For a small family, we’re surprisingly demanding of our cars.
For Flea, there has to be small space for the car to effectively become a secondary wardrobe and secondary toy storage – for all the items that make it into the car on the way to school but never seem to be taken into school (coats, cardigans, boots) and all the things that come out of school and are dumped in the car (permission slips, PE kits, art creations and the like).
For me, it has to be able to cope with a decent number of miles (I drive around 20,000 miles a year), be comfortable for a relatively short person, have a decent sound system and provide reasonable fuel efficiency.
Last month, Nissan kindly loaned us an all-new Nissan Note for two weeks so we could put the car through its paces, along with enough money to keep the car topped up with petrol and for a few adventures along the way.
So what did we think?
Well, the Nissan Note has been designed with kids in mind, we’re told and the elevated rear seat position certainly pleased Flea, who could see a lot more from her position in the back of the car than she’s ever been able to. The rear cabin is surprisingly spacious, and we fitted three kids into the back of the car without any problems on a drive up to Windermere for a day out. You can see the three kids in the back seat in this short video we made with the GoPro camera that Nissan gave us as part of the project:
Flea judged the Note to be the comfiest car we’ve ever tested and her favourite, with the exception of the Volvo XC90, which she still talks about, a year after we reviewed it!
There’s a handy storage compartment in the front of the car with a USB charger, and a stereo that can hook up to USB and MP3 inputs, which is really fun. I thought the driving position was really comfortable, helped by the central arm rest.
The boot isn’t the biggest you’ll have ever seen – we ended up using the back seat when we did a full grocery shop, but the space is actually really deceptive – you can easily extend the boot storage by pushing the rear seats forward, and the higher spec Note models come with hidden boot storage compartments. On that basis, it’s more than big enough for most families’ needs – unless you regularly carry lots of big stuff for camping trips or similar.
There are loads of nifty gadgets in the car to play with – we liked the in-built sat-nav with touchscreen, and the automatic lights and wipers were brilliant.
Of course, some things come down to personal taste. There is a rear-parking camera in the Note and it’s the first time I’ve used one. I wasn’t a big fan. I felt as though you had to take your eye off the road to stare at a camera, which felt unsafe, and the camera view with gridlines on it took some getting used to – when you reverse park, the car behind you looks further away than it is and the lack of beeping meant I managed to reverse into two cars in the first week – luckily, too slowly to do any damage, but I think I prefer my audible sensors!
There’s also a lane departure warning on the Note which is pretty handy on the motorway but led to us shouting, “Alright, bossy!” at our Nissan every five minutes in town when it chastised us yet again for some transgression or other. Turns out you drive over white lines a LOT when you live in a small town with narrow streets. There’s also blind spot monitoring, which we found flashed when I drove past parked cars – with both of these systems, I think they’re incredibly useful at the right time, but I would turn them off in town, because I found them too distracting.
Overall, I loved driving the Nissan Note – it was economical, comfortable, spacious and the little extras give a quality, luxurious feel. The built quality feels great, and from the back seat, Flea was a big fan of the added visibility the higher seating offers.
For me, personally, though, I felt the car wasn’t quite powerful enough – I do a huge amount of motorway driving and given that my usual car is a 1.8, I really felt the difference when I put my foot down in the Nissan Note, which is a 1.2. It just felt a little harder to get decent acceleration – in the first few days I got beeped at traffic lights several times because the (idiotic) driver behind me felt I was pulling away too slowly. I might have gone extra slowly after that, just to prove a point, mind.
Alex also reviewed the Nissan Note, and you can see what he thought of it here. Our reviews were part of a European blogger project and you can see all the bloggers who took part and who – frankly – took WAY better video of the car than me in this video: