It was somewhat inevitable that once the floodgates had opened in the MPV class that the breed would adapt to move into other market sectors. Having straddled the Focus-size segment manufacturers have downsized even further. Nissan and Renault's partnership has spawned two such models, Renault's Modus
and, here, Nissan's Note.
The Note clearly displays the family genetics of the now familiar grille and "face" treatment on the nose. It looks in many ways like a mini-Murano
, which is no bad thing in a fickle market enticed by cool design as much as engineering integrity. The wheel at each corner layout also helps to visually shorten the car, as well as endow it with a long wheelbase, reaping the benefits of interior space in the process.
The looks are very different to those of the closely related Renault Modus and, to our eyes at least, offer a more adventurous and pleasing design. The tall thin rear lights that run up into and partially along the rear boot line are an attractive detail, as is the roof that squares off towards the rear, giving an interesting profile whilst maximising space in the rear.
Interior space is tardis-like given the exterior dimensions. Most Notes would be in the hands of young families, but during its time with us it transported four adults in comfort with no shortage of leg or elbow room. The tall profile pays predictable dividends in the headroom stakes and lends a further air of spaciousness.
The interior is full of clever storage areas that fully maximise the space available and use it as efficiently as possible. The dual level boot is one good example of this; the compartment under the squab of the passenger seat perhaps an even better one. Features such as the small tables on the back of the front seats and the multi-pack swallowing chilled glovebox further add to the versatility and practicality of what is a very thorough and well thought out interior for everyday use. An impressive list of standard equipment completes what is a very pretty picture.
As you'd expect, the car is light, nimble and easy to drive. All of the driving controls are of a weight that anyone can use with minimal effort (lacking a little feel accordingly) and are well placed. The driving position is comfortable with good overall visibility, although it suffers from the same A-pillar blind spot found in almost all new cars now.
The dash is clear and well laid out. It is a little dark and bland compared to the Modus we tried but the ergonomics are very sound and the central console controls for air conditioning and stereo are good to use and logically placed. Steering wheel mounted controls for minor functions minimise the distraction from driving.
Under the bonnet of our test car resided the common sense choice of powerplant for cars like these, a compact common rail diesel. In this case a 1.5-litre four-cylinder offering 85bhp backed up by 148lb.ft of torque at a lowly 1900rpm. Unsurprisingly, performance isn't electrifying against the clock with 0-62mph in 13 seconds and a maximum of 104mph. As per usual, what the figures don't reflect is the easy, lazy nature of the driving experience. Two petrol engines are also available, of 1.4 and 1.6-litre capacities, but we think the diesel unit is the best option.
The five speed 'box is slick shifting and has five well spaced ratios allowing the Note to cope with cut and thrust motoring whilst returning an average of over 50mpg. All the while the engine is unobtrusive and allows for refined motorway cruising as well as composed urban graft. If you want an automatic, you'll have to opt for the 1.6-litre petrol version.
Handling is good, though obviously not deeply involving, but it can be fun to hustle along. The suspension does a good job of reducing the body roll inevitable with a relatively high sided shape. Ride quality is also very good, absorbing all but the most abrupt and harsh surfaces we come across on out regular test routes.
As an all-round package the Nissan Note is an impressively rounded car. Here Nissan has produced a very good offering with a depth and breadth of talent rivals struggle to match. The Nissan Micra
is one of our favourite small cars, but for us the Note exceeds its stable mate's capabilities. For real world practical small car motoring the Note is very difficult to argue against.
Nissan Note UK range overview
- Nissan Note S 1.4 16v 5 speed manual : £9,990
- Nissan Note S 1.5 dCi 86 5 speed manual : £10,990
- Nissan Note S 1.6 16v 5 speed manual : £10,695
- Nissan Note S 1.6 16v 4 speed automatic : £11,395
- Nissan Note SE 1.4 16v 5 speed manual : £10,990
- Nissan Note SE 1.5 dCi 86 5 speed manual : £11,990
- Nissan Note SE 1.6 16v 5 speed manual : £11,695
- Nissan Note SE 1.6 16v 4 speed automatic : £12,395
- Nissan Note SVE 1.5 dCi 86 5 speed manual : £12,990
- Nissan Note SVE 1.6 16v 5 speed manual : £12,695
- Nissan Note SVE 1.6 16v 4 speed automatic : £13,395