By on May 8, 2009

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.

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10 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2009 Nissan Note 1.4L...”

  • avatar

    I thought I’d save some cash and rent from Sixt, instead of my usual Hertz. I talked to Sixt on the phone and they assured me I would get one of a) Opel, b) Toyota or c) Volkswagen. When I showed up in Zurich they wanted to stick me in a Hyundai Elantra. I complained loudly enough that they finally admitted there was an Opel I could have. I enjoyed a month of driving that car. Then, two months later, Sixt billed me for BOTH the Opel and the Hyundai. It took me 2 months of phone calls, emails and local legal help to get them to credit me the difference.

    I’ll never rent from Sixt again.

  • avatar

    What is Renault’s plan for Nissan in Europe? I’d heard they were going to be used for trucks and crossovers, and the Renault would handle the car end of the equation?

    Or is the new intent to make Nissan into the new Dacia?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, how a sad, frumpy car can be the stuff of an entertaining, funny review.

  • avatar

    Interesting; the Note, the Versa, and the Cube are all based on the stretched B platform. A lot of the interior is the same, and the driving dynamic is supposedly similar. I’m saying this as a happy Versa owner, mind you — but where have you heard the Cube is entertaining to drive? I’ve heard quite the opposite.

    (oh, and sometimes the cleverness is in the packaging for the money; my Versa SL was by far the cheapest path to a leather steering wheel, sunroof, bluetooth, and cloth seats I found comfortable for my 6’1″ frame…)

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I can’t tell from the pictures, but how big is this thing overall? Is it the size of a Honda Fit?

  • avatar

    Is this the same platform as the Micra? The Micra looks kind of neat in a funky cartoon retro way.

  • avatar


    Yep, the so called stretched B platform is in reality called the BO platform. It’s supposed to not only be stretched. but improved in many untold ways. Funny thing though is, the B platform from which it stems, underpins the Renault/Dacia Logan. And by all accounts these and its derivatives are all fun to drive. Funny how when you “improve” and “stretch” things it doesn’t work out. Oh well, the B platform (which among other things is supposedly less safe than the BO platform and thus deemed suitable only to Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and other not so deserving regions) is more fun to drive. Looks like the 3rd world won out on this one!

  • avatar

    The Nissan Note is a totally pointless car. I don’t see many of these on the roads and Nissan has really made a big step backwards in Europe since Renault took it over.

    The Primera has been cancelled in 2007, due to bad sale numbers. They currently have no midsize sedan to offer.

    The Quashaqi, the X-Trail and the Micra are the only volume bringers that are left for Nissan in Europe. The rest are really niche products.

  • avatar

    The Note’s build quality is distinctly un-Nissan.

    Nissans have build-quality? Not if they’re not made in Japan, they don’t…

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Trying some of Nissan’s competitors might open your eyes that this sector of the market is simply dire. Had a rental Citroen C4 Picasso recently. It had some nice features and was adequately spacious. In terms of driving pleasure it was absolutely horrendous, the 109bhp diesel simply could not handle the weight of the car at all and the seats, while looking good would have all four of us wincing in pain after 2 hours. And that’s a size and price class up on the Note :

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