Nissan has applied a dash more styling verve, a hefty stack of technology, and a touch more space to the Note for this new second generation. Was it worth the trouble? We’ve driven the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa rival to find out.
Which Nissan Note is going to be the one to buy?
We’re testing the predicted UK favourite: the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol Note in Acenta Premium trim, which gets touchscreen sat-nav, 15in alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, and Nissan’s ‘Safety Shield’ system. It’s doubtful the US secret service will be ordering a fleet to transport the President, and anyway, the brashly named ‘Shield’ is far from necessary.
Thanks to slim A-pillars and decent quarterlight windows, the Note boasts exceptional visibility, helped by the lofty seating position. There’s no need for a blind-spot monitor, and, as we found on Nissan’s Qashqai 360, the surround-view camera is too vague and blurry to be a dependable parking aid.
So it’s light and airy inside the Note then?
The big glasshouse certainly helps that impression, along with the sheer space on offer. The new Note is only a matter of millimetres longer and wider than the old car, and (usefully on style grounds) 30mm lower. The dimensions stretch and more extrovert body surfacing is supposed to make the Note look less of a mumsy mini-MPV, but inside the mask slips – it’s enormous. Set up the driving position for a six-footer and there are acres of legroom behind, while headroom is generous too. Not that the driver will be too comfortable – like every Nissan from the Micra to the GT-R, there’s no reach adjustment in the steering, which instantly dates the car.
Back on the roomy side of things, the news is good in the boot too. Firstly, you’ll notice just how light the tailgate, and all the doors, in fact, are to open and shut. This might imbue a feeling of cheap flimsiness to some, but our test car was well-finished, and after all, the entire car is light. At a claimed 1036kg, it’s some 50kg lighter than a comparable Honda Jazz. Then there’s the cargo area itself: 325L with all five seats in place, and 411L with the rear bench slid forward.
The dashboard makes less of a play for shiny ‘metal’ trim than the old Note, opting instead for a Renault Clio-style ‘floating’ tablet in glossy black plastic. It’s not quite the successful makeover the exterior has received, but a marked improvement nonetheless. One gripe we had was with the instrument dials: in an effort to encourage ‘green driving’, Nissan has employed a real time ‘throttle gauge’ to show how far you’re pushing the pedal (we’ve got feet to work that out, thanks), and the whole binnacle lights up green when cruising and blue when accelerating hard. It’s a touch distracting at night and is a cheap gimmick in the otherwise sold cabin.
Since we’re talking about driving…
It’s no Fiesta: that body might be lower than before but the Note still rolls like a fishing trawler in a gale through quick direction changes, with no information telegraphed through the steering wheel. Rest assured, you won’t be going quickly enough to really trouble the chassis’ limits in the naturally aspirated 79bhp 1.2-litre, which feels gutless in its midrange, and only adequate around town – disappointing, given the Note’s commendably low mass.
We’d like more bite from the brake pedal too, but the overriding suspicion is that the rounded-off edges and dampened responses from all of the controls will suit the Note’s sedate intended clientele. So too will the fuel economy: its claimed 60.1mpg betters the 1.25-litre Fiesta’s 54.3mpg, and is pipped by the 1.2-litre Jazz’s 61.4mpg.
The new Note is an eminently practical, interesting looking set of family wheels, and its wealth of available technology is sure to provoke showroom interest. Go in expecting a funky, do-it-all Honda Jazz rival rather than a chuckable towncar and you won’t be disappointed.