First shown as the Tone prototype at the 2004 Paris motor show, the Note (as the production version is called) is part of Nissan's move away from mainstream models and into new niches. Already on sale in Japan, it comes to the UK next spring, competing with mini-MPVs like the Renault Modus and Vauxhall Meriva, as well as taking some sales from the Almera.
Although the Note is not a direct replacement for the Almera, which will continue for the forseeable future, the Almera won't be replaced by another conventional hatch when it goes out of production, leaving the Note to mop up potential buyers of cheaper Almeras.
The Note remains largely faithful to the Tone concept both in size and appearance. At the front is has more than a hint of Micra, and because it was designed by the confusingly named Taiji Toyota, who also designed the X-Trail, it's perhaps no surprise that there are cues from the off-roader around the tail lights.
At 3.99m long, 1.53m high and 1.69m wide it's similar in overall dimensions to its most obvious rivals - the Meriva is marginally longer, and sister company Renault's own Modus is slightly shorter. And although we haven't tested them back-to-back yet, we reckon the three will be fairly comparable for interior space. The trio will almost certainly be battling for superiority on price too, with 1.4-litre versions starting at around £10,000.
European Notes will be built alongside Micras at Nissan's Sunderland facility, while Japanese versions like out test car are built in Japan, where production will begin in January this year.
In Europe, the Note will come with four engine options: 1.4-litre 87bhp and 1.6-litre 108bhp petrol units, and two 1.5-litre dCi turbo-diesels, with 65 and 85bhp. So far, however, we've only been able to test the car in Japanese form with an all new 108bhp 1.5-litre petrol that's been jointly developed with Renault. The European 1.6-litre unit, which has already made its debut in the Micra 160SR, is actually a derivative of the Japanese 1.5. We'll get a manual 'box in the UK, but in Japan Nissan only offers the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the Murano.