Nissan Note MPV (2012-2017)
"It’s small, but the Nissan Note is surprisingly practical, spacious and – as long as you choose wisely – cheap to run"
- Impressive boot space
- Good rear legroom
- Efficient engines
- Noisy diesel engine
- Not much fun to drive
- Suspect interior quality
Nissan Note can now only be bought secondhand and its disappearance from new-car price lists in March 2017 left something of a gap in Nissan's UK line-up. The brand no longer offers a compact MPV, but many of its rivals, such as the Hyundai X20, Kia Venga and Vauxhall Meriva, are also on the way out as consumer taste shifts to SUVs.
The Note is a compact car on the outside, which means it happily fits in a normal single garage and doesn't feel bulky on crowded urban roads. Clever design, though, is key to its spacious feel. Passengers sit relatively upright, the windows are large for a light, airy interior, and the high roof allows plenty of headroom.
It's practical, too. Its rear seats can be slid fore and aft to boost rear legroom or load space depending on your daily needs, and the boot floor can be adjusted for either a flat load bay or extra carrying capacity. The boot opening is wide, too, and the loading lip is low to make it easier to load heavy and bulky items.
You can't please everybody all the time, though, and the Nissan doesn't offer much to satisfy enthusiastic drivers – it leans a lot in fast corners and does little to encourage you to press on. The same is true of the Note's rivals, though, and the reality is that you'll need to settle for a supermini like the SEAT Ibiza, Volkswagen Polo or Ford Fiesta – or the Nissan Micra that effectively replaced the Note – if you want a small family car with engaging road manners.
Driving the Note is far from a drag, though, particularly when fitted with the 92bhp version of Nissan's 1.2-litre petrol engine. It has plenty of power for most everyday situations, and returns a decent 65.7mpg. If you expect to cover a really high mileage – more than about 12,000 miles a year – you might prefer the 78.5mpg diesel. Used examples are only a little more expensive than petrol versions, but are noisier when started on a cold morning.
The 92bhp petrol engine is teamed with a CVT automatic gearbox, while the 79bhp version comes only with a five-speed manual. It's rare for Carbuyer to recommend a CVT gearbox over the manual alternative, but the extra speed and response that the more powerful engine provides makes it our pick of the range. What's more, the price premium carried by the CVT when new doesn't apply so much on the secondhand market.
The Note's relative lack of driving excitement becomes a virtue when driving around town, thanks to light, precise steering and reasonably soft suspension that absorbs shocks from urban potholes and drain covers.
There are three trim levels to choose from: Acenta, Acenta Premium and Tekna. There’s also a Black Edition based on the Acenta grade. All of them get decent kit, with 15-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and air-con (but no sliding rear bench) on Acenta, while the Black Edition adds a 5.8-inch touchscreen, nifty black alloys and some exterior trim along with a bodykit.
Acenta Premium doesn’t look as sporty, but gets luxuries such as climate control and that sliding rear bench, along with an eight-inch infotainment screen, automatic lights and wipers and DAB digital radio.
The top-end Tekna trim adds more technology in the form of Nissan’s ‘Safety Shield’ camera system, keyless entry, blind-spot warning and part-leather upholstery.
Despite being discontinued in March 2017, the Note featured in our 2017 Driver Power survey, where it finished in 66th place out of 75 cars. This lacklustre result is partly explained by being a relatively old design, but several virtues still shone through brightly. Owners are particularly pleased by the Note's low running costs, for example.
The Note scored four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, but was one of the first cars to be subjected to the far more demanding rigours of the organisation's latest testing regime. In fact, its adult and child occupant protection scores were very impressive, but it misses out on some of the latest collision-mitigation technology.
Overall, the practical, comfortable Nissan Note still has a lot to offer, and is even more attractive at secondhand prices.