The Nissan Note is a compact and versatile people carrier on the lines of the Honda Jazz, Hyundai ix20 and Kia Venga. Versatile because, at least on some trim levels, its back seat can slide backwards and forwards to increase legroom or luggage space as desired. Also, it's quite tall, so headroom isn't an issue for taller occupants.
However, if these qualities aren't quite at the top of your agenda, the Note's appeal can start to wane against more conventional but capable rivals such as the stylish and well made Volkswagen Polo and the brilliant Ford Fiesta, Britain's best-selling car.
Fortunately, the Note has plenty of virtues besides good interior space. It's easy to drive thanks to light controls and a choice of reasonably nippy engines. It's not the most poised car in the class, though. A combination of a tall body and soft suspension means it leans a little too much in corners. It's not exactly a sporty driver's car, then, but its engines are at least smooth, willing and frugal.
There are three engines: two 1.2-litre petrols with different power outputs and a 1.5-litre diesel. Only the more powerful 1.2 petrol offers the option of a CVT automatic gearbox. For its low running costs and decent power, we recommend the 1.5-litre diesel. It can do 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds and achieve a claimed 80.7mpg. Best of all, it costs nothing to tax. Not that the most powerful petrol engine, the 1.2 DIG-S, is much less efficient. It sprints from 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds and returns a claimed 65.7mpg. Again, it costs nothing to tax.
With the exception of the temptingly priced but basic Visia Limited, there are seven core trim levels. The first, Visia, comes with Bluetooth, cruise control, electric front windows and engine stop-start. For those increasingly common and essential features such as alloy wheels, air-conditioning, all-round electric windows and a height-adjustable driver's seat, you must look to the next model up – the Acenta.
However, for that sliding rear seat mentioned earlier, you must fork out for the next trim level in the range, the Acenta Premium. This also brings additional details such as a leather-covered steering wheel and body-coloured mirrors. The trouble is, all these things push the Note's price higher – not desirable when it doesn’t hold its value quite as well as a Volkswagen Polo or Ford Fiesta. That said, if you buy your Note with one of Nissan's competitive finance deals, that may not be such a problem to you.
The Note scored only four out of five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, but it has plenty of safety equipment. Features include anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.