Time Well Spent: Nissan Note 1.2 n-tec 7/10

Mike Humble:

Nissans successful small hatch now comes with a no frills basic engine but with a little more equipment thrown in with this n-tec trim level. With the usual Nissan promise of decent reliability, does this strike a chord with potential buyers?

The well equipped and rather clever Nissan Note n-tec 1.2


Reading the press spec sheet that Nissan kindly supplied with the vehicle, the stats and figures fail to get the pulse racing. Armed with just 80Ps of power with three cylinders and not even a turbocharger for added pep, the Note 1.2 n-tec, on paper anyway, seems like just another city-car to blend in to the urban street furniture picture. But just wait a moment… the Note is actually a well thought through motor car. Forget the badge on the grille and disregard rivals like the Polo just for one moment and spend a little while taking on board the rather clever design touches and remarkable use of almost every inch of available space.

Some call it a mini MPV but I would prefer to regard it as being a 5 door hatchback. One thing I would state is how colour sensitive the Nissan Note is, white ones look plain and boring but this test car came in Magnetic Red – what a colour and what a decent spray job too. With this colour, the sprinkling of gloss black and mock carbon fibre details on the exterior, it looks, in my opinion anyway, very smart… almost executive looking in appearance. The aforementioned with added rear privacy glass and the diamond cut 16″ alloy wheels means you have a pretty slick and handsome looking small car that really does look a cut above some of its rivals.

Definitely a colour sensitive shape but arguably looks superb in this optional Magnetic Red (adds £550 to the asking price)


You wont complain about the paintwork or panel gaps, they are both very good to look at giving a feeling of quality and ability to keep its good looks for years to come. Jumping inside the Note its not difficult to appreciate the feeling of space. Plenty of head and legroom is on offer although it does feel a little narrow inside but that’s no bad thing, it is a small car after all. The driving position is pretty decent although the steering wheel only adjusts for height but the seat offers plenty of scope for fine-tuning the experience for short or tall drivers. Instruments comprise of a large neon lit effect speedometer and rev counter with LED bar graph temperature and fuel gauges with extra displays for the trip computer – the latter being slightly small in font and fussy to read at a glance.

As is the case with many cars in this sector, the dashboard is made of various clumps of hard plastic which feels disappointing to the touch. That said nothing feels loose, nothing rattled or squeaked and I liked the two piece glovebox though the upper one needs some kind of non slip matting to stop objects clattering about during spirited cornering. Heating, demisting and aircon features are operated by a cool looking circular panel with push buttons. Even though I liked the style of it, night time tinkering especially requires you to look at the display rather than the simple subconscious operation you would find with traditional rotary dials or levers. On an upside, the engine warms quickly and the heating system works well – especially the air conditioning on face level setting.

Its very well equipped inside and comfy too. Plenty of room for nick-nacks including a novel twin glove box and loads of hidey holes. Drivers seat features a neat armrest and plenty of scope for adjustment but the gearshift is loose and imprecise and the clocks can reflect in the glass at night.


Head unit packs a lot of tech into the Note and the heater / demister works very well. Fiddly buttons mean you have to look and study for a moment before adjusting or switching on until you are used to the layout.


At the rear, as in the front, there is a really superb amount room for two (three is a definite squeeze) and you can balance the boot space with its sliding rear bench seat. Accessing the rear is a doddle thanks to the rear doors opening to almost 90 degrees – if the rear cushion lifted up and locked into position too, the Note would match the Honda Jazz for practicality and clever use of space. Total boot space amounts to almost 1500 litres and the boot floor can be positioned in a number of ways thus offering a useful amount of out of sight storage space. With the boot floor (Nissan call it a Flexi-Board dear reader) in its uppermost position you can fold the seat backs flush to the floor making those long loads less labour intensive to slide in.

Handling is safe and secure. Despite the tall body line there isn’t as much body roll as you might first imagine. The steering lacks feel but weights up well under hard cornering and the utterly simplistic disc / drum braking system anchors the Note up very well indeed though the pedal does have a notable spongy feel to it compared to some other models. Ride comfort is firm and sometimes bumpy around town and some road noise enters the cabin on rough roads but a nice smooth motorway or dual carriageway finds the Note trundling along quite happily at the national speed limit. I didn’t find any problems with the front seats – good for a long trek and the neat little armrest is a nice touch too. My only real driving gripe is a rather loose and sloppy gearchange action and high biting point of the clutch pedal.

Heaps of space in the boot – almost 1500 litres in fact all told. Back doors open to 90 degrees and rear leg and headroom is excellent. False floor offers a more secure area for valuables and seats fold fully flat too – a rare commendable feature for a small car these days!


The 1198cc triple is fine around town and when cruising – sounds happy and buzzy for most if the time too – close your eyes and it almost sounds like an exotic V6 – until you really push it. Add some passengers and performance becomes a bit blunted. Economy is very good though and we came close to matching the claimed figure of a combined 60.1mpg.


As a driving machine, it would be fair to not expect great balls of fire from a fuel injected three cylinder power unit with 80Ps under your right foot. Being blessed with a long stroke the engine does pull okay from low revs, it just lacks mid range zoom. The best way to describe the power delivery is lazy but it does sound quite entertaining when you work the plant a bit harder. It almost sounds like an Italian V6 sometimes… no! honest! but its here the similarities end, the strokey three pot does run out of puff towards the upper end of its rev band. Drive the car in normal everyday situations and its economical and you’ll have little to complain about, but add extra passengers and regular long journeys and you may want to consider Nissans supercharged 3 cylinder 1.2 DIG-S engine instead.

Overall? A happy little thing that’s been designed with a great deal of thought consideration. Everything you need and nothing that you don’t… and amazingly spacious too.



There’s no doubt about it, the Note is a pretty decent machine in most areas. Clever design, good looks albeit the car being colour sensitive and masses of interior space. In n-tec trim youll also find an impressive level of fixtures and fittings that includes a virtual 360 degree parking camera system, sat-nav, DAB wireless, cruise control and a very in depth and informative trip computer.

For everyday driving this 80Ps engine does okay though the power delivery is a bit lazy and the engine roars when you push on hard to compensate, that sloppy gear lever lets the experience down a little too. Otherwise, you are left with a happy little car that brims with character… something you don’t always find in this class. For the £16,235 asking price including the optional metallic paint, the n-tec is well equipped, economical and reasonably good value for money.

As mentioned though, if you regularly carry a full quota of clutter and passengers, you might want to consider the higher powered supercharged DIG-S model. But for those odd trips down to the coast and the usual urban crawls the 80Ps 1.2 will do you proud.

Its a very intelligent and thought through little car – very likeable!

MODEL TESTED: Nissan Note 1.2 n-tec

PRODUCED BY: Nissan Motor Manufacturing GB Sunderland

Price: £15,685 excluding options

Driveline: Nissan Renault HR12DE 3 cyl 12 valve petrol – 5 speed FWD

Power / Torque: 80Ps with 110Nm

Performance: *0-60 in 13.7 seconds with 105mph max

Fuel Economy: *60.1mpg combined (59.8mpg on test)

C02 / VED: 109 g/km / Band B

* Govt or manufacturers claimed data

WHATS HOT: Cleverly designed – Loads of space for passengers and / or luggage – Refined when cruising – Good economy – Well equipped – Safe roadholding – Comfortable seats – Impressive list of safety features – Good level of exterior fit and finish – Infotainment system packs in many clever features despite its small size.

WHATS NOT: Sloppy gear change quality – Engine runs of puff quite quickly – Too much hard plastic inside – Noisy interior when driving hard – Fussy detail of trip computer readouts on instrument cluster – Reflections from the facia in side windows during night driving.

For more info on the Nissan Note click HERE



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