2015 Nissan Note 1.2 N-Tec review
New trim level offers more kit and sharper looks for a tolerable premium, but an underpowered engine dents its appeal...
The new N-Tec version of the Nissan Note small MPV is designed to appeal to buyers looking for something a little more distinctive and better equipped.
It’s based on an Acenta Premium version, which already comes with a decent amount of equipment – including sat-nav, climate and cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic lights and wipers.
The N-Tec trim level expands on that comprehensive specification list with the addition of a reversing camera with moving object detection, blind-spot warning and lane departure warning. You also get a host of cosmetic upgrades, including an exterior styling pack and exclusive alloy wheels.
All in, it commands a premium of £900 over the Acenta Premium. You can only get the N-Tec in conjunction with the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine, though – not the more powerful supercharged 1.2-litre petrol, or the frugal 1.5-litre diesel.
What is the 2015 Nissan Note 1.2 like to drive?
As you’d hope for a compact MPV that’s likely to be used primarily around town, the Note is a doddle to drive. The steering is light, the turning circle is decent, visibility is excellent and it rides well. It’s competent in corners, too, always feeling safe and secure. Sure, there’s little fun to be had here – but that’s a bit of a moot point given its intended use.
One minor gripe is that the clutch biting point is very near to the top of the long-travel pedal, meaning you have to move your leg an excessive amount to fully engage the clutch before stepping off the pedal. Drive in slow-moving traffic for a while and it quickly becomes a little tiresome. In fact the transmission as a whole could do with some improvement – the gearlever needs to be more precise because there’s quite a bit of free play in the lever, and during deceleration there’s a lot of whine from the gearbox.
What really detracts in this particular specification, however, is the powerplant. The three-cylinder engine churns out just 79bhp and the Nissan feels sluggish. Around town it’s tolerable but head out onto the motorway or freer-flowing country roads, and you can sometimes feel like a bit of a moving obstacle. It's quiet enough on the move, otherwise, so shouldn't prove too much of a chore on longer journeys.
The consolation is that, even if you work it hard, it shouldn’t burn through much fuel. Nissan claims an average of 60.1mpg, granting the Note a useful range of around 540 miles. We saw an indicated 44mpg during our test, and no doubt a higher figure could be achieved. You'll pay only £20 a year for VED, too.
What is the 2015 Nissan Note 1.2 like inside?
Surprisingly spacious and practical. The seats are comfortable, there's plenty of room up front, and rear leg and head room is equally impressive. You can even fit five adults in, at a push. All four doors open to almost 90 degrees, making entry and exit easy.
The Note packs a large boot, too, which features a variable-height floor. The rear seats split and fold, further increasing the available space should you need it.
The quality of the cabin is acceptable, although some of the plastics are a bit cheap-looking, and everything’s sensibly laid out. The steering column doesn’t adjust for reach but, thanks to a range of seat adjustments, it’s not too hard to find a comfortable seating position.
Touches like three standard-fit rear headrests further bolster the Nissan's safety and comfort levels. You don't get a spare wheel, though, just a tyre repair kit.
Should I buy one?
No, but not because of the additional cost. The premium for the safety kit and cosmetic upgrades isn’t unjustified, although admittedly the visual aspects are likely irrelevant to most buyers.
What spoils the appeal of the N-Tec is the fact that you’re stuck with the basic 1.2-litre petrol engine, which doesn't have enough power. If you’re in the market for a Note, we’d recommend opting for a more powerful 1.2-litre DIG-S version in Acenta Premium specification.
Not only will you get a similar amount of kit – and you can add the extra safety gear found in the N-Tec for £400, if desired – but you also get a far better engine. Besides being more powerful, it’s also more efficient. It's VED-exempt, as a result, and it’s claimed to average almost 6mpg more than the model tested here.
What Car? says...
Nissan Note 1.2 N-Tec
Engine size 1.2-litre petrol
Torque 81lb ft
0-62mph 13.7 seconds
Top speed 106mph
Fuel economy 60.1mpg