Review: Nissan Note

A dependable and practical family car

16 Nov 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Very practical

  • Great visability

  • Lots of storage room

Cons

  • Firm ride

  • Interior feels cheap

  • Diesel engines are loud

Our expert rating

The Nissan Note is a Japanese multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) built since 2004. The 2013 onwards used models are the best to go for.

This version of the Note comes with a raft of changes, not only to the styling, but also to the kit and the efficiency of the engines.

Performance

There is a choice of three engines - one diesel and two petrol. The line-up begins with the 1.2-litre petrol. This one is slow, but the other petrol engine, which is the same but with a supercharger added on, is a bit quicker.

Make the most of what power is on tap, though, and the supercharged 1.2-litre Nissan Note will accelerate fairly well and will continue on to a good top speed. If you don’t mind diesel, then this is a better way to go with the Note.

The 1.5-litre diesel car is, on paper, a little slower, but you won’t notice it because the delivery of its mid-range pulling power makes it feel faster. The engine is not sophisticated, but it’s reliable and only becomes noisy if you hang on to the gears too long.

The 1.5 diesel is definitely the best, especially for economy. It returns up to 78mpg on average. With the exclusion of the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol, all manual transmission models slip below the 100g/km CO2 limit. This means free road tax, so running the Nissan Note will not be an expensive business.

Nissan note side view

Ride and handling

The Note’s ride is firm enough to battle roll, and steering is light, but precise. It’s ideal for meandering through the city and it encourages confidence, thanks to good all-round visibility and a tight turning circle. This makes parking or U-turns a cinch!

The 2013 Nissan Note received a four star rating from EuroNCAP. It’s a shame it doesn’t have the top five stars, but it has six airbags as standard and a Lane Departure Warning system. This makes sure you keep between the white lines of the motorway, thanks to a sequence of beeps.

The Note also has a rear-mounted camera that helps you park. It has “Moving Object Detection”, too, so if it sees a youngster or other car moving towards you while you are backing-up, your Note will alert you with visual and audible signals.

Nissan Note interior

Interior space

The Note is like Doctor Who’s TARDIS. It seems much bigger on the inside than it’s on the outside. A sliding rear seat means that, fully retracted, you get more legroom than a Ford Mondeo or a BMW 7 Series – and there’s a wealth of headroom too.

Boot space is more than adequate for buggies or the shopping with seats in their normal position. There is also a 30-litre storage area under the boot-floor. This is ideal for concealing a laptop or stowing picnic blankets or baby supplies. And capitalizing on this vehicle’s carrying capacity by collapsing the rear seats so they lay flat offers 2,012-litres of load space. That is about the same as a van!

Nissan Note boot

This is a perfect car for a family, and there are three grades of trim available - Visia, Acenta and Tekna, though Acenta is strengthened by an Acenta Premium model also.

The Acenta Premium is the best value because it comes with sat-nav, climate control, front fog lights and automatic lights and wipers. The flagship Tekna is more expensive but comes with part leather seats. These are great if you have little kids, because leather is always easier to wipe down!

What to know before you buy

Electrical bugs caused by older, pre 2013, versions of the Note can result in the fog-lights refusing to turn off and the windscreen wipers going haywire. Just check this isn’t the case on your test drive by turning on the lights and wipers.

Other problems include doors refusing to unlock and the rear seat sticking so that it can't be folded down to lengthen boot space. Again, these issues are easy to inspect when you go to your viewing appointment.

There are plenty of Notes on sale though, so if you do find a problematic example, just go and check out another because, generally, there is little to worry about with most of them. Indeed, this Nissan is usually a very trustworthy car and runs on largely tried and tested mechanicals.

Nissan Note alternative Ford Fiesta

Alternative cars

The Note’s arch enemy is the Ford Fiesta. The Nissan is nowhere near as much fun to drive, but the Ford can’t touch the Note for practicality. A Fiesta from 2008 only has 290 litres of boot space.

Another motor worth looking at is the Hyundai ix20 from 2010. This has 440 litres of cargo space, compared with the 2013 Note’s 411 litres. However, fold down the seats, and there is only a maximum capacity of 1,486 litres, compared with the Note’s 2,012-litres. The diesel engine on the ix20 is also generally noisier than the Nissan’s.

Overall verdict

The Note’s dependability and pure practicality means that it’s a motor that you can buy used without much apprehension. This model of Nissan is often bought new by mature or family buyers who have their cars thoroughly serviced.

Just as long as you don't chance upon one that's had its cabin spoilt by uncontrollable kids or pets, you shouldn't go far wrong.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall