TEST DRIVE: Nissan Note Acenta

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Steve Sharpe drives Nissan’s restyled mini MPV

Nissan have made a big effort to increase the appeal of its supermini/mini MPV Note.

Built just up the road at the Sunderland factory, the new Note is altogether a sleeker looking car than the rather staid outgoing model.

Nissan have also given its boffins a free hand to shoehorn in as much technology as they can possibly can, but without hiking up the price, with the entry level version available at under £12,000.

We Brits have always found the company appealing, especially up here in the North East, and Nissan reported pre-orders of 14,000 being taken for the new model before it even hit the streets.

And the company expects the little car to be one of its best sellers in Europe.

It certainly looks better than the previous model, with a lower, sleeker appearance than the tall, upright looking Note of old. It still appears like a scaled down MPV, but the lines between MPV and supermini have been further blurred.

The front end has been vastly improved, with smart, swept-back headlight clusters. There are stylish creases along the flanks and the overhang at front and rear has been reduced, giving a more pronounced wheel-at-each-corner look.

The tapering rear quarterlights also add to the more aerodynamic look.

Inside the cabin you’ll find things are smart, attractive but unspectacular,

The gauges are clear and illuminated with a classy blue and white lighting scheme and the switches feel sturdy, while the touchscreen satnav / media screen is well placed and of a good size.

Underneath is an unusual circular instrument cluster which controls the heating and demisters , which I couldn’t decide whether I liked or not.

The plastics are hard to the touch but look hardwearing, and the cloth-covered seats are comfortable and supportive.

It’s not luxurious but for a car that starts out at under £12,000 it’s smart, practical and well built.

The Note is a very practical car. The large windscreen and side windows afford great visibility all around, helped by elevated driving position.

The flat, almost vertical rear window means that reversing into city parking spaces raises no problems.

Interior space is one area that this mini-MPV scores extremely highly.

There are large amounts of legroom and headroom in the front, and rear seat passengers are well catered for as well, with rear legroom being tremendous for a car of this size.

The doors open extremely wide – almost 90 degrees – so the kids can tumble in to the rear with few fights between them.

There’s 325 litres of space available in the boot, expanding to 411 litres with the rear seat bench slid fully forward, although this isn’t available on entry-level models. The rear seats split 60/40 too.

The boot also has a couple of shopping bag hooks plus a 12V power supply and a large cubby beneath the boot floor.

There’s also spacious double-decker glovebox and plenty of cup-holders inside the cabin, too.

Three engines are currently available – a 1.2-litre 80PS three-cylinder petrol, a 98PS 1.2-litre supercharged DIG-S delivering only 99g/km and a 1.5-litre 90PS dCi diesel delivering only 92g/km.

Out on the road the 1.5 diesel engine on my test car was extremely flexible. It’s at its strongest at lower speeds, with good mid-range acceleration

It means that the Note makes a fine city car, nipping happily in and out of traffic, easy to park and quick to negotiate trouble spots.

It begins to struggle if you stay in a higher gear too long when speeds drop but it will cruise at motorway speeds with little complaint, providing a comfortable ride for all occupants.

Comfort levels are good although there is some wind noise whipping through the side window.

The ride is a little fidgety over less than perfect surfaces, and these vibration levels can be felt through the steering wheel and the foot 

The Note handles well, too. The wheel-at-each-corner styling, plus a sloping bonnet, makes cornering extremely easy to judge and easy to accomplish.

There are also great levels of grip, the steering is well weighted and there’s very little lean when cornering sharply.

Nissan have really heaped on the value for money factor with this new Note, including numerous safety features.

The new Note is the first Nissan in Europe to feature the Safety Shield, a system combines Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Moving Object Detection, to bring premium technology to the small car sector for the first time.

A wide-angle rear camera has an automatic ‘wash and blow dry’ facility to keep the lens clean and there’s also the amazing Around View Monitor, a feature that provides drivers with a 360-degree bird’s eye view to take the stress out of reversing.

Both AVM and Safety Shield are incorporated into the new Note’s enhanced NissanConnect satellite navigation, Bluetooth and audio system.

The 5.8-inch touch-screen display includes Google’s ‘Send to Car’ navigation software allowing routes planned at home to be transferred directly to the car.

There are three trim levels to choose from. Opt for the cheapest Visia and you get Stop/Start, front electric windows, remote central locking and cruise control.

Move up to Acenta models and you add alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a sliding rear seat bench.

But you’ll have to pick the range-topping Tekna model to benefit from that NissanConnect, Around View Monitors and Nissan Safety Shield as standard.

It’s a £400 option on the other models, which many people may feel is worth shelling out for.

There’s very little to criticise about this new version of the Note.

It’s not the most exciting of cars but it’s practical and well put together and should be reliable in years to come given Nissan’s 
reputation – although my test car consistently decided to started on the second key turn, rather than the first, which is unusual for a brand new car, but it may have been an idiosyncrasy of that particular car.

This new Note makes great sense if you’re looking for a reliable hatchback with plenty of space.

It looks better than the model it replaces, drives well and has impressive economy figures.

With prices ranging from less than £12,000 through to just under £17,000 for the all-singing Tekna trim diesel, it’s also possible to bag a real bargain. And it’s built here on Wearside too, so you’re keeping it local.

Fact file

Nissan Note Acenta

Engine: 1.5litre diesel.

Transmission: Five-speed manual.

0-62: 11.9 seconds

Top Speed: 132mph.

Economy: Avg 78.5mpg

Price: £16,150.