The Note has been completely redesigned as Nissan try to carve out a tasty slab of the highly competitive B-segment market.
However, the second generation Note has got some very strong rivals to get past first though, most notably the Ford Fiesta, which has been the UK’s best selling car for yonks.
Every engine option has stop/start, which has significantly improved running costs, with limited knock-on to its asking price while residuals have been strengthened by up to 7%, compared to the original Note.
What’s it like to drive?
Not as good as we’d hoped. We drove the flagship Note with the fleet-friendly 1.5dCi engine in top Tekna trim (£16,950 OTR).
Before addressing its performance, it’s worth mentioning how the experience is scuppered by the off-centre steering wheel. The height of the steering wheel can be adjusted easily enough but the Note is probably the first car where we’ve wished for horizontal adjustments.
This skee-whiff steering wheel means drivers have to lean slightly to the right, which you could get accustomed to after a few days, however you wouldn’t want to get used to the inevitable backache.
The Note handles well, navigating windy roads as ably as its rivals, while the 1.5 diesel strikes a power/fuel economy balance which should please any reasonable business driver and their fleet manager. With an official combined fuel economy of 78.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 95g/km, it scampers up to 62mph in 11.9 seconds with the speedo able to reach 111mph.
Gathering pace is satisfying enough, if a little noisy with the road noise filtering in far too easily, but coming to a stop again isn’t as urgent with the late brakes not really kicking in until you virtually stamp on them.
Although notably roomier than its Micra little sister, the drive is very similar which when you’re going up against the considerably more accomplished Fiesta isn’t a good thing.
The Note may just about edge the Fiesta on fuel economy and acceleration but from the view of driver enjoyment, the Note lacks conviction on the road and would benefit from a stroke of its refinement if it wants to win over UK buyers.
The slightly-tired Honda’s Jazz is due a refresh but shouldn’t be ruled out entirely due to its dependability and decent economy retaining many fleets’ loyalty, however to drive, the Note and Fiesta are miles ahead.
Aside from the 1.5 diesel, Nissan offers two 1.2-litre manual petrols – one with 79hp and a DIG-S with 96hp, which is also available with an automatic CVT gearbox.
Some fleet bosses interested in the diesel Note should also consider the manual 1.2 DIG-S, which is also road tax exempt (99g/km CO2) with 65.7mpg but £1k cheaper to buy at £14,250. Although it may be the most miniscule of margins, it is a tiny bit nippier too with a 0-62mph time of 11.7seconds and 112mph top speed, which is 0.2seconds and 1mph faster.
Fuel economy for the 1.5 diesel has been improved from 67.3mpg combined to 78.5, a 16% improvement and it is now VED-exempt with CO2 emissions down from 110g/km to 95g/km. The 1.2 DIG-S manual is also free from VED (99g/km).
According to CAP, Note’s residual values are up by £1,125 (+7%) over a typical three-year/30,000 mile contract.
Servicing, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs should also slip by 13%, which combined with the better residuals, should see the average Note monthly contract hire rates fall by around £1,188 on a three year contract, or nearly £33 a month.
What’s the kit like?
The dashboard looks like it is largely recycled from a recent Micra with similar layout and near identical buttons and plastics. For a car with a starting price which sits at least £2k more, most buyers would expect the Note something a little more polished, especially in a range-topping model.
Top line Notes include the brilliant 360-degree Around View Monitor (AVM) which uses cameras around the exterior to provide a bird’s eye view of the car and make parallel parking a lot easier. Anyone who has seen this feature on the LEAF or Juke will notice the screen’s resolution isn’t as sharp.
We mentioned that all Notes (£11,900) have stop-start, and other standard features include four speaker CD system with USB connection, 15-inch steel wheels, six airbags and cruise control with speed limiter.
Mid-spec Acenta models (£13,250) add 15-inch alloys (or 16-inch with the DIG-S engine), air-conditioning, Bluetooth connection, steering wheel controls, power windows all round, driver's seat height adjustment, . For extra, buyers can include Nissan's enhanced 5.8-inch Connect touchscreen navigation and communication system, AVM and Safety Shield and better looks with the Dynamic Styling Pack. The optional Auto Pack also adds front fog lights, automatic headlamps, automatic wipers and auto-climate control air-conditioning.
Within the Acenta grade, the Acenta Premium (£14,150) includes the touchscreen as standard, along with climate control, auto lights and wipers, and front fog lights.
That Auto Pack comes as standard with the range topping Tekna model (£15,950) which also throws in 16-inch alloy wheels, blind spot and lane departure warning, a ‘self-cleaning rear view camera with blow and dry function, Nissan’s touchscreen with AVM, part-leather trim and keyless entry.
What can I fit in there?
Five people, comfortably. The rear bench is undoubtedly roomier than the Fiesta and Jazz.
Boot space has been improved by 20 litres, offering 300 with all seats in place opening up to a whopping 2012 litres.
How safe is it?
The original Note didn’t score very well in Euro NCAP tests in 2006 but although an official rating had not been published at time of writing, the amount of safety features in there – ESP, six airbags, blind spot warning, AVM - should be enough to secure a five star rating.
Nissan should be applauded for going up against the Fiesta but we don’t expect fleet buyers will be flocking to the Note in their droves.
Against the equivalent 1.5 TDCi Fiesta, the 1.5 dCi Note may just shade it on fuel return and is a lot roomier but it will take more than a few more mpgs difference to tear buyers away from Ford’s supermini.
Nissan Note at a glance:
Boot space:325 / 2012 litres
Petrol engines: 1.2 79hp manual, 1.2 DIG-S 96hp auto & manual
Diesel engines: 1.5 dCi 88hp manual
Trims: Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium, Tekna
Cheapest option: 1.2 Visia - £11,900 OTR
Priciest model: 1.2 DIG-S Tekna CVT / 1.5 dCi Tekna - £16,950 OTR
Most fuel efficient model: 1.5 dCi Visia 95g/km CO2, 78.5mpg (£13,900)
Fastest option: 1.2 DIG-S (£14,250, 11.7s 0-62mph, 112mph top speed)
Rivals:Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta