By Hugh Hunston
Nissan’s heavy-duty European launch for the second-generation Note, with 9,500 media, dealer staff, potential franchise holders and fleet prospects descending on Bratislava this summer, underlines this model’s importance to the brand and its retailer network.
Not due for sales release through 204 UK outlets until October, with orders starting off this month, the new Note carries great expectations for Nissan GB, which is predicting 20,000 annual sales.
Central to Nissan’s presentation was the repeated message that what we used to consider as a small MPV has, for reasons of marketing and volume aspirations, morphed into a mainstream B sector supermini, with Ford’s Fiesta listed as the target rival.
Not that you would know it from the same basic format as its predecessor; a high-roofed, five-door profile retaining the clever fore and aft sliding rear seats plus maximum van-like, floor to ceiling rear loading capacity approaching 2,000 litres.
Geraldine Ingham, Nissan’s chief European marketing manager, whose career credits include successfully unleashing the Juke on to the British market, insisted that the nominally more mainstream Note II goes head to head with the usual supermini suspects, Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo, Peugeot 208 and Note’s corporate cousin the new Clio, et al.
Sales prospects coming through showroom doors will ultimately decide, but in many ways the new Note, built in Sunderland alongside Qashqai and Juke, which have previously eclipsed it, looks, feels and drives more like a Honda Jazz rival.
Sales staff should be able to concentrate more on its high-tech list of standard and optional features as the £11,900 to £16,950 range has not hiked prices dramatically on an equipment adjusted basis.
Corporate claims that new Note’s projected 70% conquest rate will include a fair chunk of down-sizers is strengthened by an impressive amount of front headroom and class leading rear legroom. That is courtesy of a long 4,100mm bumper-to-bumper measurement incorporating a wheelbase of 2,600mm.
New Note harnesses Nissan’s V (unsurprisingly for versatility) platform, shared by the thoroughly reworked, Indian-sourced Micra, and the new Note’s less angular styling translates the Invitation Geneva Show concept car pretty well into prod-uction reality.
Significantly for an erstwhile supermini, a new package of safety equipment comes to the Note first, under the Safety Shield banner, covering lane-departure alerts, and blind spot warnings via the mirrors while 360° monitoring of people, creatures or other vehicles involves a rear mounted wide angled camera.
Nissan’s boffins have considerately incorporated a wash and blow dry gizmo to keep the lens clean and functional, which sales people will presumably not demonstrate in showrooms.
This bundle of integrated risk managing technology adds a competitive £400 to the Acenta and Acenta Premium trim levels, while standard at flagship Tekna level. A more butch body kit, embodying flared front and rear aprons plus special alloys wheels adds £800 to the Tekna’s retail price. For all these high-tech aids, including the latest Nissan Connect allowing uploading laptop or tablet induced journey routes to the Note’s navigation system, the sombre interior cabin ambience disappoints.
Hard, plasticky surfaces abound and the interior lacks the class, soft surfaces and tactility of a Fiesta, Corsa, 208 or Polo although instrumentation and clustered central controls are ergonomically effective.
A couple of hundred varied miles demonstrated uninspiring driving dynamics that will probably go unnoticed by Note’s split level audience of younger families or older couples.
More taut in the suspension department, the three-cylinder, 1.2-litre 97bhp, supercharged petrol version sounded throaty enough, but lacked the sewing machine responsiveness of Ford’s Ecoboost engine.
From a BIK taxation perspective it generates a keen 99g/km CO2 rating, 4g above the altogether more impressive, and £1,000 costlier, 1.5-litre turbodiesel. This demonstrated greater handling sharpness and more pliant ride quality with a less rubbery gearchange and greater flexibility than its slightly frantic “blown” petrol counterpart.
Nissan is expecting the best-selling models, taking around 40% of units each, to be the 1.2-litre normally aspirated Tekna at £13,250 and the 1.2 Acenta Premium (including Nissan Connect) at £14,150.