The second-generation Nissan Note is less mini MPV and more spacious Supermini. This is where Nissan wants to position the five-seat hatchback - good luck to them in a sector where competition is cut-throat.
Note's body is lower than the original, but it is still the tallest in the supermini class at 1,535mm (a Fiesta is 1,481mm). Note is also the longest car in its class at 4,100mm, that's 150mm more than a Fiesta but just 38mm longer than a Renault Clio.
The five-door Note had a very functional exterior but now it features a more sophisticated design. The front end has been improved with a new corporate grille and headlamp clusters. The bonnet features a number of creases that add a bit of character. The side view is much improved, with a sweeping, 'character line' crease. The rear is a little more curvy and, in truth, a bit bland. Viewed from behind, the Note looks a little like the old Mercedes A Class.
Inside is where Note makes a great deal of sense. The cabin is big and airy. Note is actually narrower than many superminis (Fiesta 1,722mm v Note 1,695mm) but the available space is really impressive. Note sits on Nissan's 'V' platform and has a long wheelbase that frees up a huge amount of rear space. Rear leg and headroom are very impressive and the boot is big, too, at 295 litres excluding the spare wheel well. Fold the seats flat and there is up to 2,012 litres of cargo space. Note can easily transport four adults in comfort and access is easy thanks to wide-opening doors.
Front-wheel drive Note is powered by a choice of two, three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engines and a 1.5-litre turbo diesel - all feature a five-speed manual gearbox as standard (an auto is available). At the car's European launch we first drove the more powerful, petrol 1.2 DIG-S (direct injection gasoline - supercharged) in the highest trim level, 'SVE' ('XE' is entry level and 'SV' the next one up).
Our test car was fitted with an optional 'Dynamic Pack' that added more aggressive bumpers, rear spoiler etc to give a more sporty look. Nissan is going to feature more optional packs as a way of keeping the car's core price low, letting customers decide on any additional spend. The three trim levels are pretty generous.
On the road we were impressed by the supercharged unit. It was relatively lively and refined at the same time. When pressing on, the 98hp engine could even deliver an almost meaty engine note (no pun intended). The diesel version we tested was less interesting to look at, as it didn't have the sporty optional body kit, but it was also less fun to drive. There is roughly a €2,000 premium to pay for the diesel and, unless you are a high mileage user, it doesn't make sense. There were no entry engines available to test, but it is fair to say the non-supercharged 1.2-litre will be the biggest seller.
In a full year, Nissan Ireland expects Note sales to be roughly 1,000 units. Buyers with kids will want to add the 'Family Pack' that includes a sliding rear seat bench, seat-back trays, a third rear headrest and privacy glass. If you love tech, the 'Technology Pack' adds 'Around View Monitor', Nissan 'Connect 2' and 'Nissan Safety Shield' for around €1,000.
Overall, Note now has a greater quality feel to it. Nissan dealers now have a cosy supermini family to sell, starting with the value-for-money Micra, then the extra-spacious Note and rising up to the cool Juke. Note and the revised Micra go on sale in Ireland in October, with the DIG-S engine coming in December for 2014 delivery.