IT USED to be that superminis just trundled to the shops on a weekly basis and not much else, but now we want our small cars to slog up the motorway, be stuffed full of children and shopping and still look smart on the driveway.
The first Nissan Note took on all this and more, going down the route of a mini-MPV rather than a conventional hatchback. The tall body and high seating position gave a great view and plenty of space, but now the second-generation Note has arrived and it’s aiming even higher.
The latest Note shares some of its key components with the new Micra and is designed to attract conventional supermini buyers as well as those looking for a small MPV. From the outside there are clear visual similarities with the old model but this is a much sharper looking car; it still has the tall and spacious body but the design is more eye-catching and appealing. It’s also more aerodynamic than before which helps to cut fuel consumption.
The engine range offers something for everyone. The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol keeps the list price to a minimum, while above that sits a supercharged version with a remarkable blend of performance and economy thanks to its clever design. The range-topping 1.5-litre dCi diesel, delivers good economy and low emissions – 95g/km means a zero rate of VED.
The new Note has given nothing away in terms of its practicality. With a high roofline, headroom is excellent, while legroom in the rear is better than before. Anyone with taller children or who regularly needs to carry adults in the back will find this extra space a real boon. Slide the seats all the way back for extra legroom and the boot space is still good. Switch it around and there’s still sufficient legroom for shorter people while the boot becomes vast. The rear doors open much wider than in a conventional car.
There’s a lot more technology on the Note too. Billed as Nissan Safety Shield, it combines lane departure warning, blind spot warning and moving object detection to give the Note the kind of sophisticated safety systems normally reserved for bigger, more expensive cars. They work well too, and the clever rear-mounted camera also offers a superb 360 degree view when reversing.
On the road, the Note delivers an unobtrusive and relaxing drive. The 1.5-litre diesel offers up torque readily, so only a brief squeeze of the accelerator is required to stay in touch with traffic. The manual gearshift has a relatively long throw but is slick, while the steering is light and easy to manage. Around town, the ride quality filters out much of the rough stuff and, should you pile into a bend a little too quickly, the Note stays free from body roll and will see you through smoothly.
The standard specification on this Tekna model is also very good, including Nissan Connect, 16-inch alloy wheels, part-leather seats, Nissan Safety Shield, a start/stop button, leather steering wheel and automatic air con.
The Note is an impressive all-round package, with versatility, comfort and a good dose of luxury all rolled into one. Keener drivers may want a little more than the Note offers, and the reach adjustment on the steering wheel would be welcome. But as an alternative take on the small car, the Note will make you question why you should settle for a standard small hatchback.
CAR Nissan Note 1.5 dCi Tekna
PERFORMANCE Top speed 111mph, 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds
MPG 78.5 combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 95g/km