Choose from 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrol engines, or a 1.5-litre turbodiesel. The 1.4 is sprightly around town and never feels out of its depth on faster roads, while the bigger petrol unit offers a noticeable step up in pace. The diesel copes more easily with everyday driving than the 1.4 petrol.
The Note's narrow body and light steering make it easy to drive in town, and you get useful feedback through the wheel at higher speeds. Firm suspension adds to the fun, giving it decent composure through bends. However, you don't pay for this with an uncompromising ride – it can thump over urban potholes, but is generally pretty forgiving.
You occasionally hear the Note's suspension doing its thing, but road- and wind noise are well suppressed. Neither the 1.4 nor the 1.6 is overly intrusive, although the smaller engine is quieter at higher speeds; and, while the diesel can be rowdy under hard acceleration, it remains quiet at a cruise.
The Note represents decent value for money when you consider the cabin space it offers, but it's a little pricey compared with the five-door superminis you might consider as alternatives to this mini-MPV. Low emissions and decent fuel economy keep running costs competitive, but it won't be worth much come resale time.
High-quality materials are used throughout and the construction is first-rate, with consistent gaps between all the panels. Equally, every knob, switch and button works with solid precision, and the Note performed well in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey, finishing second in the supermini class.
Every Note has twin front and side airbags to protect front-seat occupants in an accident, but the entry-level model misses out on full-length curtain ’bags and stability control. Security is hard to fault, with an engine immobiliser and deadlocks on all models.
The Note's two-tier dashboard houses buttons that are logically sited and intuitive to operate. However, the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach and you can't crank the seat up and down – you can change the angle of the base only.
The Note feels like a much bigger car on the inside thanks to its lofty roofline and clever packaging. The rear bench slides on runners, allowing you to choose the balance between rear legroom and luggage capacity, and with it pushed back there's plenty of room for four in the cabin. You also get a vast array of cubby holes for everyday clutter, but shoulder-room is tight, so it's not great when carrying five.
The entry-level Visia model comes with a CD player and electric front windows, but you have to upgrade to Acenta to get air-conditioning, alloy wheels and powered rear windows. Going for an N-Tec model brings sat-nav, climate control and Bluetooth, and parking sensors.
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The petrol-engined Nissan Note 1.4 Acenta costs less than the equivalent diesel-powered model and is a sound all-rounder that will serve young families and other buyers well.