The Nissan Note is one of those rare hatchbacks that, thanks to a high roof and some clever interior details, manages to offer more space and practicality than its compact exterior dimensions suggest. Others like it include the Honda Jazz, Kia Venga and Hyundai i20.
If space isn’t your number-one priority, then more conventional superminis such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta (which are also more fun to drive) may be more up your street. However, once you’ve experienced the Note's best features, among them good headroom, a sliding rear bench seat (from mid-range models upwards) and easy access, you may be hooked.
The Note is available with one of three different engines. The most economical is the 1.5-litre dCi diesel, which returns a claimed 78.5mpg and cost nothing to tax. Acceleration is a little leisurely (0-62mph takes 11.9 seconds) but then cars like this aren’t bought for sportiness.
If you prefer petrol power, you’re in luck because there are two economical 1.2-litre engines to choose from. Our favourite is the more up-to-date and powerful version, which can do 65.7mpg and – like the diesel – costs nothing to tax. It's really no faster, though. The diesel is the more relaxed cruiser and will pull a fully loaded Note far more happily. On the other hand, if you make few demands on your car, the petrol may be the better proposition.
As suggested earlier, the Note is no bundle of fun to drive. Its tall profile and soft suspension mean it leans in corners. The controls and don’t have much feel. On the upside, the engines are smooth and willing – however the automatic gearbox with the more powerful 1.2-litre petrol engine can sound strained and hurts efficiency. Avoid it if you can.
The Note's interior is its ace card. It's easily roomy enough for four adults to get comfortable in, thanks to good headroom and lots of seat movement. The rear seats split 60:40 on basic versions and slide on higher-spec models, while a flexible divider allows you to create different storage compartments in the reasonably large boot.
There's no shortage of trim levels – in fact, there are eight in total. Fortunately, you can pretty well discount the first two, called Visia and Visia Limited Edition, because they lack practical features that play to the Note's strengths. They’re decently equipped nonetheless with cruise control, electric front windows and Bluetooth all standard.
Instead, you should consider the Acenta, the third trim level, which adds alloy wheels, air-conditioning, the flexible boot divider, driver's seat height adjustment and rear electric windows. However, if you like technology, you can get the Acenta Premium for around £1,000 more. In addition to a sliding rear seat and armrests front and rear, this model brings a 5.8-inch touchscreen, DAB digital radio and a lot more safety equipment.
Many of the Note's major components are tried-and-tested and used by other models in the Nissan range. For this reason, it should give largely trouble-free service. The car scored only four out of a possible five stars in Euro NCAP's crash tests, but it does come with a lot of safety equipment as standard, including electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.