Nissan Note 1.5 dCi n-tec+ review
by David Finlay (17 April 2012)
Sometimes it's possible to become very fond of a car you would never consider buying for yourself. By way of example, I give you the Nissan Note. There is nothing about this popular little compact MPV which suits my lifestyle, but I liked it exceedingly when it was launched six years ago and I like it no less now. I will miss it when it goes out of production, as it will later this year.
It will be replaced by a car which has already been displayed in concept form as the Invitation, though that may not be how it's badged when it goes on sale. Whatever it's called, it will be built at Nissan's factory in Sunderland (which, according to speculation, will soon be building as many cars per year as the entire Italian motor industry), and I hope it's as good as the Note.
In one way, it really has to be. If there's one reason why someone looking for a compact MPV should avoid the Note, it's the safety aspect. I don't mean that Notes are more than averagely likely to explode or fall over, and if people have had serious accidents in them there haven't been enough to cause a public outcry.
But the fact is that Euro NCAP gave the Note a middling report after crash testing it back in 2006 (four stars for adult occupant protection, three for child occupant protection and two for pedestrian protection under the then-current rating system), and since Nissan has not provided a later example to test since then it seems fair to assume that things have not improved since.
If, after all that, you continue to insist on buying a Note, the 1.5-litre dCi turbo diesel seems to be the engine of choice. The work of Nissan's alliance partner Renault, it's a very fine unit, the highlight of most cars to which it has been fitted over the years, but like the rest of the Note it's starting to show its age. In particular, the high-pitched gurgling noise it makes may not have been objectionable when it first came on the scene, but it has become less easy to accept with the remarkable increase in refinement shown even by small diesels.
On the other hand, it's every bit as powerful as it needs to be. Producing a maximum of 89bhp these days (previous diesel Notes didn't have quite the same urge) it gives the car a real-world spriteliness which the 12.8-second 0-62mph doesn't really convey. Official fuel economy of 67.3mpg suggests low running costs, even if you're unlikely to match that figure in everyday driving, while the 110g/km CO2 emissions mean you'll be asked to pay just £20 in Vehicle Excise Duty from the second year of ownership.
The Note also rides and handles very well, which may partly explain why I like it so much. But the most important feature is surely its practicality. Luggage volume with the rear seats in place is, at minimum, 280 litres - not a spectacular figure but one explained by the fact there's a remarkable amount of room even for tall passengers back there. If you want to adjust the compromise you can do so by moving the 40/60-split seats backwards or forwards.
Fold the seats down and the capacity increases to a splendid 1332 litres - and let's not forget that the Note comes with a system called Flexi-Board which allows you to divide the luggage area into smaller compartments of various shapes and sizes. As I've said in the past, this is not a complicated idea, but it's a very good one.
Other practical features are the six cupholders, the two 12v power sockets, the nine-litre glovebox and the storage compartment under the front passenger seat, the last two being available on all but the entry-level Note.
For its final year, the Note has had a very mild refresh, and one of the more trivial aspects to that has been a change of name, for the best-equipped model tested her, from n-tec to n-tec+. This one isn't much different from the mid-range Acenta, and costs only £500 more, but for that you get rear parking sensors, privacy glass and the obviously cheap but nevertheless effective Connect system which combines satellite navigation, a radio/CD player, Bluetooth phone connectivity and iPod, USB and aux-in sockets.
Equipment shared with the Acenta includes rather smart 16" two-tone alloy wheels, new seat fabric compared with what you could have in 2011, climate control air-conditioning and automatic headlights and wipers - not bad for just over fourteen and a half grand, though the test car's optional metallic paint and carpet mats nudged the price a little beyond £15,000.