From £9,9408
The all-new Nissan Note offers a practical alternative to mid-price superminis, but its lack of dynamic flair disappoints
Matt Burt
25 September 2013

What is it?

The replacement for the spacious, if decidedly bland, Nissan Note. But while the first generation model followed a well trodden compact MPV path, the new model has evolved into a direct competitor to the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.

So does that mean Nissan is alienating its loyal band of Note owners who liked the previous model's high seating position and general disposition? Not necessarily. Nissan says the new car will appeal to a wider range of buyers, and once current Note owners try the new car, they will find the seating position similar to that of their own car. That’s bullish, but bosses expect the Note to replace the Micra as the marque’s third most popular car after the Qashqai and Juke.

Either way, the Note has finally arrived in the UK after being previewed in 2012’s Invitation concept. Happily, the production model is largely unchanged. Nissan claims best-in-class aerodynamics, aided by the unique plastic front end offered to European buyers.

The car is based on Nissan’s V platform, which it shares with the latest Micra. It uses a MacPherson strut set-up at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, meaning that boot space is largely unaffected despite the sleeker lines.

Improved practicality stretches to rear doors which open to almost 90deg, and a rear bench with handles in the boot and in the cabin to slide the seats fore and aft. Despite appearances to the contrary, Nissan says the seats are mounted only fractionally lower than before, making it easy to climb in and out of.

Nissan also claims the new car has more cabin space and the best rear legroom in its class. Mid and top-spec models also feature a decent level of technology, something which Nissan hopes will attract a younger audience. The Acenta Premium model tested here, the third of a four-strong range, includes the latest generation of Nissan’s Connect multimedia system, which includes sat-nav and phone connectivity.

We’re testing the 92g/km 1.5-litre dCi diesel, which is expected to account for around 40 per cent of private sales. It is a familiar engine, and the only four-pot in the range; the petrol engines are naturally aspirated and supercharged versions of Nissan’s 1.2-litre triple.


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What's it like?

Somewhere between a comfortable Volkswagen Polo and a sporty Fiesta. Nissan has tuned the Note for European tastes, which in practice means a more planted drive than the original Note, but one with far better bump absorption to make for a reasonably relaxed drive.

Less impressive is the steering, which lacks feedback and is rather too light. But as a car to knock around town, that’s something that is forgivable. A tight 10.7m turning circle makes for good urban manoeuvrability.

The 1.5-litre diesel engine offers up a reasonably modest 89bhp and 147lb ft, meaning acceptable performance. What power it does produce is delivered smoothly, but it is a grumbly unit under acceleration. Better is its high-speed refinement, which is broken only by a modicum of road noise. Our test route saw it return an excellent 62mpg, which was achieved over a mix of roads.

Where the Nissan Note excels is with regards to practicality. The boot is generously deep once the false floor has been removed and, depending on the position of the sliding rear bench, offers up between 325 and 411 litres of space. The false floor can be raised to sit flush with the boot sill, and with the seats folded it forms a near-flat floor.

Space for rear passengers is excellent. With the rear seats slid back, there is claimed to be more legroom than in a BMW 7-series. Even with the seats forward, it is possible for two 5ft 10in adults to sit in reasonable comfort. Headroom is excellent both front and rear.

The cabin doesn’t quite live up to the more youthful billing Nissan claim, as the styling lacks flair and the plastics feel hard wearing rather than tactile. But the cabin is solidly built and the switchgear feels precise and well positioned. 

Should I buy one?

In repositioning the Note from a compact MPV to a more conventional supermini, Nissan has attracted far more competition. Nissan’s bosses freely admit that it is less fun to drive than a Fiesta and less luxurious than a Polo. Perhaps its closest rival is the eminently practical Honda Jazz

If you’re not concerned by a relative lack of dynamic flair, but are instead seeking a stylish and practical small car that doesn’t look like a tall MPV, then the Note is certainly worth a look. 

Ordinarily it’s hard to recommend a small diesel car, but considering that this particular version offers genuine 60mpg fuel economy and a zero rate of road tax, the £1000 premium over the supercharged DIG-S petrol model seems a price worth paying.

Nissan Note 1.5 dCi Acenta Premium

Price £16,150; 0-62mph 11.9sec; Top speed 111mph; Economy 67.3mpg; CO2 92g/km; Kerb weight 1129kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1461cc, turbodiesel; Power 89bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 147lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual

Join the debate


25 September 2013

Should do very well in the UK market then. We are terrified of flair.

25 September 2013

'Lack of dynamic flair'? For goodness sake, it's a Nissan Note! Buyers aren't going to take them on track days.

25 September 2013

At least the new Note looks more cohesive in design inside and out than its too-many-cooks cousin, the Micra ...


25 September 2013

"the £1000 premium over the supercharged DIG-S petrol model seems a price worth paying"...
1. That's a lot of moolah to make back on improved economy. Maybe as a cheap motorway commute vehicle?
2. Surely the production cost difference of a supercharged petrol vs turbocharged diesel is not much? Why charge 1K more? Hmmmm.

It's a shame the Note is not offered with more interesting engines, as it is surely a right sized and reasonably attractive car from Sunderland.

25 September 2013

You harp on about the rear legroom and boot space but not one picture to show us from your gallery, you give us close up pictures of the front light and alloy wheel which although nice I do not really need to see.

25 September 2013

What a ghastly interior. Such a shame, because the outside is fairly neat and modern.

And if this is their new super mini, not mini mpv, what's the point of the Micra?

25 September 2013

"the £1000 premium over the supercharged DIG-S petrol model seems a price worth paying"

With a pensioner on board these Notes only tend to average 8000 miles a year max.
Ignoring Car Tax and servie costs it'll take over 4 years just to get your money back. In the meantime you'll have to put up with the extra noise and roughness.

25 September 2013

I don't get this notion that Autocar have that EVERY car has to be like a sports car to drive. This is a Nissan Note FFS. It's a practical mini MPV designed to carry passengers and their luggage in comfort. The last thing they'd want is to be hurled around corners on account of the car's "sorted chassis" and "direct steering with lots of feel". The driver will probably end up covered in vomit!

25 September 2013

The difference in price between petrol and diesel models does not have to be fully made up for in fuel costs to make it worthwhile. The more expensive diesel model will retain several hundred pounds of that difference after three years making the break even point that much lower. Of course, diesel models may cost more to service but then these cars often come with three year service packages at point of sale these days.

25 September 2013

Not everyone wants to drive their cars like top gear presenters! We chose a Note 3 years ago because it was large enough to accommodate a family, had a boot large enough to accommodate a large dog and was insurable for our 17 year old daughter to drive. The 1.4 petrol engine has returned 42 mpg (so why buy the diesel?) and reliability has been very good. For us the Fiesta and Polo were non-starters as they were simply too small in comparison. We also valued the fact that the Note was built in Britain. The new model certainly looks more stylish, although I am a little unsure about the design of the back of the car? Nissan deserve to do well with this car and I am sure the many people employed in the North East building the new Note also want to see it succeed.


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