Nissan doesn't set new boundaries - it ignores existing ones. But will Japan's third best-selling car strike a chord with UK buyers? We couldn't wait to try it to find out...

Despite its tall stance, the car's long wheelbase and short overhangs give it a squat, chunky appearance. The front is dominated by big headlamps and a Murano-style grille, while the gently rising waistline gives it a sporty edge. A pair of boomerang-shaped light clusters frame a conventional rear tailgate.

Aimed squarely at family car buyers, the Note's versatile cabin has plenty of room. Its sliding and split-folding rear bench moves forwards and backwards by 160mm to optimise either rear legroom or luggage space. Even in its middle setting, there's room for two six-footers to sit one behind the other without complaint, and the front passenger seat fully reclines to accommodate extra-long loads.

Our test vehicle was fitted with the Family Pack, which is standard on all SE and SVE models. It adds front and back armrests, rear picnic tables and aircraft-style storage pockets behind the seats. Rear reading lights and privacy glass are also included.

Meanwhile, the 280-litre boot has a dual-position floor thanks to a pair of reversible boards. In the upper configuration they allow a completely flat load bay when the seats are folded, and hide a 200mm deep compartment - ideal for storing valuables. Alternatively, the two panels can be placed on the boot floor to increase the carrying space by 100 litres. Up front, the dashboard is logically laid out with switchgear borrowed from the Micra. But while the creak-free interior is well built, many of the plastics feel rather hard.

Another disappointment is the absence of any reach adjustment for the steering wheel. The rake can be altered, and the driver's seat raised and lowered, but tall drivers will still find themselves sitting too close to the pedals.

On the move, the 108bhp 1.6-litre model we tested is well suited to the task of hauling the Note around - it's the same unit used in the Micra 160 SR and C+C. While it revs busily at motorway pace, refinement is impressive and there's no need to raise your voice at cruising speeds. On the admittedly smooth French roads of our test route, the suspension was competent at soaking up any bumps and imperfections. There's plenty of grip, but as you would expect from a tall car, no shortage of body roll when cornering.

The flagship SVE model we drove gets a unique sports set-up for its electric, speed sensitive power-steering. This is precise and well weighted, but the standard system on the rest of the range has a more artificial feel.

With strong and progressive brakes, the only major weakness from behind the wheel is the notchy gearbox, but customers opting for the 1.6-litre can specify a four-speed automatic instead.

The Note can be ordered now and officially hits showrooms in March, with diesel versions following a month later. It might not conform to conventional class sizes, but looks set to be a noteworthy addition to Nissan's line-up.

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