Review: Nissan Note (2013 – 2016)
Practical design and spacious cabin. Reasonably comfortable. Clear instrument binnacle. Some clever technology on upper grades
Not very good to drive. Refinement isn't great. Material quality could be better.
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Nissan Note (2013 – 2016): At A Glance
The Nissan Note follows a very Japanese formula, maximising the use of space in a small package. It’s designed to seat four or even five adults in comfort, with a good level of leg and head room and a spacious luggage area, but in a car not much longer than a Ford Fiesta.
It’s full of clever ideas like a sizeable under floor storage area in the boot and a rear bench seat that can be moved forward and backward depending on how much legroom or load space is required. There’s a double floor in the boot, too, which gives more load space when it’s in the lower position or sits flush with the load lip to aid in loading bulky, heavy items.
Unfortunately it’s not all good news for the Note. The cabin is finished in a dull, hard touch plastic that while hardwearing is not as plush as the soft-touch material you get in European rivals. Furthermore some of the best gear, like the sliding rear bench, isn't offered on base models.
On top of that the driving experience isn’t enjoyable – the steering feels disconnected and the gearchange isn’t very accurate. Additionally the refinement isn’t great – gearboxes can be heard whining, engines are a little gruff and wind noise is noticeable at motorway speeds.
There are two engines from launch – a 1.3-litre three-cylinder petrol with 80ps and a 1.6-litre dCi diesel with 90ps. Both offer decent if not scintillating performance, paired with reasonable fuel economy. From December 2013 the range is joined by a more powerful, supercharged version of the petrol engine with 98ps. Four trim levels are offered – Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium and Tekna. The entry level model has a decent level of standard gear but those who want the best technology will need a higher trim level.
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Nissan Note (2013 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?
If you’re looking for practicality above all else then the Note should be up your street. The cabin is upright and offers masses of head room front and rear, with an adjustable rear bench that lets you choose between maximum rear legroom and maximum load space.
With the seats slid back the boot has a 325-litre capacity but that increases to 411 litres by sliding them forward with either the handle in the load area or the handle in the cabin. Additionally the rear seats can be folded to give 2011 litres of capacity to the roofline. Sadly the sliding rear bench is only available on Acenta trim and higher.
What’s more is the double load floor – this has two heights, one to maximise space and another to make the load deck flush with the load lip, which is ideal for loading heavy items as they can be slid in or out without fouling anywhere.
Furthermore the load floor can be partially folded to reveal an extra storage area with space for a couple of shopping bags. Moving the load floor around is a little tricky at first but is easy to get the hang of and it makes the Note more practical than typical small hatchbacks – though it’s not quite as well executed as the Honda Jazz.
There’s a range of technology options available on the Note and the Around View Monitor system is easily the best. It is standard on the top trim level and a £400 option as part of a broader safety pack on mid-spec models, and it is a tremendous help to those who find parking tricky.
It provides a simulated bird’s eye view of the car thanks to a number of cameras installed in the mirrors and bumpers. The display then makes it possible to thread the car into small spaces and tight garages with ease and it’ll even alert you if a stray pet or person walks into the path of the car.
Furthermore it has a traditional reversing camera system built in along with a kerb camera which shows where the wheels are in relation to the kerb. It means you can easily parallel park with precision and you don’t need to sacrifice your alloy wheels. As part of the system you also get a lane departure warning system and blind spot monitor, both of which have irritating chimes that sound not unlike an alarm clock from the 1980s.
While the cabin is among the most practical offered in a small car it’s not without its problems. There are no soft touch plastics – everything is covered in an obviously hardwearing but very drab grey plastic which doesn’t feel very sophisticated. Add to that some cheap-looking details like the air vents and centre stack control switches and the Note feels a bit low rent. That’s not helped by the cloth upholstery which feels thin, as if it wouldn’t survive the relentless abuse of children over a few years.
Standard equipment from launch:
Visia models come with a CD player, USB and Aux connectivity, Bluetooth, electrically adjustable door mirrors, stop/start, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, split fold rear seats, electric front windows, daytime running lights, keyless entry and steel wheels. Air conditioning is a cost option on Visia models.
Acenta trim adds steering wheel mounted audio controls, heated door mirrors, electric rear windows, air conditioning, sliding rear bench seat, 15-inch alloy wheels, front and rear armrests, adjustable load area floor, body coloured exterior details plus rear privacy glass.
Accenta Premium gets climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, front foglights plus the Nissan Connect sat nav and touch screen system. Options on this grade include Safety Pack with around view monitor and the Comfort pack with glass roof.
Tekna adds the Around View Monitor, i-Key with keyless start button, improved audio system, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, leather covered steering wheel, part leather seats and 16-inch alloy wheels. Options include a styling pack with front and rear aprons plus a spoiler.
Child seats that fit a Nissan Note (2013 – 2016)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Nissan Note (2013 – 2016) like to drive?
The Note is offered with four combinations of engine and transmission – from launch there’s an 80PS 1.2-litre three cylinder petrol and a 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine. Later those two are joined with a 98PS supercharged version of the 1.2-litre petrol which can also be paired with a CVT automatic transmission.
The 1.2-litre 80PS engine is the least expensive and it offers a decent level of performance, pulls reasonably well, but it is necessary to plan ahead when overtaking or driving on the motorway.
The 1.5 dCi is much better in that regard with a healthy 200Nm of torque available from 1750rpm. It’s more hushed at motorway speeds and has more flexible in gear performance, so changing down through the gears to overtake isn’t necessary.
Neither engine is particularly refined, however – they both sound a little noisy when starting up and out on the road. At low speeds the gearbox can be heard whining and at high speeds there’s noticeable wind noise. On top of that the brakes don’t have much bite and need to be given a firm shove to do their job.
The driving experience itself isn’t very good either – the steering feels a little ‘rubbery’ and disconnected thanks to inconsistent weighting and the gear change, while light, isn’t very precise. On the plus side the ride is compliant and fairly comfortable, though it is noticeably better in the petrol-powered car, perhaps because of its lighter weight.
The handling, regardless of engine, is fairly safe and predictable but it’s not particularly noteworthy, no pun intended. Given the target market that doesn't matter much – it’s unlikely to be driven particularly hard or fast.
All of the engines offer decent fuel consumption on paper – the 1.2-litre petrol has combined cycle economy of 60.1mpg when naturally aspirated or 66.7mpg with the supercharger. Add a CVT gearbox and the figure drops to 54.3mpg, with emissions of 109g/km, 99g/km and 119g/km for the three engines, respectively.
The cleanest and most frugal engine is the 1.5 dCi diesel – it has combined cycle economy of 78.5mpg and emissions of 92g/km. Given the fact it offers the best performance it’s probably the engine to choose, unless your journeys are mostly short and urban.
|1.2||60 mpg||13.7 s||109 g/km|
|1.2 DIG-S||66–79 mpg||11.7–11.9 s||92–99 g/km|
|1.2 DIG-S Automatic||55 mpg||12.6 s||119 g/km|
|1.5 dCi||79–81 mpg||11.9 s||92–93 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Nissan Note (2013 – 2016)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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