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Nissan Note 1.5 dCi 86 Acenta + Connect

Click to view picture gallery“The Nissan Note, a supermini-sized
  compact-style MPV, was a notable
  car when it was launched in the
  buoyant new car market of 2006.
  Now, in today’s recession hit market-
  place, it
s seemingly even better
  placed to compete

THE SIZE IS RIGHT, THE PRICE IS RIGHT and the special launch offers to customers placing their orders before the end of March 2009 are as 'right' as you can get.

Customers wanting a 1.4-litre petrol model can be upgraded to a 1.5-litre diesel model at no extra cost — the upgrade would normally cost you 1,070. So, in other words, a diesel model for the same price as a 1.4-litre petrol version. And for just 400 more, the new all-singing, all-dancing, Nissan Connect integrated audio, GPS navigation and communication system, which has to be worth over 1,000 in value, is an option for Acenta and standard for Tekna versions. These are thoroughly practical and really notable reasons to forget the recession and go and buy a Note NOW! Prices range from 9,795 to 13,965.

The supermini-sized five-door hatchback-cum-MPV is arguably the right car for today's motoring climate. Not too large; but it can still be a comfortable main or second car and is more versatile than, say, a conventional hatchback such as the new Ford Fiesta. This explains why over 55,500 Notes have been bought in the UK since its launch in 2006 — 20,620 of them last year which, despite the start of the recession, was more than Nissan sold in 2007. Not surprisingly, other manufacturers have picked up on this one-car-does-it-all role and the similar Fiat Qubo and Kia Soul are both recent additions to this market sector.

The latest Note model — refreshed for 2009 — continues the long-wheelbase, five-door, five-seat hatchback design but the front and rear views have been freshened up by a new bonnet, bumpers and lights. The stacked rear lights either side of the rear tailgate are visually the best of the changes. Inside, the Note has a better quality feel about it; the plastics look and feel nicer, as do the seat coverings.

Highlight of the interior is the 400 Nissan Connect system — a real bargain and it works really well. Part of the standard Tekna specification and optional on Acenta models, Nissan Connect provides for the first time in the compact family car sector a competitively-priced entertainment system with full connectivity to external audio players and an innovative navigation system packed full of features offering the user-friendliness of a portable SatNav system.

Key features include a 5-inch touchscreen for ease of use, a CD/radio plus USB and aux-in connectors enabling iPods and other MP3 players to be operated using Note's audio functions. There's also full Bluetooth functionality that permits hands-free calls and, where a mobile or audio device supports it, A2DP audio streaming that allows audio files to be played wirelessly.

“And it is not just clever
at passenger carrying;
the Note’s load area
is smart as well...”
The satellite navigation element of Nissan Connect provides 2D or 3D maps, voice guidance, TMC (Traffic Message Channel) and a special Eco route-finder aimed at maximising fuel economy. Gyro and speed sensors help ensure pinpoint accuracy, particularly when recalculating a route after a wrong turn, as well as overcoming the 'blackouts' that can be experienced in tunnels with conventional systems.

Also, unusually in this segment, Acenta and Tekna models are now equipped with a speed limiter function — particularly useful in reduced speed areas such as road works.

The Note has, I think for its size and price, class-leading cabin space and great flexibility thanks to a sliding rear bench seat which can be moved by up to 160mm to increase load space or leg-room as required. Even with the seat pushed as far forward as possible, there's still sufficient legroom to accommodate two adults. And when pushed back, available rear legroom rises substantially.

And it is not just clever at passenger carrying; the Note's load area is smart as well. With the rear seats in place, there's a minimum of 280 litres of luggage space. However, the load area has a false floor, which is covered by twin steel-framed boards (known as the Flexi-Board system) on all but the base model and capable of withstanding loads of up to 50kg. Lifting either of the boards reveals a secret storage space beneath the boot floor ideal for stowing valuables out of sight.

Lowering the luggage boards into the boot well increases the load volume to 380 litres. Should extra space be needed for larger items, the rear seat can slide forward — a simple, one-handed operation either in the load area or from inside the cabin and 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 an easy-to-clean waterproof surface on the other allowing, for example, muddy outdoor footwear, garden plants, ski boots, wet swimming gear or the family dog to be carried without fear of marking the interior — just wipe them down at journey's end. For massive loads simply folding the rear seatbacks increases the space to 1,332 litres.

I have concentrated on the practicalities of the latest Note because people are now buying practical cars. For the record the 1.4-litre, 87bhp petrol engine is likely to remain the most popular in the long term. There is also a 1.6-litre 108bhp petrol unit and, my choice, the 1.5-litre dCi 85bhp turbodiesel unit — this officially returns 62.8mpg with CO2 emissions of 119g/km which in turn means just 35 in road tax. My test car returned exactly 60mpg over motorways and A/B roads at typical real-life user speeds. Impressive.

With prices ranging from 9,795 up to 13,965 through 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine options, there is a choice of trim and equipment levels: Visia, Visia with air conditioning, Acenta, Acenta with Nissan Connect and Tekna. The middle specification grade — Acenta — will take nearly 50% of sales, with Visia and the top-level Tekna taking around 25% each.

The Acenta grade is almost ideal and the standard equipment includes cruise control, speed limiter, front and rear electric windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, air conditioning, front, side and curtain airbags, 60:40 split folding rear seats, Flexi-Board storage system, information computer and alloy wheels. I'd add in the 400 Nissan Connect system for the almost perfect package.

Actually... not quite perfect. Why? Because unless the customer goes for the top Tekna grade there's no electronic stability control system. Very disappointing, Nissan, for a family car. But apart from that, and the rather understated exterior styling, Note-worthy features include well thought-out use of space, good quality, well built, improved handling and ride comfort, good to drive, Nissan Connect system and the currently good offers on prices. — David Miles

Nissan Note 1.5 dCi 86
Acenta + Connect | 12,815
Maximum speed: 102mph | 0-62mph: 13.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 60mpg | Power: 85bhp | Torque: 148lb ft
CO2 119g/km | VED Band B 35 | Insurance group 4E