“The Nissan Note packs loads of space into its small dimensions, making it a really practical and economical little car.”
The Nissan Note aims to combine the running costs and fun drive of a supermini like the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo with the practicality of a much bigger car. The Note manages this very well, with a range of frugal petrol and diesel engines giving it great economy, while in the back with the seats down there is over 2,000 litres of space – that's more than the much larger Ford S-MAX. While it's not as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta, it's certainly better than the old Note and is more fun than a big MPV. Entry-level Visia models don’t get the sliding rear seats and moveable boot floor, so our choice would be the flexible and frugal Acenta Premium version with the 1.5-litre diesel engine.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Of the three engines available for the Note, only the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine with 79bhp doesn’t qualify for free road tax, emitting 109g/km. The other engines, the 1.2 DIG-S petrol and the 1.5 dCi diesel, produce just 99g/km and 95g/km respectively – so road tax is kept to a minimum, whatever engine you choose. The 1.5-litre diesel engine gets 78.5mpg, the 1.2-litre DIG-S petrol returns 65.7mpg and even the smallest 1.2-litre petrol gets 60.1mpg. Overall, then, the running costs of the Note are impressive regardless of engine choice.
Interior & comfort
The suspension is quite firm, so you can feel bumps a little more readily than the old Note, but Nissan has worked to stop the car from bouncing up and down after you hit a bump. The car settles down right away so you’re not jiggled around the cabin, which is a big improvement over the older model. The diesel may be a bit noisy at low speeds, but it soon quietens down on the motorway - even at 70mph you don’t get too much wind or road noise, either. The interior is much nicer than before, with a gloss black finish on the dashboard, but still feels quite cheap compared to rivals like the VW Polo and Renault Clio.
Practicality & boot space
The new Note has a 325-litre boot with the rear seats set back, which is 45 litres more than the previous Note, but that increases to 411 litres if you slide the rear seats forwards. This doesn’t compare to the Kia Venga's 570 litres, but if you fold down the seats completely the Note really opens up, providing a huge 2,012-litre space – which is much bigger than the Kia. However in the entry-level Visia model the seats don’t slide back and forth, and there is no multi-level boot floor like you get in more expensive models. Even tall adults can sit in the rear with plenty of legroom – for a car like this, the Note's rear space is very impressive.
Reliability & safety
Nissan's reputation for reliability is very good, and because the Note is based on the same parts and engines as most of the manufacturer's range of cars it should prove to be just as reliable. Nissan ranked 12th as a manufacturer in the Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey in 2013, which reflects its reputation as a reliable brand. Although Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the Note for crash safety yet, we expect that it will get the full five stars in the very near future. The Note can be equipped with a 360-degree camera to help with parking, a lane departure warning, blind spot assistance and moving object detection – all things that can help prevent an incident.
Engines, drive & performance
The 89bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel model is our pick of the engines on offer, as it's the quickest but it's also the most frugal. It's quite noisy when you are accelerating but settles down on the motorway – making it a great long-distance cruiser. The 1.2-litre DIG-S petrol model is much quieter, but doesn’t feel as fast even though it technically has more power. Try to avoid the entry-level 1.2-litre with 79bhp as it is quite slow. Unlike the old Note, this new model feels solid and sticks to the road over bumps, while the old car was endlessly bouncing up and down. It's not hugely exciting in the corners but it is more capable than the old car and is getting closer to its rivals in this regard. A Ride and Handling Pack is included with the DIG-S model, which firms the suspension up a bit and improves the steering, but overall the changes are barely noticable on a day-to-day basis.
Price, value for money & options
Entry-level Visia and top-spec Tekna specifications are both slightly more expensive than the old Note, but only by a few hundred pounds, while the big-selling Acenta model doesn’t cost any more than before. That means the Note costs about the same as a Ford Fiesta but comes with more equipment as standard, like Bluetooth and cruise control. The Volkswagen Polo is more expensive, but feels of better quality and comes a little better equipped – the Note's interior is made from some hard plastics that don’t feel as premium as the materials in the Polo. Both of these cars are much smaller, especially in the rear, so if you are looking for a more practical choice than the Ford or VW, then the Note is good value.