New Note comes with a different tune in mind
Now Fiesta and Polo in its sights
THIS new Note marks an important shift in what it is supposed to do for you.
It is no longer a people-carrier (MPV) in the strict sense of the word. With its lower, more elongated hatchback, it's been designed and priced (lower too) as a supermini, just like a Ford Fiesta or Toyota Yaris. As one Nissan exec said: "Now we're facing the giants."
They insist it now competes for your money at the heart of the supermini segment.
So instead of being something you would consider if looking for alternatives to, say, a Ford B-Max, it is something you might think about instead of a Yaris or Volkswagen Polo.
It is all about perception – and price.
The upshot is that the Japanese maker now has three big names across the smaller-car segment – a heavily revised Micra at the lower end, this new Note in the middle, and the off-beat but highly popular Juke at the luxury end. I have driven versions of each.
The Note, built on the marque's lightweight 'V' platform, takes centre stage because it is brand new. It will get here in October and should cost from around €16,000. That is the critical factor.
Standard equipment (XE) will include cruise control, six airbags, electric front windows, 15ins wheels, stop/start, tyre pressure monitor. SV spec will add air con, Bluetooth, electric windows, 16ins alloys, and SVE will top up with Nissan Connect (integrates satnav with Bluetooth, USB and iPod/iPhone connectivity in one touchscreen interface), sliding rear bench, third rear headrest, front fogs.
We were a bit spoiled with the first version we drove. It had this dynamic styling pack which added a rear spoiler, flank treatment and smart touches to the lower front. Oh yes, we'd go for that. Sadly, it is not a real goer for here because it comes as part of a high-spec version and costs too much.
Subsequent versions we drove didn't have the same styling pack – and it showed. Still a decent looking motor.
We drove the 3cyl, 1.2-litre DIG-S petrol (direct injection gasoline supercharged), with 95bhp on tap (99g/km).
Important to understand they have tuned the suspension especially for this. I was impressed with how the engine worked all the way to 5,900 revs. And it had excellent capability for a small car in the way it handled. The less powerful 3cyl 1.2-litre (80bhp, 109g/km) will probably be the bigger seller here, and cost less, but I think you should take a look at the DIG-S. I also drove the 1.5-litre diesel (90bhp, 95g/km,) with high expectations. Sadly they were not met.
It was flat, groany and the 16ins tyres on it generated too much cabin noise. Didn't like it at all in this – much better in the Juke. I preferred the 1.2-DIG-S in the Note. There's a prime example of a petrol beating the pants off a diesel. And not just on drive – the diesel will cost a couple of grand more too.
There was really good room in the cabin, especially the back seats. And the 325-litre boot extends to 411 litres with rear seats folded. But I was disappointed with the plastic on the dash. It felt cheap compared with what Ford do in the Fiesta, for example. But they made a great job of the seats and, importantly, the design of the car meant I had excellent over-the-shoulder visibility – the two back pillars, often the culprits in blocking sight, are narrow and Nissan have got a little triangle window into the design.
They also major on visibility with a package they call the Safety Shield – it's an option, not standard. Basically it combines a rear-view camera with all sorts of intricate technology to give you a far better idea of what is going on around you. For once, the names explain what the three different elements do – blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and an advanced moving object detection system combine to alert you. The image software processes more than 15 million pixels a second.
There is also an 'around view monitor', which gives a 360-degree view when parking. Even with the windows blacked out, the cameras and bird's-eye view meant we could negotiate an obstacle course (in reverse too) by working off the central display. Well done, co-driver.
Interesting car with a lot of technology for the segment but will people switch from their traditional Fiesta and Polo superminis? Tradition, big names and long reputations are against it.
Price, equipment and rear space, especially, are for it. Worth watching out for.