Nissan Note with Connect 2009 Road Test

Sun, 22 Mar 2009

I last tested a British built Nissan Note almost three years ago and reckoned then that it was a reasonable rival to the Honda Jazz.

Not as brilliantly versatile as the Jazz inside, but slightly taller and using its height to provide more upright seating and plenty of space inside without becoming top-heavy like an MPV.

As before, the beneficial features are wide opening doors with low sills for easy access, a sliding and folding rear seat that gives either very good or excellent rear legroom without sacrificing too much boot space, and a false boot floor made up of two reversible planks that allow you either a level surface, or a deep hole in which to stow things (with a space-saver rather than a can of puncture repair glop underneath). The high roof allows three to sit in the back seat without piggy in the middle having to duck

Other knick knacks are folding picnic tables on the front seat backs, an air-conditioned glove locker capable of cooling 12 cans of Coca Cola, a dash top compartment, and a flip up passenger seat squab with ‘secret storage’ underneath (not secret any more). So no clever lift-up rear seat squabs as in the Honda Jazz. But if you wanted to store something like a wheelchair in the centre-rear, the seats do move back far enough to make this possible. And if you’re one of those people whose weekend isn’t complete without a visit to IKEA, I’m pleased to tell you that the passenger seat can be reclined completely flat so you can either sleep off the experience or accommodate MDF as long as 2.4 metres.

It’s also quite practical for DIY work on itself. You can actually change the headlamp bulbs (very easily) rather than pay a dealer to dismantle the whole front of the car, which is often the case these days. And you can power things like cooliboxes, DVD players, rubber boat inflators and electric drills from an extra socket in the boot.

Where it scores over mini MPVs like the Renault Modus (with which it shares its floorpan) is that it isn’t tall enough to upset its handling. I thought it steered and handled better than the Renault Clio (with which it also shares its floorpan), and while some people have criticised the ride quality I thought that was fine too.

Changes for 2009 include new look bonnet, bumpers and headlights, new alloy wheel designs, new interior trims and exterior colours. Acenta and Tekna models now have cruise control with a speed limiter, very handy for that 20-mile stretch of 50mph roadworks on the M1 North of Leicester. And, while the 103PS 1.5 dCi has been dropped, emissions of the 86PS diesel have been cut by 16g/km, bringing it down to 119g/km and into the £35 Band C VED bracket.

But the most interesting change is Nissan Connect, a combined music system with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and 5” colour touch screen satnav for just £400 on the Acenta and standard on the Tekna.

It’s designed to be intuitive, with buttons for the most commonly used functions as well as the touch screen and steering wheel mounted controls.

Open up the storage cubby on top of the dashboard and you’ll find both a USB connector and a 3.5mm auxiliary input socket (aux in). That means tracks stored on iPods, other MP3 players, and anything connected by USB can be played via the in-car system. MP3 and WMA music on CD can also be played.

Once an iPod is connected, the touch screen can be used to search for and select tracks and while a track is playing, the song title, artist and directory folder are all displayed on screen. The steering wheel buttons offer volume adjustment and track selection. Usefully, if you’re hopping out of the car and want to leave an MP3 player hooked up, then it can stay hidden in the storage cubby away from prying eyes.

Tracks on mobile phones or audio devices that support Bluetooth audio-streaming (A2DP) can also be played wirelessly via Nissan Connect, with on-screen display of current track and selection of previous/next tracks. You can make hands-free calls using Bluetooth-enabled mobiles and as long as your phone supports synchronisation, the phone book and call log are automatically downloaded.

As well as GPS, gyro and speed sensors constantly monitor the car’s movement, allowing quick responses and rapid rerouting after wrong-slotting. This also means that if the GPS signal is weak – for example in a tunnel – then navigation can continue.

Clear displays in either 2D or 3D formats are backed up by voice instruction and destinations can be set using postcodes. Zoom level adjusts automatically depending on road type, while the scale can be adjusted using the convenient dial on the right of the unit.

You can choose fastest or shortest route and there’s an ‘Eco’ option which selects a route aimed at optimising fuel economy. That’s complemented by TMC (Traffic Message Channel) with alternative route calculation when congestion levels are sufficiently high.

Because the navigation database is held on an SD card it need never become outdated, since map updates can be purchased and easily loaded. Similarly, points of interest and speed camera locations can be updated via the USB port.

So it’s a good car: practical, economical and decent to drive, at its best with the tax-friendly, belt-cam Renault diesel engine but also available with chain-cam 16v 1.4 and 1.6 Nissan petrol power. And it now has a brilliant, low-price music, satnav and phone system. It’s a very serious British alternative to the Honda Jazz.

Original 2006 test of Nissan Note 1.5DCI at

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