The Nissan Note is a small hatchback that, thanks to a slightly raised roofline, offers far more space than you might expect from a car of this size. The closest competitors to the Note are the Honda Jazz and Kia Venga, but you may also want to consider a conventional hatchback like a Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia or Volkswagen Polo, as these cars offer a more enjoyable driving experience – although they’re not quite as practical.
Inside, the Nissan Note majors on usability, with sliding rear seats allowing you to prioritise legroom or boot space. Most models also feature a clever false floor in the boot, which can be raised to sit flush with the loading lip, making sliding heavy loads in and out easy.
Nissan offers the Note with two 1.2-litre petrol engines producing either 79 or 97bhp, as well as an 89bhp 1.5-litre diesel. The less powerful petrol is best avoided: it's the only Note that isn’t road-tax-exempt and it really needs to be worked hard in order to make progress. The 97bhp petrol makes the car much easier to live with, while fuel economy of 65.7mpg means it's also cheaper to run.
The diesel engine's 80.7mpg is very impressive, and it's actually cheaper to buy than the more powerful petrol, so if you do a lot of miles, it's easy to recommend. If you want an automatic gearbox, though, this is only an option with the more powerful petrol, but it's best avoided: the CVT automatic gearbox makes the Note noisier, slower and less efficient than with the five-speed manual.
On the road, the Nissan Note prioritises comfort over driver involvement. It's great in town, with light steering and soft suspension making parking a doddle and potholes barely perceptible, but out on the open road this translates into lots of body lean in corners. Also, the steering feels vague, as opposed to light.
Nissan offers the Note in eight trims, and even the entry-level Visia Limited Edition gets Bluetooth phone connectivity, cruise control and a CD player. We recommend the mid-range Acenta trim, as this adds extras like alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a leather steering wheel. It's also the lowest trim in which the more powerful petrol engine is available.
For roughly an extra £1,000, Acenta Premium adds sat nav, DAB radio, automatic headlights and wipers and climate control. The top-spec Tekna Style model is very well equipped but, at over £7,000 more than the entry-level Note, it's hard to justify.
While Nissan's reputation for reliability has traditionally been strong, it's taken something of a tumble in recent years, with a 28th-place finish in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey giving some cause for concern. The Note didn’t fare much better, coming 143rd out of 200 cars.
In its Euro NCAP safety tests, the Nissan Note scored four out of five stars. While this is by no means disastrous and the tests have become more stringent in recent years, the Honda Jazz managed the full five-star rating.