Nissan Note mini MPV (2006-2013)
“Easy to drive, practical and spacious, the Nissan Note is a great choice for downsizing from larger family cars.”
- Versatile interior
- Smart looks and solid build quality
- Reasonable prices
- Plain inside and out
- Only top-spec cars get stability control
- Noisy diesel engine
Combining the appeal of a modern family hatchback with the compact dimensions of superminis like the Ford Fiesta, the Nissan Note revolutionised the mini-MPV class when it was launched in 2006. It looks surprisingly stylish given its boxy shape, with neat taillights extending along the roof, and attractive body-coloured bumpers. Inside, the focus is on practicality over appearance, and there are lots of innovative little touches. There are sliding rear seats, and an array of storage options and cubbyholes, all of which further enhance its family appeal. And to top it off, it drives well, too, with secure handling that matches its generous interior space. Now much copied, the Note is something of an older statesman and an all-new model is due in 2013.
MPG, running costs & CO2
With the diesel model returning 62.8mpg in fuel economy, the Nissan Note tops the Kia Venga while also getting from 0-62mpg more quickly and being cheaper to buy. All versions are relatively inexpensive to run, with even the petrol engines promising economy in the 40mpg range. The diesel emits 110g/km of CO2, which puts yearly road tax at £20 a year. Servicing is competively priced, too, although the Note does only come with a three-year warranty and its rivals are also cheaper to insure. Any deficits will likely be addressed when the new model debuts in 2013.
Engines, drive & performance
Given its age and the fact that it’s had only a slight facelift in 2010, it’s remarkable how good the Nissan Note is compared to rivals such as the Toyota Verso and Kia Venga. The Note is very easy to drive and park around town; its tall, narrow body slotting tidily through gaps in traffic that larger family hatchbacks would have difficulty navigating. The visibility is good, provided you don’t have the tinted rear windows fitted to higher-spec cars, which are hard to see through, particularly at night. Meanwhile, the base spec 87bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine is somewhat lacking in power, especially if the car is full. However, the 85bhp 1.4-litre dCi diesel and 108bhp 1.6-litre petrol are both much better. The suspension is firm enough to make driving the Note fun without being uncomfortable, which is unusual for a car this practical.
Interior & comfort
The lack of any reach adjustment on the Note’s steering wheel and height adjustment on the driver’s seat are immediate negatives, plus the seats provide decent support but are very firm and flat. However, rear passengers get loads of headroom, and if legroom is a bit tight, the rear bench can be slid back – albeit at the expense of boot space. The firm suspension does sometimes result in a knock shuddering through the Note’s interior but overall it's fairly comfortable for an MPV. Also, the engine can be a little noisy and the narrow body does mean that you can’t really fit three abreast in the back. However, there are lots of storage cubbies, with a large, air-conditioned glovebox.
Practicality & boot space
This is where the Note comes up trumps, with Nissan designing it to be as practical as possible. The interior is spacious, and the sliding rear seats allow you to expand boot space or passenger legroom depending on your needs. There’s loads of storage solutions inside – with lots of neat little ‘secret’ compartments – that include a handy map pocket in the dashboard, deep door bins and the previously mentioned roomy, chilled glovebox. The boot may be smaller than some rivals at 280 litres but it is very flexible, with a movable boot floor, numerous compartments and rear seats that fold flat with ease. The Note used to be one of the best in the segment, but this old model has been replaced and bettered now.
Reliability & safety
Nissan has a sound reputation for reliability, and the Note feels very well built, with a plain but solid-feeling interior. It came in at a respectable 45 in the 2012 Driver Power customer survey Top 100 cars, so owners are generally happy. Twin front, side and curtain airbags are fitted as standard, as are ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, but electronic stability control is only included on top-of-the-range Tekna models. This will be part of the reason that the Note was only awarded a four-star Euro NCAP crash safety score – maybe not such a problem in 2006, but its now common for most new cars to get five stars in what is a much tougher test today. So, rivals like the Kia Venga are arguably much safer.
Price, value for money & options
If you want cheap, spacious family transport, the Nissan Note should still be top of your list. Try and avoid the entry-level Visia model if you can as it is very basic, doing without ‘luxuries’ such as air-conditioning, alloy wheels and electric rear windows. By opting for the mid-range Acenta, all of these come as standard, while the flagship n-tec+ model adds 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome foglight surrounds and body-coloured mirrors. While the interior and dashboard are well laid out and simple to use, the materials do let it down, with too many hard plastics making the Note feel cheap in places. Also, resale values in the used market aren’t great, so it will most likely be worth less than some rivals when you sell it on.