So the United States finally gets the Nissan Cube, a funky, cool box. From initial impressions, it provides a unique and entertaining driving experience. Meanwhile, here in Western Europe, we get the Nissan Note, a Micra front-ended, Renault Modus-derived piece of crap. To say that I longed for a basic Ford Focus after driving this from Trier all the way to Maastricht, down to Luxembourg, and then back to Trier says a lot. The Note made me angry, so angry in fact that I actually contemplated sabotaging the thing so Sixt Car Rental would replace it. But then I realized they’d probably hand me the keys to yet another sour Note.
“Its a frugal, flexible, family MPV,” critics might say. “Of course a pistonhead will hate it.” Well, you’re wrong, son. The Nissan Note fails on all sorts of levels. First, while roomy, it’s not very clever. The Citroën Berlingo has all sorts of cubby holes, storage bins, moveable seats and interesting details. The Note’s only notable feature: it’s tall. A six-foot person with short legs will feel comfortable in the rear seats.
The Note’s build quality is distinctly un-Nissan. If Wiki ever launches a dictionary of digital sounds, the way the Note’s doors “twang” will be the main entry for “cost-cutting.” The MPV’s headliner was already wrinkled and smashed near the assist handles, with just 2000 km on the speedo. I’ve seen better carpet on a FSO Polonez, and at least the Polish commie-mobile’s floor didn’t shift around underfoot.
Which brings us to the drive. Paula, my Kabul-based Australian journalist friend, drove from Maastricht to Luxembourg City—and promptly got lost in Belgium. Getting lost in Belgium means meandering on tiny roads fraught with potholes and hidden bends that suddenly reveal the front end of a tractor. The Note may not have crashed into anything, but it crashed over everything. The steering proved so vague I returned to base with several samples of Belgian flora attached to my wing mirrors. Paula, in her third-world, combat-covering, edgy-journalist stance proclaimed the not-so-nimble Nissan “the Taliban Tote.”
Slow acceleration from a wheezy 1.4-liter I can stand. Cheapness I can understand. But when wrapped up in a mediocre driving experience without any clever details to compensate, I have to rate the Nissan Note up there with “Epic Fail” status. Americans: thank Nissan for the Cube. Europeans: in your next riots, burn Nissan Notes instead of Mercedes. That is all.