Nissan Note (2013-2017)
By Jonathan Crouch
5DR HATCH (1.2 12V, 1.2 DIG-S, 1.5 DCI)
Nissan tried to move the second generation version of its British-built Note model more towards the conventional supermini sector but it was still more of a supermini-MPV, which was no bad thing. Better quality, sharper styling, interesting safety gear and the option of a fascinating supercharged three-cylinder engine were highlights of this MK2 model. Does it stack up as a used buy? Let’s find out.
As the small car market becomes more diverse, the definitions between its various niche segments become more difficult to tie down. Here’s a case in point, Nissan’s second generation Note. The original MK1 version of this car was launched in 2006 to pioneer a new category of super-small people carriers – so-called supermini-MPVs. Which was fine for Nssan all the time that alongside the Note, the brand had its Micra to hoover up supermini sales. That wasn’t really the case when this MK2 model Note was launched in 2013. That was a time when the fourth generation Micra model of the period was no longer being considered as a credible Fiesta, Clio or Polo supermini rival. With a MK5 Micra still four years away, Nissan decided to re-position this second generation Note as more of a supermini in order to fill the gap.
Today of course, it doesn’t matter much how Nissan originally tried to classify this car. What’s important is what it offers for the money – and on paper, that’s quite a lot, the idea with the Note being to effectively create two cars in one. So you get the pricing and driving dynamics of a Ford Fiesta-style supermini: and the roomier cabin and intelligent interior packaging of a Ford B-MAX-style supermini-MPV. Other brands have claimed this kind of thing in the past – Honda tried to do it with their little Jazz – but here, with extra space, greater comfort, new technologies and a more sophisticated driving environment, we seem to have a design that fits the bill a little more convincingly. A small car that’s less limited by its smallness than almost any we can think of. This second generation Note model was phased out in early 2017.
What To Look For
Most owners of second generation Note models seem to be pretty satisfied with their cars but inevitably, we did come across a few issues. Some owners experienced electrical problems, with things like sticking powered windows. Another had to replace a wheel bearing. One owner of a CVT auto variant experienced issues with the engine dying on uphill ascents when ‘D’ was selected. Others were irritated by the stop-start system constantly cutting in prematurely. One owner noticed a knock when driving over small bumps. Apparently also, the dash and door panels are easily scratched. Other than these things, simply check for the usual small hatch problems – kerbed alloys and interior trim scratches caused by unruly kids.
On The Road
Nissan fine-tunes all its small cars for European roads but, in contrast to the smaller Micra, the difference here is that it actually feels like it. Though the steering’s light, it’s also far more precise and responsive than the helm you get in a fourth generation Micra supermini – and the ride quality is leagues better. Yes, it’s on the firm side but broken surfaces can still be covered with supple ease and a poise that makes you far more likely to want to take this car over longer distances. We’d think twice about a lengthy cross-country jaunt in a MK4 Micra but in a Note, the prospect wouldn’t bother us at all.
A comfortable small car then – if not an especially dynamic one. The Note has never been that. Those used to superminis like Fiestas and Polos are likely to notice the earlier point at which the chassis nears its limits and the body starts to move about. But then this car has been primarily engineered for the overwhelmingly urban-based needs of likely buyers who’ll probably be more than happy with the ride and handling balance that Nissan’s Cranfield engineers decided upon. Thanks to the stiff, light V-platform you’ll find underneath, it’s certainly a useful step forward from its predecessor. Couple that with excellent all-round visibility and a tight 10.7-metre turning circle and here’s a small car that you feel you could slot in anywhere.
As for engines, well by 2013, it had become quite common for auto makers to do what Nissan did here and switch from four to three cylinder units in their small cars in the quest for greater efficiency. The downside of that is that a three cylinder layout is fundamentally unbalanced – and usually feels it from the moment you set off and your ears begin to adjust to what in many cases is a bit of a din. But not here. The smaller MK4 Micra from this era uses the same powerplants and as with that car, there’s a tone from beneath the bonnet so smooth and melodious that unless someone told you, it wouldn’t be obvious that three cylinders were beating there.
Not that you have to have 1.2-litre petrol power in your Note. Unlike its MK4 Micra stablemate, this car can offer a diesel alternative – if you don’t mind paying the price premium for it. It’s the familiar 1.5-litre dCi 90 unit also used by the rival Renault Clio and capable of giving this car a useful turn of pace that isn’t immediately obvious from performance stats suggesting that 62mph is 11.9s away en route to 111mph. Ultimately though, you don’t buy or drive this car with speed in mind. Which will suit most supermini customers just fine.
It’s surprising that this second generation Note model didn’t prove to be more successful for Nissan. In principle after all, it seemed to strike the right chord amongst the things that usually tend to matter amongst practically-minded end-users looking for a small, affordable car. So it’s easy to drive, cheap to run, spacious to sit in, large in loadspace and can offer enough hi-tech hardware to guarantee showroom sensation.
An awful lot of attributes then, to set against the fact that there are certainly more dynamic and stylish superminis out there. That was this Nissan’s problem. It was a little dull. If you don’t care about that and can find a good one, you might find that it makes a lot of sense.
Source : BournemouthEcho