The Nissan Note moves towards the conventional supermini in second-generation guise but it’s still set to be a family favourite. Better quality, sharper styling, interesting safety gear and a fascinating three-cylinder engine with a decoupling supercharger are the order of the day here.
Nissan is a company renowned for its engineering innovation but sometimes that high-tech approach fails to filter down to its more everyday models. Not this time.
Take the petrol engines in this Note. The entry-level is a three-cylinder 1.2-litre 79bhp unit. So far, so unexciting. But you can also buy a version of this engine, the 1.2-litre DIG-S, with a supercharger that boosts power to 97bhp.
Ah, but aren’t superchargers notoriously fuel-hungry things, running all the time whether you need them or not? Most are, but not this one, which uses a clutch pack to disengage the supercharger when running at low speeds. This engine also uses the Miller Cycle, a system which keeps the inlet valves open longer to help efficiency, as is also offered with CVT automatic transmission. Should you prefer, you can also get a 89bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine.
The Note has been extensively developed in Europe to offer a driving experience tailored to our road conditions. With a set-up distinct from that of the Japanese and US market, the European version has unique steering, suspension and chassis settings. The 1.2-litre DIG-S model has further dynamic tweaks for an even more engaging drive.
The old Note was a neatly styled if somewhat anonymous-looking thing. The latest car has sharper styling and a more expensive look and feel, both in and out. You’ll spot the chrome grille that seems to take a bite out of each headlight, the nicely chamfered wheel arches and the detail lines in the flanks that help avoid a slab-sided look. Nissan calls this the “squash line” because it was apparently inspired by the angles a squash ball takes around a court.
The Note marks an intriguing change of direction from Nissan. Back in the days when every major car manufacturer followed the rigid guidelines of passenger car sizing, Nissan was the first to rebel. It ditched cars like the Almera and Primera in favour of a range that majored on sports utility vehicles and people carriers, later developing the crossover theme. Now, with this latest Note, it finds itself regressing back to the mainstream with a straightforward supermini design. Is that a bad thing? Probably not. The convergent development of small MPVs and family hatchbacks has blurred the boundaries, and the result is that these categories become increasingly ill-defined.
The second-generation Note instead concentrates on what really matters to customers. That means better fuel economy, a swisher interior, more spaceand classier exterior styling. Nissan has taken a small gamble here, but it looks worthwhile. This is a company on a strong run of form and the Note doesn’t look like putting a blip in progress chart any time soon.
CAR Nissan Note
PERFORMANCE Max speed 101-114mph; 0-62mph 10.7-13.4s
CO2 EMISSIONS 110-159g/km
MPG combined 41.5-67.3