Nissan has revealed the third generation of its top-selling Note city car in Japan ahead of a December 23 market launch. It will be sold exclusively with the company’s e-Power hybrid engine and sits on a new platform.
Alas, even though the steering wheel is on the correct side for our market, there are currently no plans to sell it locally as a rival to the new Toyota Yaris hybrid, or other well-known models such as the Mazda 2, Kia Rio, Suzuki Swift, and MG 3.
Before detailing this decision further, let’s take a further look at the product.
Where the old MPV-esque Note looked rather like a Honda Jazz/Fit, the new one has more conventional proportions, and takes clear design influence from the company’s Leaf and Ariya electric cars. Nissan calls its new ethos ‘Timeless Japanese Futurism’.
Highlights include that large grille with a diamond-pattern inlay, as well as large side windows, clean character lines, pronounced creases over the wheel arches, the interesting rim design, and sleek LED headlights. Colour options include Vivid Blue and Opera Mauve.
To the cabin. Nissan reckons it “defies preconceptions about compact car interiors”, presumably an allusion to its unusually high levels of room for a car that’s just over 4 metres long.
It has ‘zero gravity seats’ that are designed to keep your posture perfect (developed with the Yamazaki Laboratory at Keio University), and a rather spacious-looking back row.
Up front there’s a large centre touchscreen and digital instrument cluster, behind a new-look wheel with rectangular spokes and buttons. The centre console has a wireless charger, and the drive-by-wire system allow a floating bridge to house the shifter and handbrake above a large flat storage cubby.
The 2021 Note sits on a “completely new” platform and uses a second iteration of the company’s e-Power hybrid drivetrain – a system whereby an electric motor drives the wheels but draws its power from a (1.2-litre in this case) petrol engine-generator rather than an EV-style battery.
The old Note has been running e-Power for four years, and the technology has since been put into the Serena people-mover and Kicks SUV. It’ll roll out into new global models like the next Qashqai and X-Trail soon too – both of which will come to Australia.
Nissan says the Mk2 e-Power drivetrain comes with a new electric motor and inverter – the bit that makes petrol-fired energy spin the motor – with the latter being 40 per cent smaller and 30 per cent lighter than before. Torque output from the motor is up between 6 and 10 per cent.
All up the system appears to make 85kW and 280Nm. It also operates various driving modes to sharpen or dull throttle response, and a Toyota hybrid-style dedicated EV mode for low speed driving like in car parks. The Nissan e-pedal allows one-pedal driving with recuperative braking slowing the car for you when desired.
The company also says it has made the combustion engine-generator quieter than before, and more efficient. It does this by operating more frequently at low revs. More body insulation also helps cut the decibels back, apparently.
Interestingly, when road noise increases due to surface conditions and speed, the engine switches on to charge the small (hybrid-style) battery pack. This cuts back the need for the engine to operate under otherwise quieter conditions such as in town.
Claimed fuel economy on the WLTC cycle is 3.3 litres per 100km, which is ballpark with the Yaris hybrid. The 36L tank allows a theoretical range north of 1000km between refills.
December will also see the introduction of a twin-motor Note e-Power with electric all-wheel drive (AWD) and more power. We don’t know full details on that yet.
Nissan Australia says it presently has no plans to add the new Note to its range, citing the continuous decline in Light and Micro Car sales in this country, as I detailed more thoroughly here, in favour of pricier SUVs.
We’ve seen Hyundai axe the Accent, Honda discontinue the Jazz (including a hybrid option), and Renault opt out of the new Clio, in similar moves made for similar reasons. Of equally important note – sorry for that accidental pun – brands that continue to offer light cars have found it necessary to up their prices, as we’ve seen with the $30,000-plus Yaris.
Yet, having a new entry point would likely put Nissan onto more shopping lists, given its entry point at the moment, the UK-made Juke, carries the typical SUV price premium.
Moreover, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester told this reporter earlier in the year that the equally small European Micra “would be a logical choice” if a business case could be made.
Lester also spoke enthusiastically about e-Power, which is primed to take off in Australia in the new Qashqai and X-Trail – if Toyota’s recent hybrid sales success is anything to go by.
“We’ve been fairly vocal on the fact that a third of our range will be electrified by 2022 and we’re on track with that,” he said.
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