Nissan hits the high Note
- Credit: DAVID L F SMITH
Small car, big car features – Nissan's new Note has huge appeal, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
With small cars hugely popular, as more people down-size to cut their motoring costs, it's little wonder Nissan has high hopes for it all-new Note.
The size of a supermini with the practicality of a mini multi-purpose vehicle this second-generation Sunderland-built Note is expected to outsell the Micra and be Nissan's third best-seller behind the Qashqai and Juke crossovers. What they all have in common is a multi-talented ability to meet a wide variety of motorists' needs.
The new Note is very different from its predecessor – Nissan says everything is new except the badge. It looks more dynamic and less slabby with bolder, stronger curves but it isn't a case of style over substance with more space, better practicality and it marks the debut of premium sector technology which is going to appeal to down-sizers who want a smaller cars but not at the expense of big-car features. It will also help the Note compete against core supermini rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
The Note hasn't grown on the outside but it certainly has inside and that's down to clever packaging and the fact that the oily bits up front take up 30cm less room which frees up space inside.
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Climb aboard – it's not difficult with doors that open to nearly 90 degrees – and it shows with a huge amount of rear legroom, especially in mid-spec Acenta and range-topping Tekna which get a rear bench seat that slides 160mm. Even with it right forward small adults can cope if those up front give up some legroom. The sliding seat also allows the standard 325-litre boot, which is now bigger and more square, to be expanded to 411 litres.
There's also a useful wipe-clean underfloor storage compartment. Models with the sliding back seat also benefit from a multi-positional two-part boot board allowing the boot to be divided or opened up. Rear seat backs split 60/40 but don't fold flat on to the cushions, sloping up slightly from the boot board in its highest sill-level position.
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The Note uses three proven engines – 1.2-litre petrol in standard 80PS and supercharged 98PS DIG-S guise, the latter available with a CVT automatic gearbox option, and a 90PS 1.5-litre turbo diesel.
The diesel has plenty of low-down pull and eye-watering economy figures but, if you don't do the miles, the normally-aspirated petrol engine will do a good job. It's smooth and quiet in everyday driving, although you have to work it with the five-speed gearbox to get a spurt on, but in real-world mixed motoring on the test route me and my driving partner achieved 52 and 53mpg which will keep most owners happy.
And so will the way it drives with an assured feel on twisty roads and body roll in check with the wheels pushed out to the corners. The light steering and pedals take the strain out of city driving and parking. The ride impresses in the way it tackles and soaks up bumpy roads so the Note feels particularly composed whether at low speed in the city or cruising on motorways.
The Note is the first European Nissan to feature its safety shield which links three advanced systems – lane departure warning, blind spot warning and moving object detection – and brings premium technology to the small-car sector. All work via a single wide-angle camera on the tailgate and, so it doesn't get all grimy, Nissan has developed an intelligent automatic 'wash and blow dry' system which fires a jet of water and a blast of compressed air to clean the lens.
Also making its debut in the sector is Nissan's acclaimed around view monitor (AVM) which uses small cameras on the front grille, tailgate and door mirrors to give a 360-degree bird's eye view of the car on the 5.8in touchscreen Connect satellite navigation and infotainment system to aid reversing and parallel parking. Safety shield and AVM are a £400 option on Acenta Premium and standard on Tekna.
The interior is functional rather than flashy with durable trim materials and the smart fascia features sensible, intuitive clusters of controls.
Entry Visia, from £11,900, includes six airbags, stability control, engine stop/start, front electric windows and door mirrors, remote locking, trim computer, tyre pressure monitoring and cruise control. Acenta, from £13,250, adds alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and sliding seat while the Premium version, from £14,150, has Nissan Connect, auto lights and wipers, climate control and front fog lights. Range-topping Tekna, from £15,950, gains part-leather seats, safety shield and AVM and keyless entry and ignition.
The Note reinforces Nissan's ability to build small cars that meet motorists' needs and don't sacrifice big-car features, making it very much the right car at the right time.