The new Nissan Note is a dynamically different take on the conventional family hatchback. Exceptionally spacious, it was designed, engineered and will be manufactured in the UK. There’ll be a choice of three engines and three equipment levels. Prices will start from a notable £9995 for the 1.4 S topping out at £13,395 for the 1.6 SVE automatic. All are orderable now for delivery in March (April for diesel).
Because Nissan has designed the Note for a customer group (primarily young families) rather than a specific market sector, it might need a little dimensional positioning. So at 4083mm long, the Note fits into Nissan’s range above the Micra and is larger than the Modus, say, from Alliance partner Renault. It’s shorter than a Volkswagen Golf overall but the Note’s 2600mm wheelbase is actually longer than the German favourite. Why? To give maximum interior space versus exterior size.
One area where Note doesn’t beat the established competition is in its overall height. Note is significantly lower than the Vauxhall Meriva, for example, (1555mm/1625mm respectively) to the benefit of Note’s design and on-road dynamics. Clever packaging, however, means it offers just as much interior height.
The overall result is class leading passenger space matched by a flexible luggage compartment. Note has a sliding rear bench seat designed to increase leg room or load space as required: it moves up to 160mm. And it’s so simple to use, male owners won’t lose face by having to defer to the Note’s handbook.
The load area is a lesson in design versatility. With the rear seats in place, there’s a minimum of 280 litres of load space available. But there’s more. The load area has a false floor, covered by a split luggage board on all but the base model. This is also so simple to use that a child could do it. Or even the well fed dog it’s been designed to carry.
Lifting one or other of the boards reveals a secret storage space beneath the boot floor ideal for stowing valuables out of sight. Slide the rear seat forward – a simple, one-handed operation either in the trunk or inside the cabin – and lowering the luggage board, the load area rises to 380 litres. Should extra space be needed for larger items, the boards can be removed altogether, raising total load space potential to 437 litres.
The boards are also reversible, with conventional carpet on one side and a waterproof covering on the other. When carrying wet or muddy items e.g. the dog, the interior of the car can be kept clean simply by reversing the boards and then wiping them down at journey’s end.
More flexibility is provided by the front passenger seat which reclines to the horizontal and thus, in combination with the folded rear seats, allows objects as long as 2.4m to be carried – ideal for anyone with a passion for self-assembly shelving.
Rather easier to put together is the Note range. There are three equipment levels: S, SE and SVE. Prices start at £9995 for the 1.4 S with 88PS. If you want to step up to 1.6 110PS power, it’s another £700. For those who’d rather do diesel, the 1.5dCi 86PS engine adds £1000. Finally, automatic transmission is available for £700 on top of the price of the 1.6 S. And these engine premiums are carried across the SE and SVE, too, except you can’t have a 1.4 SVE. Sorry.
The Note S comes with anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and a quartet of airbags. It also gets a CD player, front electric windows, remote central locking, flat reclining front passenger seat, friendly lighting system with battery save, a nine litre glovebox, passenger airbag cut-off switch, Isofix childseat mounting points and the sliding rear seat. Air conditioning can be added for £600.
The SE adds the air conditioning which includes cooling vents for the glovebox, another two airbags, 15″ alloy wheels, the split level luggage floor called Flexi-Board in Nissan-speak, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, rear electric windows, rear cabin lights, a centre armrest for the driver, expandable front seatback mounted pockets and foldaway tray tables for the kids, a six speaker stereo for everyone and extra colour-coding for the body. Not a bad stash for £1000.
Then for another £1000, the SVE’s mirrors electrically fold, the alloys grow to 16″, the air conditioning gets upgraded to electronic climate control, electronic stability programme becomes standard (except on automatic models) as does part leather upholstery, and the SVE’s headlights and wipers will come on automatically. So easy. Oh, and the rear passenger windows are dark tinted – it’s a feature much loved by publicity shy teenagers, according to Nissan’s research.
Note will deliver dynamically for mums and dads who enjoy their driving. The structure is 25 per cent stiffer than Micra and roll stiffness has been increased by 19 per cent. The chassis, which features MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam behind, has been fine tuned by Nissan’s technical centre in Cranfield, UK. Springs, dampers and suspension bushes have all been specially tuned for Europe.
This has resulted in a stiffer front anti-roll bar and the adoption of ripple control shock absorbers and rebound spring – features normally found in higher segment vehicles – which is key for good ride comfort. Rear suspension stiffness, however, has been reduced by 8 per cent to ensure ride quality is not compromised.
“Note is a significant car for Nissan. It fulfils all the practical needs of a busy young family, but also delivers a genuinely dynamic driving experience to match its individual looks. Note is a segment-busting non-conformist designed to appeal to buyers for whom traditional family segment cars are just too conservative. It offers genuine choice without compromise.” So says Brian Carolin, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Nissan Europe.
Those individual looks were hinted at by the TONE show car displayed at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Indeed Note incorporates styling cues from other Nissan design studies and production cars. The front – which marks the first appearance of Nissan’s new corporate grille for a European product – continues Nissan’s design trend of bold headlamp treatment. Think Murano with a Micra twist.
Note incorporates an elongated version of Nissan’s signature arched roof-line. The triangular rear side windows echo those seen on Murano, and the tailgate has a hint of X-TRAIL. But the dramatic boomerang tail-lights which link the roof line with the tailgate have only been seen before on the Qashqai crossover concept shown at the 2004 Geneva Show. Unfortunately for the dog, they don’t detach.